Big Brother

Friday, July 25, 2003 by

When Graham Norton turned up at the final night of BB3 last year to give the pro-Jade camp a further fill-up, he told Davina McCall: “The public have played a very good game this year, because they’ve kept the interesting ones in.” And he was absolutely right.

12 months on and it was finale time once more outside the Borehamwood luxury prison, but there was no sign of Graham Norton, or indeed any other celebrity with clout, taking up Davina’s attention with their categorical support for one contestant and the whole genus of BB. There were celebs with Dermot O’Leary on BBLB earlier, but these were of the calibre of Andi Peters. None of them later made it into Davina’s airtime. Enough said.

The truth was that by the time BB4 was ready to empty its house and let the agents take over the contestants’ lives, the public’s guile had done a runner. Many of the “interesting ones” weren’t in the house at all, but parading around the eye-shaped stage for one final bit of applause-milking before they were spat back into obscurity. Of the quartet remaining indoors and in exile, only two could claim to be interesting (i.e. worthy) enough to feel vindicated in their position on the sofa, in glad rags, palms sweating, pound signs in their eyes.

Thanks to a combination of ill-fated innovations by Big Brother, providence in the nomination process and ludicrous mistakes by the determining public, there was a distinct feeling of being short-changed by the final night of BB4 when confronted with the voting choices. Cameron was the moralistic fish fancier from Orkney whose shyness and caution stayed in South Africa when the rest of him returned. Ray was the curate’s egg Irishman who was risible and staid when sober, horrid and threatening when in beer. Scott was the strong, laddish Liverpudlian who essentially mirrored all of Ray’s light with none of his shade. Steph was the chirpy, unthreatening Midlander. Though nobody can blame people for being people, this bunch was hardly on a par with Norton’s dream quartet of Alex, Jade, Jonny and Kate.

Still, eight weeks had passed, housemates of varying entertainment and popularity ratings had slipped through the eviction sieve and the four who remained on course for the pot of gold were there by fair means. The rules hadn’t been broken specifically to keep them there, but the seemingly endless changes made by BB, as was their entitlement, had certainly enhanced their chances beyond their own self-preservation tactics.

The last week in the house was extraordinarily dull, as if the housemates had sensed the apathy which had largely greeted the latest series had leaked through the air conditioning units. The four of them talked about the Friday night a lot, with the usual facial expressions desperately trying to show that they didn’t care about winning. Throughout BBs passim, various tenants have been accused inside and outside the four walls of acting, of hamming up their personalities in order to appear more likeable and relatable. Never more so is this evident than when greeted by the expressions, activities and facets displayed by finalists as the realisation dawns on them that they’re all out this week.

So, it would appear then, that none of them wanted to win. Not in public anyway. Fear of appearing too confident or competitive stopped all four remainders from telling any of the others that they’d actually quite like to be interviewed by Davina inside the house rather than outside, to leave to the sound of fireworks as well as a crowd of banner-wielding nutters and to have £70,000 transferred into their bank accounts. None of them wished to upset any of the other three by having the nerve to divulge they were in it to win it, yet the fact that the public and only the public could now decide their respective fates seemed to elude them completely, as all of them admitted that they’d like to win (though not going so far as to say they “wanted” to win) when asked about it in the Diary Room. So what did they have to lose by admitting to each other that they’d mud-wrestle the wildebeest-like doormen at the top of the stairs if it meant getting their mitts on the cash? It wasn’t going to get them nominated.

As a result of all this careful treading around one another, more conscious of the cameras than ever, week nine was an almost entire washout, particularly as BB4‘s Official Saviour, the outstanding Jon, had seemingly given up trying to cause a stir within the house, save for his usual delightful observations and gripes in the Diary Room. Having outsmarted the hell out of the neanderthal Ray over the tactic to dump Nush the previous week, leaving Ray annoyed, confused and hugely aware of his own inability to compete with the prodigal housemate’s brainpower, Jon’s only direct attempt to ruffle feathers as the end drew nearer came during a drunken night in the Reward Room, decked as a ’60s lounge bar with the lads all dressed as Ratpackers and Steph in a blonde wig, when Jon desperately tried to gauge Cameron’s opinion within a semi-serious, semi-giggly debate on masturbation. He accused him of never giving his views on any subject deemed even minorly controversial. The others stepped in, Jon conceded defeat, and afterwards declined to unsettle any housemate further, believing that BB was frowning upon his stance as a fly in the ointment. Everyone, particularly the public, now wanted Friday to come quickly.

