Untapped, unsigned and frequently unhinged: a deep dive into TV TikTok

By Ellen E Jones

TikTok and telly go together like Ant and Dec before the drink-driving ban. Most obviously, TikTok is good for reliving highlights from daytime and reality shows past. Remember that iconic “Dear-lord-what-a-sad-little-life-Jane” moment from Come Dine With Me? Or that time an indignant Curtis from Love Island chose coffee-making over morning cuddles? Or everything Gemma Collins has ever said and done? All these have been faithfully chopped, churned, lip-synced and lauded by accounts such as Greatbritishmemes, Qualitybritishtelly and Loveofhuns. It makes the enforced ad breaks on All 4 and ITV Hub just whiz by.

That’s only the beginning of this sweet symbiosis however, because TikTok also provides a glimpse into TV’s future. The outrageously talented Munya Chawawa has finally reached Channel 4, as co-host of Complaints Welcome, but his viral music parodies have long-threatened to spill out of the small(er) screen and into the mainstream. And since TikTok allows quality content to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and connect directly with an audience, there’s plenty more where he came from. The likes of Bigmiko (if Shakespeare was a roadman …), Abi Clarke (relatable queen of banal office chat) and Harry Trevaldwyn (he’s already been cast in the UK remake of Call My Agent) are shaping up to be the panel show regulars of tomorrow.

This article includes content provided by TikTok. We ask for your permission before anything is loaded, as they may be using cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click 'Allow and continue'.

In fact, there’s so much untapped, unsigned and frequently unhinged talent on here that it can start to feel like one big audition room, full of stage-school kids cartwheeling for attention (“I’m Brendan and I’m gonna be doing the reaction face of everyone on White Lotus …”). That’s when it’s time to move on to another corner of TV TikTok – and Gen Zs discovering classic Millennial/Gen X era shows for the first time always feels like a safe space.

Fellow Buffy fan Ellie Addis has nailed the aesthetic with her “outfits i’d wear to kill vampires in Sunnydale” post and Tannai’ TV Guide’s earnest appreciation of life lessons gleaned from random episodes of Grey’s Anatomy is a tonic. Plenty of TikTokers also have plans to retrospectively “cancel” Saved By The Bell’s Zack Morris. The case against him is on Funny or Die for all to see. But do beware the slippery slope to nostalgia-perving. It starts innocently enough, with a quick scroll through the Friendspaperclips feed – Chandler Bing was HOT back in the day, y’know? Then, before you know it, you’re lost in a super-cut of Succession’s Kendall chewing gum to suggestive R&B tracks.

Still, all TikTok roads lead back to The GC eventually. Stop fighting it: type “Gemma Collins in Squid Game” and let that FYP algorithm really get to know you.