I’m Watching You

As the final series of Celebrity Big Brother draws to a close, TABATHA LEGGETT confronts her guilty pleasure and explains why 5% of the British population are still watching.

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As I rushed back from my morning lectures to check if last night’s episode of Celebrity Big Brother was available to watch on 4OD yet, I wondered why everyone finds the idea of ‘celebrities’ living in a house together for a while so fascinating.

“Why does everyone find the idea of ‘celebrities’ living in a house together for a while so fascinating?” I asked my friend.

“They don’t. Only you do.”

This got me thinking: am I really the only person who still watches Celebrity Big Brother? Last year’s viewing figures averaged at 3.1 million (I didn’t even have to look this up) and the population of the UK is 61 million (I did have to look this up). This means that about 5% of the population watch Celebrity Big Brother, and so I am in the minority.

So, why do I love Celebrity Big Brother so much? The only way to properly answer this question, I feel, is to look back over my favourite seven moments from the last seven series:

7. Vanessa Feltz goes insane (CBB1)
Four days into the Big Brother experience, and the housemates were quietly sitting around the dining room table writing a shopping list. How dull, you may think. Think again. Vanessa Feltz, who was incidentally wearing massive sunglasses despite being indoors, suddenly grabbed the chalk and started to manically write words like ‘pain’, ‘victim’ and ‘mislead’ on the dining room table. When asked by Big Brother to stop writing, she replied, all too threateningly, “Get lost.” Eventually, it transpired that the reason for Feltz’s meltdown was that she had been nominated for eviction and was afraid she wouldn’t be popular with the public. She was right.

6. George Galloway was a cat (CBB4)
I forget what the task was, but for some reason, Big Brother instructed George Galloway, supposedly ‘respectable’ MP, to pretend to be a cat. Never one to disobey Big Brother, Galloway got down on all fours and licked Rula Lenska’s cupped hands, in an attempt to resemble a cat drinking milk. Lenska encouraged Galloway, saying things like, “Ooooh yes, good pussy cat” and, “Ooooh, you’ve got cream all over your whiskers.” I have, quite possibly, never seen anything quite so disturbing in my entire life. When asked about the incident, Galloway defended himself: “If you’re going to be a cat, you may as well be the best cat you can be.” Fair play.

5. Tina Malone is Shrek (CBB6)
It was a sunny day, and everyone was getting on well. The housemates were due to take part in a talent show; in order to explain why they were famous (luckily Katia Ivanova wasn’t around then), and Tina Malone was provided with a green dress to wear for her Shakespearian monologue. Almost immediately, Michelle Heaton told Malone that she looked like the princess from Shrek. She did. Heaton attempted to backtrack, but her attempts were futile, and her comic timing perfect.

4. Alex Reid is more famous than Michael Jackson (CBB7)
Alex Reid has got to be my favourite housemate this year. Reid in a mankini was funny in itself, but it’s his endless pearls of wisdom that I can’t get enough of. Favourite quotes of his include: “I’m on TV every night. On the smaller channels”; “I don’t crave fame”; and “In the summer, in the press, the two big stories were Michael Jackson dying and Kate and Peter splitting and me.” (That’s three; not two. He can’t count). Alex Reid’s quite famous; don’t you know?

3. Leo Sayer runs out of pants (CBB5)
It was just another day in the Big Brother house, and Leo Sayer realised he’d run out of clean underwear. So, he did what any normal person in possession of washing powder and water would do: asked Big Brother for new underwear. When asked to clean his existing pants himself, Sayer accused Big Brother of “spreading diseases” and proceeded to use a broom to knock down the fire exit door and escape the house. The security guards tried to calm him down, but Sayer expressed an interest in leaving the country. Post departure, it become apparent that Sayer did actually have a spare pair of pants left. Bummer.

2. Preston’s a genius (CBB4)
For some unknown reason, George Galloway got really angry with Michael Barrymore one day. Actually, this reason isn’t unknown: it was because Michael Barrymore randomly turned pathetic and cried a lot. It was strange. Anyway, Galloway came out with the line, “Oh poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.” This was, clearly in reference to Barrymore’s previous alcoholism, and was pretty funny. Preston was outraged and made the best comeback of the year with: “Oh poor me, poor me, pour me Saddam Hussain’s mobile number.” Um…Galloway wasn’t moaning. And, phone numbers don’t pour. Oh dear, Preston, oh dear.

1. Chantelle Houghton becomes a ‘celebrity’ (CBB4)
The fourth series of CBB saw the first non-celebrity to enter the house among other celebrities. Chantelle Houghton, who previously worked as a Paris Hilton look-alike, was told by Big Brother to pretend she was a pop star. When housemates were instructed to line themselves up in order of fame, Houghton was under secret instruction to ensure she was not last in the line. Of course, Maggot and Preston insisted they were less famous than her, which they now ironically are, and she instantly became a celebrity. The best way to show Preston how impressed she was by his modesty was, of course, to marry him later than year. Score.

So, why do I watch Celebrity Big Brother?

Aside from Big Brother being a rather voyeuristic guilty pleasure, it is quite an interesting social experiment. It’s fascinating to see strangers living together, forming groups and desperately trying to be popular with the public. Of course, some things are inevitable: the alpha-male will always become the leader, the girls will argue and everyone will, at some point, be accused of having a ‘game plan’. It is, however, the less expected things that make compulsive viewing. Who, for example, would have thought that John McCrurick couldn’t live without six litres of Diet Coke per week? Or, that Alex Reid would convert to Christianity? Or, that Les Dennis would talk to chickens? It’s these moments; these rare moments that prove celebrities are people. People who cry and shout and just exist. Just like you and me.

Who am I kidding? I watch it to see celebrities bitch, argue and get naked.