Big Brother

Friday, June 2, 2006 by

The main problem with watching Big Brother is that it makes you examine your own conscience. Let’s face it, just about every BB fan will not be wholly thrilled at what they may see.

Quickly, the cliques have formed this year and the viewer now has to take sides. However, for every unwatchable dullard on one side, there is an interesting, layered character next to them whose own standing will be affected if dullard takes the boot. Tactical voting becomes key; BB is playing as much with viewers’ minds as it is with the guinea pigs wandering before our eyes each day.

The second full week in the Borehamwood Institution of the Abnormal has been one of intrigue, fascination and genuine conflict. Everyone now has someone to hate. The secure have felt paranoid; the insecure have eased up. And still one contestant rides the experience with remarkable simplicity – tactics have no meaning or role if a contestant is comfortable enough with themselves to just be themselves. This marks Pete out as the clearest winner of them all.

The engaging Tourette’s sufferer prompts all sorts of emotions in the viewer, but aside from the obvious feelings of pity and admiration for him as he continues to outburst and do rhythm-based impressions within his affliction; the main feeling is basic respect. His giggly nature, willingness to talk to anyone without making judgment and his genuine fear of upsetting anyone who might pose a threat to him (such as Lisa and her designs on him) holds him out as the most fundamentally decent being in the programme.

Because of his condition, the tabloids – all of whom claim to loathe BB and then proceed to give it blanket coverage to the point of insanity – profess Pete is a victim. Highly-paid psychologists have their palms crossed with Bank of England paper and told to write something which says Pete will be emotionally damaged for life by the experience. They all claim that laughing at Pete’s antics is a simple, old-fashioned playground-esque mocking of the afflicted and we should stand in the corner facing the wall until we’ve learned some decorum. This is false stuff. For all the accusations of acting aimed at just about anyone behind those hundreds of cameras, the falsehood exists just as blatantly behind the sub-editorial presses too, because it’s clear Pete is happy, well-rounded, droll and, most importantly, having a ball.

One fiercely anti-BB newspaper claimed Pete was a big favourite to win “despite” all his outbursts, tics and eccentricities. This says more about the press attitude than it does about that of any viewer, or indeed Pete himself. Anyone who watched him in the Diary Room this week, answering leftover questions on the daft “Meal or no Meal” gameshow mock-up which led to the introduction of two new housemates, saw a contestant entirely at ease, being amusing, laddishly endearing and quirky without ever coming across as deranged or at odds with the psychologists’ view.

He sat on the golden chair upside down, smiled through his involuntary facial spasms and “wankers!” interjections and got three out of four questions right. And anyone who saw the laughter from the living area from his housemates as he rattled through his plasma-screened turn will have no qualms about his effectiveness in the house, both on himself and his cohabitants. He’s miles ahead.

Much will continue to be made of Pete, because beyond one or two rumbling arguments which are ready to brew, too many of the contestants have started to realise the ordinariness of their roles in the house, as is always the concern to any viewer when BB gets underway. There is more to come from the ghastly Nikki and the demonic Grace as the weeks go by, and it’s only the strength of the dominant forces like Sezer and Richard – at odds as self-styled clique chiefs, but oddly comfortable with each other in private – which has set tongues wagging properly. Grace argued willingly with Nikki about her lack of gratitude over a plate of salmon, but she didn’t possess the clout and articulacy to give it real welly, and was far too quick to apologise and make up, suggesting she was aware that conflict often (and sometimes wrongly) got folk evicted sooner rather than later. Then it got quiet for them both. The decision of the uppercrust and extremely popular George to quit the house in midweek while he remained reputable was a sensible one on his behalf, but an awful one for Grace and Nikki, who both were vying for his affections and now had no direct link to the main faction heads of Sezer and Richard. George’s withdrawal also didn’t do wonders for BB‘s reputation, nor for that of the British media, as he insisted on departing to ensure he could continue to walk down streets with minimum fuss.

Perhaps the insecurity of too many wannabe top dogs explained the calculated nominations which viewers observed with intrigue in the Diary Room. Four votes were received by Richard, and three each for his main compadre Lea, the surgically enhanced single mum, and the hedonistic and ultra-confident Sezer. Looking through all the flak Lea took in the Diary Room, it’s clear she has suffered for her own well-meaning meddling into the affairs of others. Lisa nominated her after Lea gently told the truth over Pete’s concerns, while Grace also got stuck into her over a conversation in the bedroom which seemed, at the time, to clear some air. The nominations for Richard and Sezer were much more obvious in their reasoning, with emerging star Glyn – a sixth former with a new-found provincial pride once he’d been handed his Wales-branded clothes to go with his accent – pricelessly, but quite rightly, nominating Richard because the hat-wearing Canuck still hadn’t learned the youngster’s name.

