Big Brother

Friday, July 14, 2006 by

I’m not a betting man. This isn’t down to any inbred principle (unless my mother is reading this) but more down to a lack of knowledge. I have neither experience nor inclination to gamble my limited funds on some otherwise inconsequential event. My mum’s proud of me.

However, while sifting through Big Brother and coming to my various undercooked conclusions thus far, I have taken it upon myself to look, occasionally, at William Hill’s web site (linked via the official BB site, natch) and stare at the odds for each contestant. Helpfully – as I have no idea what 11/8 or 8/11 actually means – they put the housemates’ varying potentials in order, from graceful certs to three-legged nags.

Pete has always been top, rightly, Nikki and Glyn have flitted around the other two places on the rostrum, and the likes of Mikey and newcomers Spiral and Jennie seem to be outsiders with still half a chance in the event of a split nomination or double eviction.

So, when all bar one of the housemates were put at the mercy of the masses this week, how come Nikki was suddenly favourite to go? Ahead of Susie, Aisleyne, even the dreaded Imogen? Three evictions survived, with ease too, and yet when the odds (by my ill-educated logic, but logic all the same) should have been stacked in Nikki’s favour as there were 10 other eviction candidates with her instead of one, she’s suddenly in the bookies’ firing line.

I don’t get it. I’m clearly thick. Or as innocent about these things as Nikki herself would be. If bookmakers put the shortest eviction odds up on Nikki as early as Tuesday night, 72 hours before the lines close and the votes are “counted and verified”, are they doing so with evidence? Is there an Endemol mole? Or are they trying to go the other way, making it seem nonsensical for people to bet on Nikki, therefore also making it pointless to vote for her as well?

I don’t get it.

Nikki’s now out, and I’m gutted. The housemates will miss her massively, if not always for positive reasons. It’s going to be duller. Pete won’t flirt with anyone else. The intelligentsia of the Borehamwood institution have nobody to talk down to. Mikey won’t make anyone else melt with one single smile. Aisleyne won’t fight and make up and fight and make up and fight and make up and … (got the picture?) … half as well with anyone else, not even the feisty Jayne, with whom there is always either a grudging truce or an all-out hatred of real dynamics.

Occasionally, I am conscious that reviews can sometimes be more like overviews – ie. a lot of flowery plot summary without enough subjective comment or argument in the mix. So, allow me to try to add a little more opinion.

Nikki was a spoilt, selfish, two-faced, arrogant, devious, prejudiced, whining, blunt, inarticulate, gobby, obnoxious, high-maintenance, hateable, narcissistic, dishonest, spiteful, jealous, fragile, cruel, paranoid piece of work.

She had breathtaking double-standards and a scowl which could warp floorboards.

She was a liar, a charlatan, a loner, a stirrer, a headcase, a thief and a world champion hypocrite.

And I loved her.

She was the best female in there by any distance you care to name. Any at all. Stand the remaining women next to an ablaze candle warehouse and you still wouldn’t see anyone with Nikki’s star quality.

Is that opinionated enough?

And now she’s gone.

Not for one moment do I believe she ever deserved to win. If someone with so few positive facets can walk away with £100,000 and an offer from OK! to photograph them clinging to their mahogany banisters, then we might as well just pack up and ask those with access to the red buttons to press them and end it all. Belief in good over bad could be extinguished forever.

But she made great telly. I gnawed through the cushions of my settee with the anguished addiction I developed for watching her dig huge holes for herself or somehow climb out of one by luck or one-eyed editing. For the less inspirational highlights programmes, there would always be Nikki doing or saying something amusing, ridiculous or spiteful. Even her background involvements were made watchable by her brilliant habit of over-enunciating every word. Much of the activity revolved around her, usually because she made sure it did. When she was up she was up, taking the housemates and us with her, and when she was down, the earth’s core was within touching distance for every damn one of us. I was certain, especially after my own instincts were matched by her straightforward survivals from eviction in past weeks, that she was there to the end. She might have walked, or Big Brother might have chucked her out (first one possible, second one unlikely) but I was rock solid in my assertion that the public wouldn’t get rid unless similarly sized hitters (ie., Pete or Glyn, maybe Richard) were put up against her. She would become the stuff of legend as the country’s only 24-year-old child.