And so it did. As a once-evicted housemate who was barred from winning, Jon was first out, having gone into the Diary Room for his concluding debrief which also finally revealed to the others via the plasma screen that he had never been back in the running, something he had deliberately declined to tell them before. This was the first of numerous technical cock-ups, as the cuts back to the house were wrongly timed, meaning that we never saw any instant reaction from the others once they knew the truth about the nature of Jon’s return. Eventually, the debriefing ended and Jon was set to go, but rather than give him another walk of fame down the hallowed staircase, he was ushered through the Diary Room, down a back corridor and out through a staff-only emergency exit where only a tiny portion of crowd could see him. Davina had to call out his name before the now-familiar cheers and unison chants of “Tickle! Tickle!” accompanied his leap on to the eye stage. A great reception he got, as ever, but in a BB where tradition was thrown into a skip, it would have been nice if they’d defied ritual one last time and let him take the proper route out and lap up his public’s appreciation once more. It was the least he deserved after almost single-handedly maintaining the viewer’s interest over six split weeks within the nine.

Davina, ever the analyst, asked Jon just how much he fancied Nush. Jon said it was quite a lot. Well, it was plain for all to see and he wasn’t going to deny it. Then she asked why he hadn’t maintained his promise to stir the brown stuff over the whole two weeks. He talked about the way he was being discouraged from being a nuisance by BB in the Diary Room. It was all rather rushed, and Jon deserved better treatment than this. After all, he’d done his time, got the public’s overwhelming blessing of an extra, pressure-free fortnight in the house and knew that the punters utterly adored him. Such enormous acclaim for an individual amidst such stern disdain for the show as a whole had elevated Jon to a status far beyond that of just about everyone who finished ahead of him in the certified pecking order.

Jon ended his last speaking part by endorsing Scott’s claim for the prize and stating that although he had no axe to grind with Cameron and enjoyed his company, he was still firmly of the belief that the Orkney introvert was acting the innocent. He hadn’t achieved his goal of removing Cameron’s alleged mask, but he was no failure in not doing so. While the word “failure” could be attributed to many aspects of and protagonists within BB4, nobody could argue for Jon to be placed in that cluster. One last word of thanks from Davina later, and Jon was away to join his fellow evictees and the real business of the evening could finally begin.

Every single BB observer knew who would be out first and the public duly obliged by placing Steph in fourth position. As OTT’s correspondent on matters BB for the previous fortnight, Stuart Ian Burns, rightly pointed out last week, the amiable but depth-free Redditch lass was there on the final night out of sheer good fortune. Never labeled for a moment as a big-hitter, never mind a potential winner, Steph’s presence in the house could entirely be attributed to her being nominated previously in weeks when dead certs Tania and Lisa were also facing the firing squad. Her reputation was wholly intact and the acting accusation could never be aimed at her, but there simply wasn’t enough in her constitution to enable her to stand out among the rest, even with just three other candidates for company as week nine began. Being the only woman left in a BB patterned by supposed gender-prejudice in the voting (only one male was evicted when up against a female – Gos losing out to Nush) was also to her detriment. All that said, her emergence from the house was actually better than the two which followed, with the crowd finally having their wish to see a finalist in the flesh inspiring a quite enormous welcoming cheer which took the smiley serial-cleaner aback completely. With bashfulness and modesty (ideal when you’ve just come out of the house; not ideal when you’re still in it), she took in the applause and the moment before her ecstatic mother sprinted on to the stage with father and sister in her wake and hugged her precious daughter so strongly that she lifted her clean off the ground. Everyone in the family was in floods; and with Steph’s microphone still live, it was genuinely moving as the tearful words of pride and love were aired to the nation.

