Big Brother Reports

This page contains reviews and analysis of the first two series of Big Brother and the first series of Celebrity Big Brother. They have been preserved as they were originally written, by a UKGS correspondent who was actually there at the time these historic events occurred. Well, not actually there, but certainly watching them on television, which is undoubtedly the next best thing. The odd footnote has been added at a later date.

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Series 1 (2000)

Well, we wanted Anna to win but that's the general public for you.

Big Brother: a show about other people's lives for people who don't have one? Bugger off. Say what you like about the show (and a lot of people have) but it cannot be denied that it will be remembered as one of THE talking points of the Summer with it's stars making the front page of every newspaper going - even the more highbrow ones had Nasty Nick Bateman on the front page after he was evicted from the house (with, funnily enough, no actual nominations thus far to his name).

In fact, it was said that Nick's eviction and the group argument leading to it really heralded an Internet revolution as businesses lost even more millions through their employees watching it live. And when one person sees something interesting happen, everybody will log on and watch it.

Nick was replaced by a girl named Claire and there was much debate as to whether he should have been replaced. in all fairness, people had already spent money on phone calls through the week so the current vote couldn't really be 'void' and no eviction the next week would have felt wrong, given the fast weekly rate of evictions the show has. Rightly, but perhaps not correctly, she was voted out in her second week which is fair enough because it would have been wrong if she had won.

Occasionally really gripping but always funnier than 99% of the sitcoms produced in the last five years the show and the contestants managed to cast off the original feeling of inherent exhibitionism so that as time went by you did actually manage to empathize with the contestants. You decided after about week three which contestants really annoyed you and which contestants you really liked.

The weekly and daily tasks that were given were quite interesting and varied. Perhaps too many were memory based but they usually provided a few laughs.

Eviction nights were particularly worth watching thanks to the excellent pomp and circumstance surrounding the fact that somebody was going to get kicked out. Davina McCall got her live presenting act together eventually - usually amusing, occasionally irritating but always carrying the show off in an entertaining manner and seeming to genuinely take an interest in the contestants and their well-being when being catapulted back to reality.

Amusingly, the post-eviction interviews always seemed to concentrate on the more salacious side of life in the Big Brother house. Sadly (or perhaps not) not much actual salaciousness actually happened other than Mel's relationships with Andy and Tom (which didn't really go anywhere other then kisses and an embarrassing shot of some shorts).

They tried to keep the sociological and psychological edge to the show by having the resident psychologists comment on the Monday evening hour shows, but their ability to state the obvious (saying things along the line of 'the reason Melanie is up for eviction this week is because she was nominated the most' and so on) didn't really fool anyone. This is voyeuristic game show and nothing else.

Naturally, it was bound to get less interesting as less people were in the house so it was good that it ended when it did - the original Dutch version was 100 days, the American version is 88 days and is dull whilst ours was much shorter at 64 days and one eviction a week. The winner's vote saw 7.5 million people ring in, easily a record for a phone poll.* The amount of eviction votes and viewers steadily rose throughout the series, with a dramatic rise when Nasty Nick was disqualified.

A second series is mooted, but Big Brother is going to be looking to the Dutch to see if a second series is going to work. If Channel 4 don't want to pick it up though, ITV and Channel 5 are waiting with baited breath. It was really quite poignant seeing the last person leave the house, the live pictures of the empty house and then the lights going out for the final time. Now what are we going to do with our evenings?

* That's at the time, of course.

Celebrity Big Brother

Normally when you get 'special charity editions' of various shows for charity telethons they tend to be badly thought out, cut down, unfunny rubbish. The special charity edition of this particular hit show is cut down (one week instead of nine) but is it rubbish? Good god no, precisely the opposite in fact.

In the first Celeb Big Brother, six celebrities offered up their privacy for one week in the Big Brother house (starting with the most A-list working their way down): deadpan comic Jack Dee, Boyzone singer Keith Duffy, darling of the tabloids Anthea Turner, eccentric ex-boxer Chrith Eubank, fat talk show host turned slim unemployed woman Vanessa Feltz and some bird off Brookside, Claire Sweeney*.

The rules are almost the same except a bit more brutal. The living conditions are exactly the same as the original (one hour of hot water a day, the storeroom open for half an hour a day) but as a concession to their status, there are no cameras in the showers and toilet. They are given daily tasks to gamble their money for food/alcohol (but like the original, mostly minging cider), short versions of the weekly tasks given on the show last year.

Similarly, every other day they must nominate two of their fellow housemates they would most like to be evicted from the house. The two or more people with the most nominations are put to the public vote, the proceeds from which are given to charidy, mate.

Oh, and the chair in the diary room is now all fluffy.

It's such a brilliant idea but some brilliant ideas just don't work. Luckily, this is a brilliant idea that works er... brilliantly because it's an active working microcosm of the show with people you know about and it's for charity. Try telling that to some of the contestants though...

Yep, like last year it's the nominations that cause the most friction and trauma within the group. Remember, the people put to the public vote are the ones liked the least in the house. Whilst the nomination process is taken less seriously by some (picking people at random, giving stupid reasons, "I'd like to nominate Vanessa because her hair extensions keep turning up in the cooking") it tends to be the people whose private lives are most scrutinized by the press who take it the most personally. Yes it's nasty. Yes, it's nastier to these people because they're in the public eye and it's become a 'which celebrity do you hate the most contest' and because of this, it's absolutely gripping stuff. Even though it shouldn't be. And it's for charity. Hurrah!