Wrong again. But why has she gone?

I wish I knew.

The obvious answer, and one I prefer to go with, is that the number of candidates prompted a split in the expected strugglers, and as a result the likes of Imogen and Susie played votes off one another. Somebody, as a consequence, was going to sneak through the gap and it turned out to be Nikki. It could have been anyone else. I wish it had been just about anyone else.

Alternatively, an eighth week of moaning, screaming, paddy-throwing, sulking and sniping finally got too much for the unforgiving viewing public. Nikki’s too skinny by some distance, but otherwise she’s a smart-looking girl who got a fair bit of flirtatious attention from the straight lads in the house, and that would also be a contributory factor in the eviction warrant being signed. After all, BB‘s core audience of 15-25 year old females hate and envy people of their own gender and age who have the nerve to do exactly what they want to, and look half decent for it. Think of the history – Sophie, Tania, Michelle …

I’d curse my TV screen when Nikki did or said something which further confirmed the numbskull status which our ever-charming tabloid press awarded her. But I loved it too. It made every episode watchable. Her antics during tasks and games – most of which involved throwing down an appropriate piece of required equipment and storming off to the Diary Room or her bed, muttering “I’m not doing it!” – was a scream. Uncomfortable yes, embarrassing yes, compelling definitely.

Immediately the housemates realised the effect Nikki’s departure would have beyond their own forthcoming quieter life by the deliberately sad, disconsolate voice of Davina McCall as she announced the evictee’s name. For the first time in her four trials by telly, Nikki was clearly not expecting to go. She’d survived against Sam, Grace (a big result) and in a four-pronged vote which saw Lisa removed, so with no less than 10 others against her, she seemed to think – as I did – that she had a better chance, with her impeccable antecedence, of staying put. So when her name was announced we got a classic Nikki expression of disbelief. The camera zooming in on her got its timing spot on. If ever a contestant’s face displayed a thousand thoughts, it was at that point (assuming Nikki’s brain is capable of a thousand thoughts).

Davina was obviously sorry, and the more switched-on housemates used this tone of delivery to reassure Nikki, while at the same time showing genuine shock at the public’s decision. Ask any of the others privately who they thought would go and a handful of names would have come up. Nikki would not have been one of them.

Pete, who lost his other main admirer and confidante Lea seven days earlier, was devastated. Imogen, who should have gone instead, cried. So did Jayne, whose rule-breaking antics (talking about the outside world) prompted an over-zealous BB to punish the others for her actions and throw them all open to the public. Richard and Susie expressed real disbelief. The others all rallied round. Nikki pleaded through sobs for a lucky silver belt from BB before the rest of the housemates began to work on preparing her for the outside reaction. She needed it. Not since Jade had their been such a wealth of anticipation of how a BB housemate would cope with the stress and pressure of eviction. Was Nikki strong enough?

She was, kind of. Half-an-hour later she was climbing the steps and, having lost an earring and gone almost loopy at the thought of facing the cameras with an earring missing, she was still desperately trying to put it back in when the doors pulled back. As Davina rightly said a few minutes later in opening the interview, it was a reaction akin to a finals night. Maybe that was a dig at the decision to get rid of Nikki so quickly. If so, I felt it. I hope those who voted for her ahead of Imogen did too.

Nikki seemed to go rigid as she took in the cheers and the chanting of her name. Her head has gone frequently askew during the last eight weeks, but heaven only knows where it was as the crowd did its bit. Forget the noise mixtures of previous weeks and the verbal slayings handed to Sezer and Grace – this was an authentic welcome ceremony, the sort of reception for a departing housemate I’ve craved. Davina, despite being considerably pregnant, had to do all the steps herself because Nikki would not budge from the exit, and only when she took hold of the statuesque housemate’s hand did Nikki reluctantly step forward, her face still aghast.