The interview was also poignant, with the tears rolling uncontrollably down Steph’s cheeks as she watched a long montage of all the tender but absolutely platonic moments she had shared with Cameron during their three months together. Throwing aside Davina’s playful but incessant probing about the prospective nature of their relationship, Steph simply said: “He’s fabulous. He’s probably one of the nicest fellas I’ve ever met, in that sense, like a friend. I never thought I’d ever …” then she broke down, allowing Davina to finish her sentence with “have a male friend like that” to which Steph concurred through the sobs as she recalled her difficult record of relationships. That should frankly have closed the door on the matter, and the tittle-tattle of the previous weeks had been far overshadowed by the later, more intense bond between Scott and Nush, but still Davina, the self-confessed matchmaker, asked Steph for further brief confirmation of her feelings. Then we got a pictorial medley of Steph’s inveterate cleaning habits, with long clips of her pushing the sweeper, wiping the tops and generally keeping the house spick and span, including that now infamous once-over of the Diary Room carpet which, along with being the last major recipient of Ray’s inebriated vindictiveness, was arguably her most memorable individual moment. All rather safe and predictable it was as Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 played in the background, until gatecrasher Lisa’s emergence as a rival housekeeper entered the equation, with the soundtrack changing to the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

And then there were three. All men, all big-hitters, all worthy at differing levels of the sickly “girlie” vote, and finally the wheat could be separated from the chaff. Bookies’ odds aside, this was a tough one to call, and any name which would be announced by Davina would have been a surprising one as all three had been strongly tipped. But when that name was Scott’s, you could almost certainly sense thousands of jaws dropping in horror if you’d pressed your earhole to the TV. Having been the bookies’ favourite for the lion’s share of the programme and enjoyed most of the badly spelled adulation via text on E4′s ticker, it became impossible to pinpoint any moment when Scott had suddenly lost BB4, unless people were so stupid as to lose their respect for him after his massive struggle in the week’s very tough “needle-in-haystack” challenge. The endorsement of Ray by BB3 winner Kate on RI:SE was, however, certainly the moment when Scott became less popular than had been assumed, though this didn’t necessarily mean he still wasn’t a superior candidate.

Scott, like approximately half of the housemates, was very popular outside. But unlike the other housemates, he never got even a slight inkling of how popular he was in people’s houses. Free of any eviction danger since the first week, with the number of individual nominations he received in the eight weeks thereafter countable on one hand, he had ridden effortlessly through the BB experience with a mixture of humour, leadership, maturity and open-mindedness but, in his own head, he was completely in the dark as to whether what he’d achieved inside could be matched by the perception of him outside. Only when Steph was expelled did he finally know that he was more up to standard than someone who had survived the eviction process and therefore could feel easier about how the crowd would react once he came through the doors.

This he did, to loud teenage screams, and he bounded down the steps and on to the stage where he milked the applause. Here was a classic example of the difference between men and women – Steph was reserved in her soaking in of the crowd’s appreciation of her, but went totally barmy with her family when they leapt up for the reunion embrace. Scott, meanwhile, raised his fists and yelled triumphantly and flamboyantly to the proles, but when the entirely male contingent of his family (his mother chose to stay in the relatives’ studio) jumped up the steps to greet him, they did so merely with manly hugs, backslaps, smiles and meagre handshakes, before giving each other space and actually having a normal conversation amidst the bedlam. Davina re-emphasised the need for Steph and Scott supporters to spend yet more money on the voting lines for the last pair still ensconced inside the house, and then got on with dragging Scott into the comfort of the interview room.

While some have maintained that Scott’s contribution to the house was warm and watchable but not necessarily winning, there was absolutely no doubt that the subject matters which his actions had implanted into the question setters’ brains were first rate. First off was Nush, of course. How did he feel about her? Is there a chance he’ll get it together with her? Why didn’t he tell her how he felt? Did he know that Jon adored her? The usual stuff, almost a re-run of Davina’s interview with the object of Scott’s obvious affections when she was ejected a week earlier. And just about the same answers, too. Another non-starter there, though the way Scott and Nush kept their respect for each other and themselves when sharing the romantic Reward Room in her last week should have already answered “Auntie” Davina’s questions, but it was good for the goose, so the gander must follow suit. The stream of clips shown, backed by We’ve Only Just Begun by the Carpenters, ended with one of those heart-rending “looks” from Scott as he watched Nush leave the house. See Alex and Adele last year.

