TV UK, 16 July
Throwing flip-flops from the heart in the BB house.
Sometimes I get to Wednesday night and realise that I haven’t watched any preview tapes or seen anything worth writing about all week. There are various ways around this, as some of you will have noticed – writing about adverts, making wild generalisations, reviewing made-up programmes – but last night I really had zip, and decided to break the emergency glass: Channel 4, 10pm, Big Brother.
Big Brother is narrated by a man with a comedy Geordie accent, but that’s about as funny as the programme gets. This week, it seems, the housemates have mostly been dressing up as soldiers and performing silly tasks, with two of them designated as sergeants and the rest as privates in a ‘boot camp’ environment, to make things ‘interesting’. But I got the sense that the particular details of what’s going on at any given time are not important, because what is really going on is a bunch of already slightly nutty people going stir crazy.
The second most common activity in the house is shouting. The most common activity is talking about shouting. The housemates endlessly discuss each shouting incident, presumably replicating the conversations of Big Brother viewers around the water cooler. (Or is that old hat? Maybe BB chat has been relegated to instant messenger by now. Real loser territory.)
To be fair, these discussions do throw out the odd pearl of wisdom, such as ‘The throwing of objects is wrong’. Mostly though, they simmer along tediously until someone else decides to shout. Last night a woman with a slightly more realistic Geordie accent talked very fast in a high pitch and cried a bit, before hurling the aforementioned object (a flip-flop, in fact) at a 44-year-old Asian man, who already had the temperament as well as the demographic characteristics of an irate shopkeeper. (She later explained that during the previous shouting incident, which had led to this one, she had been speaking ‘from the heart’, so she didn’t know what all the fuss was about.)
All this I suppose is the visceral, edgy ‘great TV’ that people who like Big Brother go on about. But what I realised last night was that Big Brother isn’t really a TV programme as such, but an ongoing media phenomenon like sport or politics. Apart from the live evictions, the programme itself is just ‘highlights’. Indeed, while the housemates were fretting about which of them were to be put up for eviction, a trailer during the advert break revealed the answer. At this point the troll that lives on the sofa announced that it had read this in Metro anyway.
I was reminded of a lecture I once attended by Gary Carter of Endemol, the company behind Big Brother. He insisted that people didn’t have to watch the programme at all, but could keep up with mobile alerts and such. (If you cut out the mobile alerts, this is quite an appealing vision.) Anyway, with the element of suspense removed, and a ‘coming next’ teaser showing the women spanking a man’s bare bottom, the troll announced that it wanted to watch Newsnight instead. I couldn’t really disagree, and so I decided to call the experiment to a halt.
The Butler Inquiry, another ongoing media phenomenon. Did Blair lie? Even the Lib-Dem Menzies Campbell said that he was in no doubt that Blair had been speaking ‘from the heart’. So what’s all the fuss about?
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