The Antichrist and Big Brother

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 by

It was good to see Mark Lawson in The Guardian last week turning his attention to Big Brother Good that is, because it seems quite a large number of those in the TV appreciation community (for want of a better phrase) seem to absorb Lawson’s point of view and then adopt the opposite position.  So hopefully, with the erstwhile Late Review presenter joining in those many others happy to lay the boot into to what seems to now be officially described as Channel 4’s beleaguered reality show format, a small groundswell of contrary opinion might just develop.

So let me be one of those happy few (currently less than 2 million), to say that not only am I still watching Big Brother, but I’m enjoying this series more than perhaps any in the last three or four years.  Outside the house, the show’s luck seems to have completely run out, but get past the camera runs and the opposite is happening.  Fate has decreed that storylines such as housemate Noirin’s ability to infatuate all the heterosexual males in her company, have been allowed to twist and turn to their fullest extent.

Let’s take Noirin, for example. Her first admirer was bullied out of the house by Marcus, who swiftly became admirer number two.  This led to an entertaining and protracted period in which Marcus’ ego was able to inflate to such an extent that not only had he convinced himself  Noirin reciprocated his lust, he also started referring to himself as in mythological terms, labelling himself Captain Cool-As-Fuck and the Dark House.

As a viewer you were desperate for his comeuppance to be delivered on screen, but in classic Big Brother style as soon as it came, your allegiances began to shift and Marcus suddenly became a sympathetic figure. And that’s how it has been this series – it’s been a year of shifting allegiances, slow-burning storylines, and at least a few genuinely intelligent housemates.  Plus, the show can still deliver some excellent and insightful editing by the production team.

Listening to the radio the other day, Mark Kermode said of the controversial Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, (and I’m paraphrasing here) anyone who slags it off without having first seen it is an ignoramus.  It would be good if the same rule could be applied to Big Brother.


12 Responses to “The Antichrist and Big Brother”

  1. Nick H on July 29th, 2009 8:49 pm

    Let me first say that I’ve never been keen on Mark Lawson. Like Stuart Maconie, he seems to offer himself as the arbiter of taste for Britain, a kind of culture laureate. He is also what I would describe as a ‘Naoist’ – someone who dismisses the past achievements in favour of the present. He has now shifted Big Brother into the void called ‘past’ and thus sees it as an irrelevance.
    That said, I haven’t watched Big Brother at all, but I can imagine that as a TV programme, it’s probably just as entertaining as before. And that’s the key. Bereft of the surrounding media hype/comment or ‘crap’ as I call it, the series is left to its own devices, and for those who love the show, they wouldn’t have it any other way…

  2. Graham Kibble-White on July 31st, 2009 4:30 pm

    Well, it looks like The Guardian themselves are doing exactly what you suggested, Jack:

  3. Glenn Aylett on July 31st, 2009 4:44 pm

    A woman at work started talking about last night’s Big Bro and hit a wall of silence as no one else watches it and had to change the topic of conversation quickly. Even its main cheerleader, The Daily Star, has largely given up on it, which is a worrying sign as even last year, when the show’s decline accelerated, it was on the front page every day. It is time to bury BB when this year’s run ends as it is becoming an expensive liability to C4 and if the show turns in a loss, they can’t recoup it in export and DVD sales. Australia has evicted it, so should we as the format is clapped out and ratings are struggling.

  4. Julie - Cap'n Cool - Twad on August 6th, 2009 12:15 pm

    The live feed being culled is a key factor in why the tabloids are largely leaving the series alone. They don’t have access to juicy daytime footage, so where are the scoops?

    Glen, tell your colleague to come and work with me. Our office talks about the show each and every day. There’s no shortage of ‘comedy gold’ material this year.

    “And that’s what A’m talkin’ aboot”

  5. Glenn Aylett on August 8th, 2009 7:54 pm

    Maybe saying you’ve given up on Big Brother and say that you don’t know why you bothered seems to be the in thing and it wouldn’t surprise me if a tabloid runs a Big Brother Must Go campaign before long. There seems to be a perverse delight in seeing how far the ratings have fallen in The Guardian at the moment and The Sun seems to be ignoring it as a kind of statement.
    However, whatever its faults, and is a programme I gave up on, it is the most successful reality show in the world ever and in this country has seen off almost all the competition- anyone care to remember the ghastly Love Island and Only Fools and Horses that were shown against it in 2006- and only I’m A Celebrity can rival BB for longevity. Every year the producers of BB must laugh as a whole host of reality shows appear and disappear with almost no comment but still see their show attract the most attention, even now if it seems to be negative.

