Big Brother smoking area

RIP to the Big Brother smoking area: ITV has scrapped the best bit of the house

A cig-filled ode to the house’s most iconic area

I think for any hardcore fan of Big Brother, the return of what is for my money the greatest reality TV show of all time happening on ITV is cause for some concern. ITV 2 as a channel, famously the home of the likes of Love Island, is hardly known for its boundary pushing television – something Big Brother innately is, and on Channel 4 it grew to become a social experiment that always casted diversely and caused chaos that felt like the future. Channel 5 continued it, more or less – albeit with an increase in pseudo-celebs being cast on the civilian version. Everyone is airing the ITV era of Big Brother with caution, and to their credit the channel does seem to have a mindset where they understand what fans want and what makes Big Brother so special. That is until the news has come out today of the Big Brother reboot’s first major casualty: ITV has done away with the iconic smoking area.

RIP smoking area

The worst news every fan of Big Brother thought might arrive is that Max Balegde had been cast as a housemate. But worse news unfortunately happened on GMB this morning – the confirmation that the smoking area in the garden has been scrapped and is now a little closed off room with no cameras in. It still his a microphone, but that’s it.

Now, I’m not pining for the smoking area as some kind of avid chain-smoking cigaholic. I am pining for a location that is absolutely, utterly vital to any sort of space where you want to have good conversations and make amazing memories. I don’t need to tell you how important smoking areas are to clubs, pubs and nights out – even if you take not a single drag of a ciggy, not one person reading this can say with their chest they haven’t had a life changing moment happen to them in the hallowed smoking areas of their lives. It’s where memories are made.

The smoking area of Big Brother is this times a million. Throughout Big Brother’s 18 year run of civilian and celeb seasons, that smoking area birthed icons. Reaction pictures tweeted over a decade on from when they hit TVs still circulate today.

Where else on TV could you watch Tina Malone of Shameless fame slag off the rest of the house with national treasure and Sugababe Mutya Buena, dressed like Anne Boleyn and chaining it whilst sat in a giant ashtray? Literally nowhere. I still can’t believe that sentence is a real thing that happened and not some kind of fiction I’ve made up in my pop culture dreams.

Pete Burns uttered the immortal line “You’re insincere to the point of nausea” whilst taking drags on a cig in the smoking area. Gemma Collins told Tiffany Pollard “It’s going to be a long slog this life for me” there, and Tiffany later stood in it and laughed to herself like a maniacal Disney villain. These pieces of history still do the rounds on socials on a daily basis.

Whilst we’re on Gemma and Tiffany’s year, the smoking area was practically the homestead for the entire David’s Dead™ saga. Whilst Tiffany flees from the scene of the crime (Angie in the living room) to the investigative scene of David Gest asleep (bedroom), it’s the middle men having a cig in the smoking area who try and piece together that legendary comedy of errors. Would that entire saga be as good if we didn’t have a flapping Christopher Maloney, fag shaking between his fingers, squawking out “David!? DAVID?” No. We need smoking areas, even if it’s a dirty habit.

ITV scrapping the televised smoking area makes me nervous. The channel scrapped the Love Island one too, and for my money the show hasn’t been half as entertaining since. Nobody wants to know the likes of Adam Collard are puffing on a Blue Razz Elf Bar shiftily out the front of the villa. I want to see it in 4K.

As the Tories bring in their bizarre legislation that they want no one under the age of 14 to ever be able to buy a cigarette in their lifetime, and as ITV take away from us the space where legends are made, things feel bleak. It’s not that I think we should endorse smoking, it’s that we should have the autonomy to sit and chain the ciggies with z list celebs in Big Brother smoking areas if we’ve had a few wines and the mood takes us. Of all the moves ITV have made with this reboot, it’s the Big Brother smoking area loss that makes me feel like we’re, in the words of Shrek, definitely not in the swamp anymore. Only Sunday will tell if my fears are justified, but for now RIP to an era of telly we might never get back.

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