Infinitely more fun was the sequence then shown of Scott’s frequent sleep talking, climaxing with him saying, deep in slumber, that he was “squatting over a mirror … checking out my bumhole” which had everyone in the interview suite in stitches. What was also refreshing was the carefree attitude Scott had to the prize money, as when he was asked by Davina what he would have done with it, he replied: “I would have spent it. Haphazardly. Without a thought for the consequences.”

So with Scott out of the equation, two remained. Unlike last year, when firm drinking friends Jonny and Kate found themselves battling it out, the remaining pair had never been the closest of allies during their time in the house. Indeed, the contrast between Cameron and Ray robustly signified the split in what BB viewers consider when choosing their favourite. We had been left with a slightly dour, withdrawn, naïve Scotsman with religious convictions and old-fashioned values; and a hard-drinking, hard-swearing Irish bird magnet with equal measures of genteelness and nastiness in his make-up, depending on the amount of intoxicants he had consumed. It was like putting Cliff Richard up against Liam Gallagher. Being provincial lads – indeed, one was technically a foreigner – it also meant that entire cities and regions, including those with no interest in BB, suddenly came out in favour of their “boy” and it was clear from press and BBLB reports that both Orkney and Dublin had united in their support for their respective comrade.

But with a fraction above 57% of the vote, Cameron got the verdict and the reaction from the Orkney Islander was one of great shock (which Jon probably put down to more quality acting) as his eyes bulged, his mouth opened wide and he rather camply put his palms to his temples as if it would make all the thoughts and realisations of what he’d just attained merge in his brain. Not a chance. Ray, magnanimous in defeat, put paid to that by grabbing Cameron and taking him on a brief pogo dance as Cameron yelled “Thank you! Thank you!” at the very top of his voice. Then Ray was on his way.

Enormous squeals greeted the twofold Irishman as he did a little dance at the top of the steps and then opened the top pocket of his case to hurl what was presumably underwear into the crowd. Davina allowed him to greet some friends from home, who gave him an Irish flag in which he promptly coated himself as he lapped up the adulation from the masses. Brilliantly, for a guy who genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought of him, his first thought as his family joined him was to ask his mother: “How was it? Was it all right?”, with a really apprehensive look on his face. With mum’s blessing, and a brief lift-off from his eccentric dad, Ray was frogmarched to the chair, ready for a grilling.

This was the worst and best interview of the night. Worst because a microphone problem left the sound horribly distorted, for which Davina would later apologise, and the best because Ray had generated enough material for him to be really teased and mocked. A “good and bad Ray” sequence was shown, to the echo of It’s So Quiet by Björk, containing a quantity of expletives which would have probably surpassed the daily quota allowed even for Channel 4. Had Ray been first out instead of Steph, they wouldn’t have been able to show it.

Davina rightly pointed out that the outbursts “came from an honest place.” The problem in Ray’s case, however, was that his outbursts were genuinely scary and threatening, and rarely entertaining, particularly when he was drunk. Despite constant pleas from Scott to tone it down, Ray spent almost the whole nine weeks uttering profanities in the direction of his fellow housemates when alcohol was available, and at BB whenever they came up with a task, challenge or rule change which he didn’t like. You pays your money, you takes your choice. BB chose Ray, and Ray chose BB. Nobody could ever suggest that Ray wasn’t being himself, and this did him credit; but the self he was being was on numerous occasions unpleasant, malicious, cruel and self-righteous.

Ray picked out one outburst in the montage as one where he’d badmouthed BB over the rations they’d been given in the second week, following Federico’s pedalo aberration which had resulted in task failure. “We were starving,” he said. “You should have seen the staples they gave us. The staples were crap.” At this point, all the housemates, with chef Gos at the helm, cheered and encouraging this latest tirade as Ray pursued his point. “They were superficial, made-up dishes, meant for an anorexic.”