We've had tears ('Oh, the public hate me, my career's gone down the pan' etc. etc.), we've had laughter (Jack Dee breaking out through the backdoor. Jack Dee suffering because he doesn't want to be there in general) and we've had Vanessa going mad writing big aggressive scary words on tables with chalk ('This is Big Brother, can Vanessa please come to the Diary Room?' 'No, f*** off.').

Also of note is that it's the first time the BBC and Channel 4 have linked up** and it's all for charity. Channel 4 do their daily half hour highlight updates and the BBC put on a ten minute highlight highlight update and combined they've been pulling over ten million viewers a night.

They're hoping to raise a million quid doing this and you've got to give them respect for doing this (although people have pointed out whether this is more about career furthering for some of them rather then pure charity work) and it's quite telling that although we're told how many votes were cast and who is eliminated, we're never told the voting split, probably to protect the celebrities. And to cap it all, they're going to wipe the video tapes.

I don't know, it's one law for them and another for everyone else...

*Just think: no Celeb Big Brother, no Here Comes the Sun. Oh, when one thinks of what might have been...
**Unless you count those operas they did in the early 90s, and those rubbish Dennis Potter serials.

Big Brother 2 (2001)

Barely months after Celebrity BB had finished than it was the summer and C4 took the gamble of doing the second series. Now, this was a gamble because traditionally in other countries audiences for second series' have been down 15-25% on the first series. "They're not as good as the last lot!" Everyone will complain. Everyone will be wrong.

So 10 new housemates, same old game, same old prize (£70,000). What's most surprising is how fresh they've made it feel, but we'll come back to that in a moment.

Television wise it follows the first series but better. On Monday it's highlights from the weekend along with psychologists comments to try and make the programme look vaguely classy (although these comments tend to be along the lines of "Bubble is sleeping, this is because he is tired. Sleep is what happens when people are tired."), Tuesday thru Thursday are half an hour updates whilst Friday is Live Eviction Madness Night with Davina McCall, back for a second series and this time pregnant. Saturday is the weekly highlights package which commendably, has some stuff not shown during the week. Commendably, those of you with E4 can watch almost-live 'action' from the house for up to 21 hours a day. With SKY you can choose from 4 different angles and vote from your remote (hey! cool rhyme), with ONDigital* you can look at a pretty lame text ticker. Shame really. Also on E4 is 'Big Brother's Little Brother', a live 30 minute phone in discussion show hosted excellently by Dermot O Leary. This is in fact a very nice compliment to the show allowing callers to question psychologists, friends and family of the housemates, losers etc. as well as having fun features of its own (lookalikes, chatting with the resident Big Brothers etc.).

So how have they made this year different from last year? New titles, a slightly remixed version of the theme tune and a complete overhaul of the house, now styled to feel like a giant log cabin with a new comfy 'den' area down one end of the garden. Ikea would approve. The housemates have been told to 'expect the unexpected' and indeed the unexpected happens. For the first week, the housemates were given a doll which was going to 'turn into the 11th housemate after the first eviction'. The viewers were given the chance to vote on who of three people they wanted to go into the house (these people were hidden in Portugal so they had no idea what was happening in the house). The day after the first eviction, the housemates were instructed to bring the doll (the '11th housemate') into the Diary Room and shut the door. The doll was taken out through the side entrance, and Josh, the new housemate was blindfolded and taken to the infamous Diary Room Chair (this year in tasteful cow styling) where he was told that he could go and join the housemates. You can imagine their shock when they took a doll into the Diary Room, only to have a real person step out moments later! Also, the house is apparently laden with secrets which Big Brother will reveal to the housemates as the time goes on. They managed to hide a hot-tub under a rockery for two weeks and rumour has it there's, amongst other things, a games room hidden behind a trapdoor in the Den which the housemates know nothing about. How exciting!

Rule changes mean that everybody only earns a whopping £1 a day rather the £1.50 it used to be, although they can now bet between 10% and 90% on their weekly tasks, all new so far, whereas it used to be 20% to 50%. We'd like to see them bet 90% on a task, fail and live on less then £7 between all of them for week. That would be funny.

Who are the new 11 though? Well it's less of a human zoo that it was last year - there's no-one overtly loud or annoying in the same way Caroline or Nicola were - and they seem to bond better together, although that's not to say there's been blazing rows. One's a lap-dancer 'tart with a heart' (in an obvious ploy from Channel 4 to make this series a bit more sexy), a welsh hairdresser, a few laddish types, a camp-as-you-like air steward, musician, teacher and so on. A better mix of ages than last series - two of them are in their late thirties although a bid to put an older woman in the house in the phone vote failed.

Is it as good as last series? The answer is a resounding 'yes', if not better and the viewers are a million up so far. We'd reckon a third series would be a BIG gamble though, especially as there's only so much you can do to surprise and change for a set of housemates without it seeming too different or lame. Still, it's nice to see there are still broadcasters who can make something innovative and innovate still on top of that. We approve.

*Remember that?

See also

Weaver's Week: BB3 analysis
Weaver's Week: BB5 analysis

Main Big Brother article

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