With the final series of Big Brother about to kick off, MAX DURSTON wonders whether it still provides genuine entertainment.
This summer, one of the longest running reality shows on television is coming to an end with Big Brother’s 11th and final series set to begin on 9th June. Is Channel 4 simply putting a moribund monster out of its misery, or does Big Brother still have more to offer?
When the first series of Big Brother graced British screens in the summer of 2000 it was innovating and exciting: 10 strangers put together in a house for 9 weeks with cameras monitoring their actions 24 hours a day. Ostensibly a psychological experiment, Big Brother’s cameras captured the highs and lows of the housemates, tracking how friendships and personalities developed in such a confined space.
The programme was a shock success, leading to further series as well as celebrity spin-offs. As time went on, however, producers went out of their way to try and find more entertaining and controversial characters; the relatively normal personalities of the first few series were replaced by increasingly eccentric personalities, such as Tourette syndrome sufferer Pete, the winner of the 2006 series, in an obvious attempt to attract more viewers. Whilst this did provide many entertaining moments, Big Brother’s producers were playing into the hands of the money-hungry media, providing them with more and more people willing to sell their souls for fifteen minutes of fame.
This connection with the newspapers has caused the downfall of the programme: whereas the housemates previously entered the experiment for the experience, people now only apply to go on Big Brother with an eye to becoming famous. Big Brother now seems to be a mere televised conveyor belt; churning out models for lads’ mags, perfumes and aftershaves as well as calendars from the more attractive participants, as well as providing Heat magazine with enough fodder to fill its pages without the necessity of paying ‘real celebrity’ prices.
No-one takes Big Brother seriously anymore; the producers manipulate the events that take place in the Big Brother house, creating the characters that they think viewers most want to see, with little regard for the effects of this on the housemates after their Big Brother experience is over. The axing of the live streaming feed in 2009 just confirmed to many viewers that the producers were seeking to control what viewers were allowed to see. The live feed has been restored for the final series in response to uproar on several Internet forums regarding its removal in the first place.
It seems that Endemol, the makers of Big Brother, are aware of the media circus that their programme has become: the final series has a twisted carnival theme, perfectly capturing the essence of the role that Big Brother has played in the landscape of television throughout the last 11 years. Creative Director of the series Phil Edgar Jones has promised one of the ‘funniest’ series yet. Perhaps the people behind the programme have at last realised what made Big Brother so popular in its heyday: comedy. Putting such a mixed group of people together under the same roof has inevitably led to some moments of comedy gold.
Although the programme is not always compelling viewing, Big Brother is not the worst of Channel 4’s stable of programming. Although many people may say that Big Brother is boring, it is nothing compared to the yawnfest that is Deal or no Deal. A person opening some boxes, drawn out to an hour long programme, fronted by beardy weirdy Noel Edmonds surely deserved the axe before Big Brother.
Even if you not interested in the development of relationships between strangers, or the chaos created by the tasks set by Big Brother, there is still one attraction that should draw everyone to the programme’s final series: Big Brother enables us to judge the weird and wonderful people who enter the house from the comfort of our own living rooms, reassuring ourselves that we are normal compared to the wannabes parading themselves in front of our screens. Most of all, Big Brother gives the viewers an almost god-like power: we decide who stays and who goes, who gets the fifteen minutes of fame they so desire. But worry not: we’ve still got the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent to fall back on for our control-freak fix.