It’s only a game show

The Big Brother helpline? Get a life!

Ray Crowley

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Did you wake up on Saturday morning ‘feeling bereft’ or ‘a bit down because something is missing’?

Note: The question does not apply if you always wake up on a Saturday feeling that way, after losing your wallet/keys/disease-free status on a Friday night out. What I mean is: ‘If you wake up on Saturday morning feeling bereft, a bit down because something is missing or you’re just plain bored, feel free to call heat‘s Big Brother helpline.’

Yup, the celebrity gossip magazine heat opened a Big Brother helpline the morning after the winner was announced in the final show on 27 July 2001. This was not, in fact, a complaints line, but a means for distressed fans of the show to be consoled by an expert counsellor. It’s like Take That splitting up all over again.

Unfortunately the line was only open for one day, so if you’re still missing the housemates that much you might have to jump off a bridge.

I can’t understand it myself. Is there anybody out there who is really that distressed at not having the opportunity to see Dean, Elizabeth – wake up, I haven’t finished – Brian and Helen? On TV, I mean – as we can still ‘read all about it’ every day in the tabloids. Perhaps if there is something missing from your life without Big Brother that is worth the cost of a local call to discuss, you do need help.

Maybe this phone line is a subtle way of seeking out the real nut jobs and reining them in. You know the ones I mean – people who find it hard to deal with the credits rolling on a movie they were enjoying. People who are already dreading the day when there will be no more Harry Potter stories. The rest of the population would be hard pressed to get that upset over the end of a game show. Really – there’s more to life.

Perhaps a similar helpline should have been opened for viewers of the infamous Brass Eye Special on 26 July – the one with the paedophile jokes in it. Even if people had managed to miss all the press coverage before it was screened on Channel 4, it surely would have been difficult for anybody not to realise what the show was about in the first five minutes, and turn it off if they didn’t like it.

Turning off the TV (and doing something that’s boring instead) isn’t hard to do, even if you are like me and have difficulties when the remote is down the side of the sofa. One million people apparently managed to push that little button during the offending episode – it can’t be that hard.

Some people found the programme so offensive that there have been calls for stricter regulation on what is shown on telly. Where will this lead us? No more X-Files – it offends scientists. No more Dawson’s Creek – it offends teenagers. No more MTV Britney Spears day – offensive to musicians. And certainly no more Ibiza Uncovered – it reminds some of their own sordid holiday experiences they had buried deep inside.

But imagine – no more Big Brother…ever. Where’s the phone?

Read on:

Watching them watching themselves, by Ray Crowley

The real wannabes, by Ray Crowley

Reality TV: get real, by Claire Fox

Big Brother – big differences?, by Cheryl Hudson

spiked-issue: TV

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