As many telly addicts will know, sitting down to watch other telly addicts watch telly has, strangely, become great television.
Thanks to Channel 4‘s Gogglebox, the meta act of watching others watch and comment on current TV shows is oddly compelling, not only for the sheer simplicity of it, but largely thanks to the lovable characters who appear on the show.
From whole families to best mates, siblings to old friends, the people watching the shows on Gogglebox have become more appealing to watch than the shows they’re watching themselves.
One pair of Gogglebox stars who touched the hearts of many were June and Leon Bernicoff, from Liverpool, who appeared in 10 series of the show, from 2013 to 2017.
June and Leon quickly became fan favourites, as their friendly grandparent vibe and loving relationship became instantly familiar to many viewers.
Sadly, Leon died in December last year at the age of 83, and though June won’t be returning to the show, she’s written a book opening up about her relationship with Leon, as well as their time on the show.
At the end of series 10, Gogglebox dedicated its last episode to Leon which, as June explains, was ‘the start of my grieving process’.
Speaking to the Irish Mirror, 81-year-old June said:
I remember switching the TV off, and I had some wine left in the glass and I remember holding it up and thinking, ‘Those cameras will never be there again’.
I remember taking the glass out and going in the dining room thinking, ‘The sound desk won’t be there and the monitors won’t be there. The researcher won’t be curled up in the armchair’. And I thought that had gone. It was a part of our lives. It was a chapter of our lives.
Until that evening, emotionally speaking, I’d almost been in a peculiar vacuum.
Leon had always said to me that if he passed away before me, I had to stay positive, keep going and do anything that I wanted to do. I remembered that, and that is what I have done.
Maybe I am an odd person, though, because that night, while watching the first episode of that eleventh series, I felt I was finally able to start dealing with the sense of loss that I had experienced.
Leon and June were married for 57 years. They were asked to be on the show after Leon was approached at his bridge club. His quick wit and dry sense of humour helped cement their place as Gogglebox favourites.
Leon’s final scene – in which he ate a chocolate, put the wrapper back in tin, and got June to wrap it up as a present for someone else – was both funny and emotional.
Thinking back, it was a good final scene.
Though she still watches the show, June knew she couldn’t return to the program without Leon, adding:
It couldn’t be the same, could it? Talking to an empty chair… Although I might get to speak more!
As Gogglebox returns to Channel 4 this month, it’s fair to say it just won’t be the same without June and Leon.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.