The infamous lavatory masturbation-under-duvet scene was then unsurprisingly shown, and while everyone had a good laugh, there was little doubt that this was voyeurism of the type which was completely objectionable. Save for Graham Norton’s parody and the mock outrage of Gos (“stop wanking!”), it wasn’t a welcoming re-run and made one wish, this time, that it had been the pre-watershed eviction which Steph had experienced. Ray was a young, healthy man with a strong sex drive and while nobody could deny that sexual frustration was always going to be a factor for the boys in the house, we didn’t need to see it again. The sight of the duvet rhythmically changing shape as Ray relieved himself in the loo was arguably the grossest moment of BB4. Tania and Nush had both discussed the size of Ray’s manhood, but Ray declined to allow a clip of him to be shown with full evidence of how well equipped he was, despite the egging on of those in the crowd. Redemption in part.

Ray revealed he planned to donate £10,000 of the prize money to Great Ormond Street Hospital after only getting permission to film his audition tape in a private ice rink once he’d told the owners this. A nice guy and a bad guy, but he didn’t deserve to win and, as was pointed out in last week’s OTT review, he lost it the moment he displayed his spiteful side again to both of the women in the house, threatening physical violence against one and actually getting unduly physical with the other, who was already carrying an injury.

And then into the house went Davina to greet the victorious Cameron, and over the course of the interview, there were numerous occasions when he threw his head back and yelled the familiar “Noooo!” as it dawned on him that everything he’d perhaps hoped would be lost in the editing suite had, in fact, been noted, saved and packaged for consumption. The montage of clips with Steph provoked much the same reaction as that of Steph herself, as Three Times a Lady by the Commodores played in the background. It was uncontroversial and pleasant, save for the intrusion of the awful Justine, still trying to muscle in on the act by putting her arms around Steph when her reaction outside to this latest hotchpotch was placed in a square at the bottom of the screen.

“I think the world of Steph. Time will tell,” was all Cameron would say. He had invited her to the Orkneys. That was enough for Davina. Then we moved on to the moment Cameron transformed and, with hindsight, the moment he probably won Big Brother.

With sombre bagpipes in the background, a mishmash of extracts was shown of Cameron in the early weeks, pontificating about his beliefs and bemoaning the drinking ‘n’ swearing antics of some of the others. Then the music changed to It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World by James Brown as we saw Cameron board the plane to South Africa, have a full-blown argument and a tender flirtation in the BB house there before returning with a more relaxed attitude as he drank the wine, playfully slapped the girls bottoms (but still with brilliant threat-free Cameron style) and kissed their ears. More freestyle bodily contact and willingness to join in, and the “big hitter”, as described with resignation by Jon just before he lost to him on the fourth eviction night, was in full throttle and on his way to the prize. There was absolutely no way that Cameron in pre-South Africa mode would have won BB.

“I think before I went to South Africa I had started to relax in my own house,” he said. “I felt myself relaxing when I thought I was getting evicted, and I think probably the South Africa trip was a catalyst to just chilling out and freeing up.”

Out he came to cheers, fireworks and another emotional family reunion. The prize money will go towards a new piano for his local church, a bathroom for his brother and a trip to see other family in Chicago. As Cameron danced with close buddy Gos onstage, Davina closed the show and once again it was all over.

Dissecting the result is tough going. There is little doubt that Cameron’s claims for victory were made very strong indeed once he returned from South Africa and loosened up. However, good fortune plays a big part in the whole BB practice and Cameron got his fair share – surviving on the dreaded “double eviction” night by just 1%; getting the South Africa trip simply because he was the only one up and about when BB asked for someone, anyone, to come to the Diary Room; being nominated against dead certs like Federico, Lisa and Nush; hailing from such an individualised area of Britain that he was guaranteed a massive block support; and most notably, escaping vilification after somehow making his politically incorrect views on gay couples not sound remotely homophobic. He played the game and won it, but if every contestant was now placed back in there, with the viewers (but not the housemates) now knowing what they know, it’s doubtful he would win it over again.

The luck factor applied to both Cameron and Steph in making the last week, while both Ray and Scott were absolute certainties for the final four. All of them have been called winners in their own right, and certainly three can say they emerged with good standing undamaged, Ray being the exception. But the unpredictability of BB can be as detrimental as it can be exciting, and the aggravation which many viewers felt at many of the innovations which seeped from the BB policy unit and into the house as the weeks drew on was plain for all to observe, both in the effect on the house’s watchability and the viewing and voting figures.

