Real people, big diversity: If ITV is bringing Big Brother back it needs to do it right
The show needs to be as trailblazing and iconic as it was in the 00s
I thought my phone was going to blow up out of my hand on Monday night it was that scorching hot. My thumbs were on overdrive with the Love Island final, the general humidity of the tail end of a heatwave and, most of all, the surprise announcement that the greatest reality TV show of all time – Big Brother – would be making its return to TV. It’s an announcement I feel like I’ve waited decades for, but its one that doesn’t come without filling me with nervous apprehension. Because if Big Brother is coming back, it needs to come back properly or not at all.
My dad introduced me to Big Brother before I can even remember being able to acknowledge what TV actually was. It was a part of my childhood for as long as I can remember, and from before I should really have been allowed watch it. I was obsessed. Obsessed with the concept, obsessed with the music, obsessed with the logo, obsessed with the yearly anticipation of the house’s 00s futurism decor. I was old enough to appreciate all these things as being thrilling, but I was too young to acknowledge how Big Brother cast more diversely and groundbreakingly than any other show on the box.
I spent months of my childhood annually watching a house full of diversity – whether that was race, sexuality, size or gender identity. Big Brother had it all, and although it casted in a way that had opposing people in a house, more often than not these people educated each other. Trans people were not in there to be laughed at, and when trans woman Nadia Almada won the show in 2004 I had no clue how important that actually was. Big Brother felt like a move into a more progressive society. As we see trans people demonised in the media today constantly, it often feels like we’re moving backwards.
Towards the end of civilian Big Brother in its Channel 5 era, the casting was notably less diverse. The producers cast micro influencers, or people with big followings. When the show returns in 2023, we need a return to the diverse days of the 00s. I want to see people from every walk of life represented. A London gay porn star sat next to a 45 year old Tesco cashier called Brenda. Give it to me now.
ITV make me nervous
Big Brother was the most Channel 4 show ever. It was their entire ethos in a nice package. Channel 5, well, doesn’t really have an ethos – Big Brother moving there was fine. Painless. But the announcement that Big Brother’s long awaited revival will be moving to ITV, of all channels, makes me a liccle bit nervous to tell you the truth. It is not a channel known for the wild and untamed howl that Big Brother needs to be in essence.
Of course, ITV is the home of Love Island – the closest show we have to Big Brother on air right now. By this I mean, a lot of people in a house and we watch it nightly. But Love Island pushes everything Big Brother does not in its quest to be ‘aspirational’. Young and gorgeous Molly-Maes in training, with staged dates and chats that feel producer lead. Hopefully, ITV are smart enough to know that they already have this formula on lock and don’t try and recreate the same vibes on their reboot of Big Brother.
If they do, honestly? Cancel it now. Sack it off and wait for Channel 4 to take it back to the glory days. We do not need it! What we need is a nationwide audition process that priorities diverse casting, eccentric characters and people who don’t want to go on there for a Missguided brand deal and 500k Instagram followers. We want game players, we want brutal tasks, we want tactical nominations.
We want housemates ballsy enough to climb the rafters and run riot. We want Nikki Grahames, Pete Burnses, Makosi Musambasis, Jayne Connerys (“Hi, I’m Jayne. I’m a big dementia awareness campaigner and also a private investigator where I catch cheating spouses.” – iconic). We want Rylan and Davina and Emma involved in whatever which way we can. Love Island is straight culture in every way – and we want this Big Brother revival to be for the girls, the gays and the theys, the misfits. Make it a show where the everyday and the unlikely become household names again. Big Brother is back – just don’t let us down, ITV.
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