BB‘s decision to disqualify Sezer and Imogen from voting was, on reflection, extremely controversial, though when their incriminating conversation about nominations in the garden was aired the night before, it aroused suspicions of foul among the proles. It also showed off the pair’s real feelings about events – Imogen, feeling safe as Sezer’s stooge and squeeze amidst the atmosphere, was a mixture of upset and shocked when she was informed; later, Sezer gave off an air of contempt when BB told him, especially as the brash City boy had entered the Diary Room full of bluster about how the game was about to start for real. Had Imogen and Sezer been allowed to nominate, Sezer himself would have certainly escaped the public vote, and eventually, his ultimate fate of a landslide eviction.

The coming weeks will, hopefully, be more interesting as the camps break up through the eviction process and more barriers start to come down. Peripheral housemates like Lisa, plus the two newbies – glamorous London promotions girl Aisleyne (pronounced Ashleen) and Scottish pre-op transsexual Sam – need to come into their own more, or they will find themselves as sacrificial tools in the collaborative adjoining of Imogen, Grace and Mikey in their indignation at Sezer’s dismissal. The awful and unmerited comments about Aisleyne from the immediately paranoid Grace suggest the choreographer is also ripe for a fall anytime, and that could make her the standout hate figure of weeks to come if she gets enough nominations. The public now need to keep her in all the more.

Nikki, at last, is keeping a padlock over her mouth, only looking a fool or a madam when she couldn’t grasp the anatomical stage of Sam’s being, for all Richard’s best efforts to explain it in kindergarten language. Much more preferable was the reaction of the hormonal Glyn when he opened the box from Pete’s correct answer and found Aisleyne inside – “You’re sexy!” – and his head-in-hands, innocence and embarrassment as he spilled out his feelings of foolishness in the Diary Room later. He needs another lap dance, and with Lea surviving eviction, might now get one.

Aisleyne could survive until the last week, despite the lack of support previous BB audiences have given to gatecrashers. This may well be down to a rounded, all-compassing, dominant and shrewd personality on her part … although it’s arguably more likely to happen because the text voters won’t be able to spell her name. This kind of spoils the whole BB experience for those with a healthier interest in people-watching – ultimately the demographic audience will spoil it by booting out the interesting ones on the grounds that they are too unlikeable (even though they made them watch) or too bitchy, or just female. Sezer seemed to be right about that; it appeared unlikely he would ever go if any woman, even his own Imogen, was up against him. History on BB backed up his argument.

Yet he didn’t reckon for the enormous public reaction to his rather bluff and cocksure blarney about the female race, and the 91% of the vote he took was phenomenal. Yet again, BB crowds react against the interesting contestants and boot them out, rather than gauge their actual watchability and keep them in. Sezer’s big personality was a key issue in the house; for all the loyalty they may show to their chief batman, the likes of Imogen and Mikey simply don’t have the clout to articulate themselves against the measured Richard and the worldly-wise Lea, neither of whom would have been missed as much as Sezer. For all that, the vote was the most conclusive in BB‘s history and upon announcement of his name he seemed to go into a dazed shock. He did not think for a moment he was on his way – it was a priceless reaction, the silence of Sezer as he contemplated his fantastic misjudgment of the public somehow drowned out the noise of Lea’s relieved sobs.

“I’m cool, I’m relaxed,” he told the others as they commiserated. Not the case at all. He was stunned, angry and completely horrified. He was also scared. The BB crowd had given him his comeuppance – yet it’s always best to keep the Sezer types in the house until the last day, let them think they have a mild chance of winning the loot, and then kick them out as the fourth or third-placed contestant.

BB got the technical side bang on, even if the vote was a freak. Sezer took the usual pubescent booing on the chin and came across as an articulate and sporting interviewee for Davina, who clearly liked him for his sheer honesty, if not what an honest Sezer portrayal actually displays.

His ejection leaves a massive gap which someone has to fill – Sezer told Mikey, the affable but mostly nondescript Liverpudlian, that it was up to him, but that won’t happen. Grace has potential, providing she learns from Sezer’s errors. Imogen, as Richard said at nomination time, is simply too dull. Sezer was her comfort blanket as she needed to say or contribute negligibly to proceedings while his toned shoulders were nearby; suddenly she’s entering the house all over again.

Still, for each time the cliques or the public do something stupid, there’ll always be Pete and his colossal trousers. “Excrement!”


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