Nobody knew a thing about the dozen who walked through the door on May 23, so it’s remarkable to look back now and see the names of the four who were dubiously put forward for eviction on those wretched “first impressions”. It got Anouska, easily the most talked about first victim of any series, kicked out, yet she went on to grab huge attention, enjoyed a stint in the Australian BB and even had banners in her honour on the final night (something which BB3‘s Lynne certainly couldn’t claim). Federico, Jon and Scott all became worthy and rounded contestants having survived. Yet others, like Justine, Gos and Sissy, contributed next to nothing in the house and one of those has become a fearful, more hateable laughing stock since eviction with her self-obsessive behaviour in print and onscreen.

So with one early innovation ruining the chances of a housemate who arguably should have been in there on the last day, another came along three weeks later, by which time a healthy slice of the nondescript housemates had already bitten the dust. The double eviction was the worst moment of the whole series and appallingly timed, with Federico and Jon weekly certainties for nomination yet providing much of the entertainment and publicity factor that BB needed and craved. Up they went, and the public let the housemates and themselves down. While Cameron flowered as a result of his stay, as he was off to South Africa less than 48 hours later, BB as a whole did not. Gos and Tania were still in there, the dreaded Lisa was still to come, yet Federico and Jon (a man who, let’s be honest, is the spiritual winner of BB) had been spat out.

Any benefits of the double eviction were only being felt by viewers of RI:SE rather than BB as Jon took it upon himself to build up his part, at least for the duration of BB, knowing as he did that his status outside the house was something totally alien to that of any other housemate, inside or out. But imagine if that 1% had been reversed and Jon had stayed at Cameron’s expense. He could have been the one to go to South Africa (he was often the first out of bed, which was solely the reason Cameron got the gig), and one can only imagine the comedy value and disruption Jon would have motivated over there. The British BB contestants found it tough to cope with one of their own, so what on earth would’ve a group of multi-national Africans made of him? But into the distance he went thanks to another needless device.

Because of that innovation, another was now necessary in order to give a stalled BB some jump leads. It’s just as well that something as complicated as a housemate swap would have been planned long in advance, but the timing of it couldn’t have been better. Away went Cameron, and in came Gaetano, whose willingness to ignore the cameras and add a much-needed injection of flamboyance to the affair showed up the remaining British housemates for the cautious deadbeats they were fast becoming.

Tania’s subsequent eviction following Gaetano’s “piggy” label rid the house of another of its more watchable figures, but in comparison to three of the five who had already left, she was dispensable, save for the overstated but still important sex appeal factor. Once more, an innovation had had an undesirable effect, as for all Gaetano’s brilliance during his short sojourn, he hadn’t reckoned with the UK voting public’s mistrust of anything resembling unique character and, having thrown a girly tantrum to his gentle goading, Tania was mercilessly booted away. This was really the point where the also-nominated Steph, for all her likeability, should have gone.

After Cameron and Gaetano headed for home and Tania vanished, it had not got easier to accept the innovations, but the arrival on challenge night of Lisa in the Reward Room was arguably the most intriguing. Unlike past BBs, there was only one clique this year, and everyone at this stage was in it. Nobody had been an outcast, even despite Jon’s long consecutive streak of nominations. Nobody disliked him, they just couldn’t handle him. But suddenly, there was a legitimate pariah and despite lots of musings about being in it to win, poor Lisa must have known, as the public instantly did, that she never stood a chance.

While it was sometimes unsettling to see the way these predominantly likeable and affable people suddenly became heartless deserters of one of their pack, the truth was that Lisa wasn’t one of “them”, but an interloper who had a game plan, knew about the outside world and wanted to make some mud stick, therefore she became marooned from the rest entirely due to her own antics. The housemates didn’t want or trust her, and the public felt the same. While the arguments have subsequently been balanced out to suggest that Lisa was there to give another adrenaline shot to flagging ratings and dislodge the repetitive communal harmony in the house, at the end of the day she wasn’t clever, likeable or controversial enough to last the course once she became eligible for nomination. Gos, who was evicted in the week when Lisa was ineligible, admitted that the housemates were not scared of Lisa, but of her mental baggage. Meanwhile, the public just didn’t rate her and she was out to the biggest booing chorus of the series (though Justine should have had more) when she was dumped a mere fortnight into her stay. The innovation looked good on paper, but the new housemate who was put in the mix simply wasn’t good enough to carry out the innovation’s agenda, and so there was another reason for BB4 to annoy and bore the devotees. The following experiment proved pointless, with the Saturday challenge winner ending up as the only one who could nominate, and with Ray winning the toy animal race, Lisa’s fate was sealed and Ray’s reputation with the others remained unruffled, even though he had to put two of them into the public domain alongside the inevitable ultimate victim.

