Jaded telly

Why the best ambassador for Big Brother didn't win.

Ray Crowley

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Thank God Big Brother is over.

Hopefully, by the end of the week newspapers and breakfast TV will be free of any references to housemates or diary rooms. Hopefully, I will never have to breathe a word on the subject again.

Until, that is, ratings-desperate Channel 4, which seems to have hung half its programming off the show, thinks up some clever idea for a Big Brother ‘special’.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the sofa:

  • Big Baboon. The series comes to a shock ending, as all five remaining housemates receive three strikes for repeatedly swinging back and forth across the house divide, and are evicted.
  • Big Buckingham. Tonight, the Queen serves stewed tea and biscuits to underprivileged children, before settling down to an evening of steak, champagne and flicking rubber bands at the corgis with Prince Philip. In tomorrow night’s show, Prince Charles spends 50 minutes conversing with his favourite cactus.
  • Big Fat Brother. Producers take the unprecedented decision to shut down the cameras after 25-stone housemate Ursula becomes lodged between the bars, while trying to sneak across the house divide to steal chips from the rich side.
  • Big Buddhist. Richard Gere, Steven Seagal and the Dalai Lama await tonight’s results in the climactic final.
  • Big Baps. The latest coverage from the Page Three baking show.
  • Big Botox. The inclusion of a ‘two for the price of one’ boob jobs on the shopping list this week lightens the housemates’ flagging spirits.
  • Celebrity Survivor. A special edition of ITV’s rival show. Ed Byrne, Darren Day, Nell McAndrew and Christine Hamilton will be stranded for two weeks in Queensland Australia.

Desperate TV calls for desperate measures. The scary thing is, I didn’t make that last one up.

The Daily Star reports that BBC1 hopes to poach Big Brother winner Kate for EastEnders, and are offering her a screen test with the possibility of a role as Tamzin Outhwaite’s long-lost sister, with the hope of a ratings boost.

It seems that too much time is wasted trying to poach, rehash or revive existing formulas, at the expense of actually making good shows. I wish broadcasters would spend as much time commissioning brilliant TV programmes as they do hoping to dream up an idea inside which miraculous TV might spontaneously occur.

In the case of Big Brother 3, the virgin birth of a great programme didn’t happen. The programme was only saved from a life of E4 by one lady, and it certainly wasn’t winner Kate. In true Big Brother style, Jade has dominated the tabloid follow-up, baring all both physically and verbally, blurting out stories such as ‘MY SHOPLIFT TORMENT’. She was the one who made the headlines. She was the one who appeared on the magazine covers. She was the one who made the show vaguely entertaining.

During last Friday’s live final, it was Jade’s eviction that stole the show. There was more screen time dedicated to her being booted out than there was to either the revelation of the winner or the evictions of the other runners up. Her interview was longer, and she was allowed twice as long to stand in the centre of the stage and lap up the crowd’s cheers than any of the others. She shared equal tabloid follow-up with Kate (who?), the show’s ‘winner’.

Because Jade was kicked out before the watershed, the burning question of the series – how far did she go with PJ? – wasn’t answered until the second show of the evening. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I’d hazard a guess that the sight of Davina McCall holding up a card with ‘hand job’ written on it and underlined elicited a bigger cheer from the crowd than Kate stepping out of the house.

The other finalists were so insignificant that even seasoned presenter Graham Norton couldn’t quite find it in himself to name all four – even though he’d raised ratings for his own show by talking about them for the past 64 days. ‘The public have played a clever game this year’, he ad-libbed. ‘They’ve kept all the interesting people in: Alex, Jade, and…’, he trailed off.

When asked how each finalist wanted to be remembered during their ‘final diary room entries’ during the last show, Alex, who came third, admitted: ‘I haven’t always been a barrel of laughs.’ Runner-up Jonny (did you even notice him until the final week?) said he wanted to be remembered for ‘being a nice lad – which I am’. Winner Kate obviously thought she was at a job interview, asserting that she was ‘somebody who bought energy to the group, and motivation’.

Jade said she wanted to be remembered as the girl who ‘let everybody see every single side of her’. Which she did. This is not to say she should be applauded for being thick, chubby, bitchy or lairy, or for blabbing about her life to the press. She’s possibly not the best ambassador for the UK I have ever come across.

But she’s certainly the best ambassador for Big Brother, and shows in a similar vein. Lazy TV is never going to unearth idols or role models, only rather desperate heroines. Perhaps, even though we’re content to sit back and allow poor programming like Big Brother to filter into our living rooms, we can’t quite stomach the monsters it creates.

Which is why Jade – who was the epitome of Big Brother-style entertainment – didn’t win.

Read on:

Watching them watching themselves, by Ray Cowley

spiked-issue: TV

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