Charlie Brooker's Antiviral Wipe, BBC Two (4 stars)

Charlie Brooker's Antiviral Wipe, BBC Two

The Black Mirror man offers a deadpan antidote to our viral times

Having concluded that the last thing people need right now are dystopian dramas, Charlie Brooker shelved his plans to pen more Black Mirror and has instead returned to the format that made his hilariously bilious name for TV audiences. After Screen Wipe, Newswipe, an Election Wipe and many Weekly Wipes, Chris Morris' former wingman brings some blessed relief to all our souls with a one-off Antiviral Wipe. Cue 45 minutes of scabrous sarcasm about the covid news cycle with a generous dollop of self-effacing wit and even, atypically, a moment's pause for earnest reflection.

There's certainly something achingly poignant about the opening segments where Brooker recalls the stories that were hitting the headlines in January (mainly Harry and Meghan stepping back from their royal duties: remember that?) before newscasters began reporting on how a shiny new virus was causing bother in China and East Asia. As Brooker notes, while doing unspeakable things to a door handle, this was all thankfully far enough away for us in the West to give a hoot. Fast-forward a couple of months and a previously lackadaisical Britain helmed by 'chief Womble BoJo' was in full lockdown mode, albeit, and somehow inevitably, a step or two behind our former European partners.

Brooker's raving reporters Philomena Cunk and Barry Shitpeas are back in the saddle to offer analyses full of pith and nonsense, with Cunk having a Zoom call to vaccine expert Professor Andrew Pollard in which she asks about his background (you can pretty much write this joke yourself) and wonders why those corona balls you see on the news are waist-high.

Clearly, Charlie Brooker has no duty to make us feel a rush of optimism over all our mid to long-term futures. But for now, a man who readily admits that his default setting features the apocalypse lurking permanently around the corner offers deadpan humour that is the perfect antidote for these scary times.

Available now on BBC iPlayer.