Five remained now, but something clearly was not right as the viewer saw Lisa leave behind a quintet devoid of tension, competitiveness and enthusiasm to backstab in the Diary Room. Sorry, but as much as it suited the housemates to be so pally, it didn’t suit the viewers. It’s a widely-held belief that only when Lisa’s nomination was confirmed did BB decide that one of the more effervescent ex-housemates needed to go back in and cause the storm which Lisa had patently failed to do. This decision had to be made at the last minute, as Anouska had been allowed to go to Australia, clearly indicating that those in charge knew there was so much more for her to give as a BB contestant. However, even if Anouska had been in the running, everyone involved with BB, from producer to viewer, knew that the public would put Jon back in there like a shot.

Jon’s promise to cause rumpus and factions and get at the truth as he strolled back towards the metal staircase was perhaps a little optimistic, but there’s no doubt that all the housemates felt enormously unsettled and, frankly, scared stiff by his return to the house, more so because his intellectual and analytical capacity was so much more than anyone else who had been evicted so far. They wouldn’t have been half as scared if Justine or Sissy had emerged through the doors without warning. Also, where Lisa knew lots about them but hadn’t yet been personally given a reason to mistrust them, Jon had been nominated by the lot at one point or another, had disagreements with some (most notably Ray) and was also disturbed by some of the amateur dramatics he believed was enveloping the house as the Holy Grail loomed larger. What we got was Jon making Ray look thick, making Cameron look miffed and making the other two watch their every word. It had a negative effect in terms of bringing the housemates more to life, but after so many restrictive weeks of action and a number of backfiring pilot schemes within BB4, it was just nice to be able to sit back for a fortnight and watch Jon split millions of sides with his Diary Room observations, constant barracking of BB‘s grammar on instruction pamphlets and keep us generally entertained in a way which none of the others could or would. Of course it was right on a logical level to make him unable to win, but one can’t help but wonder just how close he would have come had his voting line been re-activated – and how livid the other four housemates would have been if he’d beaten any or all of them.

There is still a place for Big Brother on TV and the fact that it only occurs once a year means it stays fresh and exciting each time we welcome a new set of housemates at the end of May. But while the housemates can all feel they aren’t to blame for this year’s poor receipt of the programme – they are just people, after all – the powers-that-be have a lot of soul searching to do about just where it all went wrong. While Cameron, Jon, Federico and Anouska can now deservedly consider themselves part of BB folklore forever, this assertion is tempered by the reality that people like Justine, Sissy, Gos, Lisa and Steph shouldn’t have been even remotely considered for the final team, and the choosing process as a whole must be flawed considerably if that particular quintet of people stood out as individuals whom the selectors felt would bring intrigue, excitement and, as a result, viewers into the house. Those two lists suggest that BB may have succeeded in inviting an almost equal share of good tenants as poor ones into the house, but when you have tens of thousands of people sending audition tapes in, finding a whole 12 good housemates should be achievable. Those unmentioned thus far here – Ray, Scott, Nush and Tania – will be considered as neither good nor bad in the grand scheme of things when the nostalgia commences (unless Scott and Nush do get it on), but, let’s face it, mediocrity isn’t ideal.

But aside from the dozen who went in (and the one who followed), the bigwigs must also look at their own fiddling with the format. Each innovation was stimulating in theory but disastrous in practice due to either being badly timed, unfair to more housemates than others or just unacceptable to the viewers, whose biggest hope from BB each year is that they can take in, assess and make a conclusion on each housemate without other complications distracting them. Hopefully, the return of BB next year will be more reliant on having the right housemates and less dependent on having the right gimmicks. But even if it gets worse, some of us will still be glued to our sets.

Big Brother USA has started on E4 now, but I won’t be watching. However, do pass me the remote and get the beers out of the fridge if Jon Tickle gets a call-up…


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