  6. Ashley Pomeroy on August 26th, 2009 12:43 pm

    “Big Brother is still profitable for Channel 4 despite its reduced popularity and there could have been the option to renew it on more favourable terms. That’s what a purely commercial broadcaster would have done, but Channel 4 has a public remit to champion new forms of creativity”, says the man who has just axed the programme.

    It will be interesting see which new forms of creativity Channel 4 will champion next. My bet is on robot dancing, which is a form of creativity that has been sadly neglected by the television, despite having a rich history.

  7. Nick H on August 26th, 2009 5:59 pm

    They’ll probably bring back Minipops…

  8. Glenn Aylett on August 27th, 2009 1:53 pm

    It was inevitable that Channel 4 would axe it as ratings have slumped and the concept has become tired and predictable. Perhaps like the fad for pets, vets and DIY in the nineties which fizzled out in the early part of this decade reality shows will go the same way after 2010. In fact most of them, and I don’t regard talent contests as reality television, seem to be relegated to short runs on ITV2 and only I’m A Celebrity and The Apprentice attract decent ratings.

  9. Jon Haw on August 27th, 2009 5:24 pm

    This decision is not just about the quality or otherwise of Big Brother – we mustn’t ignore the political angle. Channel 4′s future is under a lot of scrutiny at the moment, with threats to sell it off or force it to merge with Five.

    The channel has a remit to serve “minority interests” (whether it be caravaning or lesbians) – spending £50m a year and squandering hundreds of hours of output on what’s essentially a game show doesn’t really sit well with that. Big Brother may have been “alternative” when it began, certainly not any more.

    In its efforts to prove to the Government that it is worth saving, I think we can expect to see a lot of that £50m redirected towards edgy dramas a la Red Riding, “serious” documentaries and the arts.

  10. Glenn Aylett on August 27th, 2009 5:54 pm

    I agree, Jon, it might have had a typically edgy Channel 4 start and was unique when it started, but after the second series it degenerated into a trashy freak show and became subject to acres of coverage in The Daily Star and the celeb mags- surely something that doesn’t sit easily with Channel 4′s minority remit. I can imagine what will happen is maybe BB, whose ratings are too low for someone like ITV or the BBC to take on, will go to a digital broadcaster in a revised format. My money is Sky will take it on a trial basis in 2011.

  11. Gordon Ridout on August 28th, 2009 11:43 am

    Unless they substantially revise the format, I don’t really see Big Brother moving to another station immediately. In Andrew Billen’s piece in The Times yesterday he quotes a “senior source” at Five who doubts such a thing is likely because Big Brother “was old news and he was not persuaded that Five would inherit even Channel 4’s audience”.

    Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that is probably the most important television programme of this decade and, with that cachet, I think the greatest wisdom would be in leaving it dormant for six or seven (or ten) years when C4, or some other station with an eye to the main chance, can jump in and stage a glorious, headline-grabbing quasi-nostalgic revival. This may get a similar audience to today seeing it for the first time, along with those aged 50+ getting all nostalgic about their wasted summers in the early-noughties. Big Brother, to recapture its freshness, needs to be brought back to life, and to do that it needs to be dead for a little while first.

  12. Glenn Aylett on August 28th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Gordon’s totally right: Big Brother has been the most talked about programme for decades. It is one that has divided opinions for years and which has split households, in one case I know cost someone their relationship( the male partner kicked out his girlfriend for making him sit through it) and no doubt given newspapers something to write about on the slow news days in the summer. Yet I think it is time to bury it next year as surely reviving it in seven years time would probably cause the same reaction as when BBC1 revived Castaway after a similar interval, complete viewer apathy as reality shows don’t register in the memory for long after they finish ( I was looking on the OTT history of Channel 4 feature the other day and came across several I had totally forgotten about). However, next year give it a decent burial.