A professional Beyoncé look-a-like, a squatting filmmaker and a Christian minister who believes in UFOs and aliens are just some of the ‘mad cap’ contestants to walk through the famous sliding doors.
It can only mean one thing. Big Brother is back.
For the 11th and final time, the ‘Summer of Bruv’ looks set to introduce us to a bunch of fame-hungry and talentless wannabes, desperate to be part of a cult that personified the term ‘fifteen minutes of fame’.
From glitzy film premiers to promo events or spilling out of classy West End establishments in front of the paps, this parading posse will be looking to milk the teats of the great reality cash cow for one last time.
When Big Brother burst onto our screens 10 years ago, it kicked off a decade of headlines and became the first show this century to transcend genres, ages and races.
It captured the attention of the nation and was discussed in both playgrounds and boardrooms across the land. It garnered press coverage that would make Kate Moss proud and a high audience participation that saw a shift from the Lad/Ladette culture and post-pub TV of the late 1990s to around-the-clock viewership.
Forget about Beatlemania and Girl Power, Big Brother was the behemoth of reality TV. A gargantuan vehicle that parked up in our living rooms and bought a parking ticket that lasted a decade.
The concept of Big Brother was truly ground-breaking; the idea of putting 10 strangers in a house, filming their every move as the public looked on like spectators in a hospital theatre was bizarre. But it worked.
Without a doubt, BB1 was compelling TV. Looking back, it seemed tame; Anna, the lesbian, skateboarding nun; Craig, the Scouse builder who had a penchant for starting every sentence with ‘Errrr’; Caroline, the mad Brummie with even madder lip liner that made her look like she had a Joker’s smile.
It made ‘stars’ out of the contestants. Nicola released a single (which flopped), Mel had her own dating show, Nick wrote a book, got papped with Brad Pitt and Guy Richie and took his cash and bowed out of the spotlight gracefully. The show’s winner Craig, after giving his prize fund to a sick girl, is now a successful TV D.I.Y. pundit and producer. Even Marjorie became the most famous chicken in Britain.
The tabloid press had not seen anything like this before and were quick to cash in on this growing TV medium. Even the broadsheets had their say.
When the second series of BB came around in 2001, it failed to stay faithful to its pioneering predecessor; the house was more glossy, the housemates were more extrovert and even Davina upped her game; her catchphrases - ‘Big Brother house, this is Davina. You are live on Channel 4, please do not swear’ – quickly became a part of British popular culture.
Many have argued that it kick started Chav TV - where wannabes watched equally desperate wannabes sell their souls and clamour for their fifteen minutes of fame. It gave Heat magazine a new focus; before, when it launched in 1999, it was a struggling entertainment title. By 2001, Heat styled itself as the official Big Brother magazine. It reached its peak - shifting 500,000 copies a week - and became the first port-of-call for the previous week’s evictee to share their BB secrets in return for a nice tidy cheque.
Year after year, as the series was recommissioned, the show became ever more outlandish and should have been renamed “Big Brother’s Bigger and More Embarrassing Older Brother.” The format was changed and reinvented, and we saw secret gardens, bedsits, tree houses, celeb editions and a really crap teen version.
Who can forget the Jungle Cats, Victor and Jason in BB5, and the infamous ‘Fight Night’? Makosi and her skillful game-playing in BB6? Or Nicki in BB7, screaming and stomping her way into the nation’s psyche? What about BB4, dubbed ‘BB Snore’, where a fish farmer from the Orkney’s scooped the £70,000 prize or the gem that was BB3 - a series that introduced the loyal viewership to Jade ‘Am I Minging’ Goody- the ultimate reality star whose downfall was as quick as her ascent.
There was no doubt that the Celebrity edition in 2007 was the beginning of the end. Jade Goody and her harem – Danielle Lloyd, Jo O’Meara and Goody’s then-boyfriend Jack Tweed – shamefully left a sour taste in the mouths of the nation as they subjected Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty to playground taunts and showed viewers that explicit bigotry still exists.
Goody’s tirade about the Oxo cube and the chicken was easily one of the most uncomfortable TV moments in broadcasting history. The furore it created went worldwide and killed the career of Goody. But if anything positive came from it, it is this: When representing reality, you can use material objects and inferred psychological techniques under the scrutiny of CCTV to encourage certain behaviours, but no matter how things are edited or put together and made to look like a microcosm of the world, the animalistic, psychological nature of human behaviour will always shine through.
Subsequent series’ failed to capture audiences and ratings have been on the slide. When it was announced that the series was to end this year, there was a collective sigh; the show that had helped to define the noughties was finally being put to bed.
Had it run its course? Yes.
Did the egos of self-proclaimed ‘wacky’ housemates, coupled with the hunger for higher ratings, shift the show from its original concept to trashy, tabloid TV? Yep.
But can we deny its influence on a medium that has since spawned a thousand genres and changed the face of modern broadcasting and audience participation? No, No and No again.
Big Brother; I may no longer be watching you, but when I did, boy, was it fun. I’ve laughed, cringed and wanted to throw my remote at the TV on numerous occasions - sometimes all at once. So for that, I thank you.
♫ Slum Village – Tainted