It took an ad break to calm her down and we got a fabulously idiosyncratic interview, packed with incident from the archive. Brilliantly, Nikki offered an embarrassed acceptance of how awful she is. The tantrums about tasks, new housemates (“Who is she? Who is she? Who? Is? She?”), the water, the food, her clothes, her other housemates, her sleep deprivation and the air-con were put back to back. Like Lisa’s major Diary Room swearathon of a fortnight ago, this housemate realised on one short clips session just how spectacularly abysmal she was. And she didn’t care. The public – despite 37% of them choosing her to pack up – loved her.

She went in the house to become famous enough for a footballer to fancy her. There may well be the odd reserve at Yeovil Town or Wycombe Wanderers who’d take her out, but any Premiership player of even the remotest intelligence (thank you for thinking immediately of a punchline) will stay well clear. She’s trouble. She knows she’s trouble. She somehow established and continuously cultivates a reputation on being troublesome and vulnerable. And for the next few weeks, she’s going to have some real fun, milk the moment and put the noses of all the other evictees still in the nosebag (Grace, that’s you) firmly out of joint. One is almost tempted to reserve the next issue of Heat, but not quite. And one secretly hopes she might wait for Pete (“He has nothing but good in him”), even though it’s obvious that she wouldn’t have looked twice at him if they’d met prior to BB.

But will the housemates she left behind cope without her now? And as a consequence, will we? I remember feeling very empty when the public got rid of Jon Tickle three years ago, as Jon seemed our last hope of a consistently entertaining and divisive presence. Nikki’s departure doesn’t quite have the same effect, I believe, as there are big enough personalities in there to regroup and start afresh. However, most of them have established a fair chunk of their in-house personalities through a connection, positive or not, with Nikki. Pete was her love interest – albeit a reluctant one – and his silliest and most endearing moments came with her, sometimes on a poignant level. Aisleyne was her nemesis, vying for the same demographic attention and, to an extent, the same bloke, although I suspect Aisleyne worked out long ago that Pete has no romantic interest in anyone and she has therefore snuggled his way purely to try to strengthen her own public position. Mikey was Nikki’s main safety valve, the one who found it easiest to calm her down. His amiable attitude towards her increased his standing after a number of eventless weeks. Richard’s best rows were with Nikki, notwithstanding his exchange of words with Mikey this week over a rat and Susie’s bottom (not worth the explanation I’m not giving) but he also saved his kindest gossip for her, and summed it up in the highlights prior to Davina’s piteous announcement when he said: “The house would be so dull without Nikki.” I suspect BB‘s edit suite personnel would not have included this throwaway comment had Nikki’s voting position not looked so precarious.

So, where are we at now? A massive, massive eviction at the end of an otherwise plodding week which saw more rows (Aisleyne and Jayne, Mikey and Richard, Spiral and Nikki, Jennie and Jayne, nearly everyone else with Jayne, Imogen with nobody, as usual) and the usual mixture of bitchy gossip, tiresome garbage about who fancies who, and an entertaining prize game based on tennis which even the housekeeping Susie seemed to enjoy. Less so the burping task, inspired undoubtedly by Jayne’s natural aptitude for oesophagul gas expulsion, and also designed to try to get some gross-out sentiments from the prim and still predominantly pointless Susie. She nearly vomited, Imogen also nearly vomited. My guess is that some of the viewers did so too. Thank goodness this was the pick of the three reality shows simultaneously on terrestrial telly this week, eh?

Further misdemeanours from the shameless Jayne means that the housemates are on basics next week, without a shopping budget. Susie will no doubt still rustle up plenty on what does emerge in the larder, as is her wont, while Michael claims to be on a diet anyway. Wowee. Hardly the mutinous reaction some would have staged. It’s not as if Nikki’s there to steal anything any more.

Everyone is faced with the daunting prospect of not having to comfort, cajole, becalm or scold Nikki. BB is at its crossroads for the year. Aisleyne is now the obvious candidate to be the highest-placed female contestant, although Pete is still the one they all need to chase. Glyn and Richard now have their best chance ever of making the last week. And Nikki, despite our saintly shoulder telling us her exodus is a good bit of respite for our minds and sanities, is out having some fun at last, and we feel robbed. The beginning of her fun could mark the end of ours. Meet me here in a week or so and we’ll see…


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