Big Brother

Friday, May 26, 2006 by

Well, it’s always eventful in the first week of any Big Brother, although rarely is it entirely through the initial actions of the housemates. The seventh installment of the human zoo got underway with the housemates dictating the pace. You can’t help but feel that headline-grabbing shocks and surprises put together round the Endemol boardroom table prior to broadcast have been shelved or delayed because the contestants have, by their own actions, supplied their own source of action in the opening week.

One walked, one got chucked, one finally left through the routine method, while three snuggly couples also emerged, to differing extents, in the opening seven full days. It was quite a start. Detractors can still, rightly, look at individuals within the 14 (yes, 14) who wandered in at random through the catcalls on the first night, and find no more than one redeeming feature each, but there is genuine interest this year, for the right reasons.

Although the viewing experience wasn’t exactly enhanced by the domineering personality in the inside-out-outside-in themed house over the first three days, it was certainly not dull while the self-proclaimed “Glaswegian Paki poof” Shahbaz was in the house. Preening, self-obsessed, paranoid and lacking every social skill in the manual, his awkward, grandiose manner quickly got the vast majority of backs up and had precisely the required effect on the viewer – biting cushions, hiding behind knees, yelling expletives, but never switching over.

As an Asian homosexual who had not had a single job in the whole 21 years since he left school, he was hardly ideal as a contestant for the suspicious and unforgiving British press either. Result. Nevertheless, he walked out a forlorn, isolated, undignified figure after three days, completing a quick first phase of the pantomime and allowing the burgeoning relationships between varying sets of similarly-minded housemates to become the priority. The warm-up act had done his set and been booed off by his co-stars; the main attraction was now ready, and the conflicts would become less one-sided.

Shahbaz had asked to leave after 24 hours when he realised his elevation to the head of the “Big Brotherhood” (more on that to come) had just made his new compatriots give him a wider berth. The other head – Mancunian upholsterer Lisa, who has Chinese ancestry, a million-a-day fag habit and a colossal capacity for swearing – found him impossible to work alongside and led the crusade against him, though most of the others weren’t afraid to join. The childish ways of Shahbaz – hiding all the food, changing the shopping list, demanding everyone’s attention and then digressing as much as possible, waking folk up with an argument – were petty in the extreme but, for all the horrific car-crash type self-loathing that went with such voyeurism, it was gripping to watch any standing he established in the earliest hours just disintegrate before his and our eyes. Shame on us.

Big Brother said no to his request to leave, and he managed another 48 hours, during which time numerous arguments began. His breakfast was thrown twice in the bin and his clothes were stolen from the poolside while the door was sealed with a trouser belt while he took a swim. As the critics and psychologists queued up to give Big Brother a verbal hiding, they allowed him a quiet off-peak exit. He is best forgotten, though it might not be too easy to do. The housemates, however, barely mentioned him again, and finally we were allowed to notice them.

There are standout candidates already; the sharp tool stockbroker Sezer, wisecracking and confident, was main instigator in the anti-Shahbaz brigade due to a handy combination of fearlessness and ability to put together coherent arguments. He has an alpha male tokenism to him, but this isn’t mere branding, as he enjoyed an effect to his cause, quickly moving in and successfully snaring the affections of the glamorous Welsh barmaid Imogen within 24 hours. They’ve shared a bed together and held intimately honest conversations, and collective narcissism, both with each other and the public’s view via the zoom lens above the pillow. Depending on whether the interested viewer sees self-assurance as a benefit or a detriment, Sezer seems to be, in these early stages, characteristically lacking in flaws.

The swift pairing of Sezer and the willowy but willed Imogen prompted the other singleton twentysomethings to follow suit. London dance teacher and Mariah Carey lookalike Grace pitched up with the affable but second-stringed Mikey, a Scouse laddo with somewhat indelicate views on the womanly role. The intensity lasted merely one night before Grace put a translucent barrier up and turned towards the uppercrusted George, who has connections with royalty and isn’t afraid to use his good stock to up his credentials. Whether Grace is attracted to him due to his breeding is unclear after a week; however, the fascinatingly grating Nikki, a wannabe footballer’s wife from Middlesex, has seen both George turn away her affections and Grace move into the place she felt was hers.

Nikki is clearly going to be the one the public will love to hate. Frankly, she has no real human qualities whatsoever. Early indications show she is spoilt, lacking in self-respect, ridiculously graceless, insecure to the point of breakdown and, frankly, without a brain. Unlike the Helen-esque bimbettes of previous BBs, her naïveté is not a virtue as it comes without any semblance of innocence or charm at all. Early tantrums included her inability to take a headache tablet because there was no bottled water (tap water consumption was beneath her; the migraine was apparently more preferable through the toddler-like wails) and her mentalist screeching over being “cooped up like a chicken”, which slowly began a mild series of murmurings about her, notably from George, the very guy she had her eye on. Although the elder statesfolk housemates – Canuck homosexual waiter Richard and surgically-enhanced single mum Lea – have been patient and sympathetic (their age makes it coincidental, but they are easily among the more decent and cautionary types in the house) – we’re due an outburst from someone telling Nikki to wind her neck in, put some proper clothes on and deal with it. In fact, it needs to happen quickly, for the sake of both housemate sanity and viewer enjoyment.

This leaves one or two others, and it’s impossible to go any further without finally mentioning Pete. A cross between Suggs, Lee Evans and a kite, his wacky, rhythmic, convulsive entrance to the house prompted big cheers and immediate public acclaim, plus considerably hostile reactions from those in the know over the BB decision to allow a sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome into the house. Let’s get the politically incorrect stuff out of the way first – the Tourette’s makes Pete hysterical. Sorry. Not a view to be proud of, but it’s fact. It’s involuntary swearing, that’s the nature of his beastly affliction, but there’s something quite fantastic about a ridiculous argument about herbs or a Nikki tantrum being interrupted, interspersed or just plain ended by a sudden cry of “wankers!” in the background. And he does Clunk from Dastardly and Muttley as an ace encore.

Pete is exceptional. He has a beautiful edge to him. The Tourette’s was made clear to everyone from the off and he has deliberately formed no cliques, prompted next to no real flirtation and has largely done entirely as he pleases. As a consequence, everybody has confided in him, everybody has spoken glowingly of him and, frankly, he is already as obvious a winner which any BB could have brought to the fore after one week. His manic articulacy, his collection of flamboyantly patterned trousers and his touches of wit (including stuffing a cushion in his mouth on eviction night when the ever-pregnant Davina McCall did her usual business of asking for no swearwords) have taken him from eccentric light relief to heavy duty big hitter. He has the trust of them all. Nobody dislikes him and nobody will. And Lisa wants him, so he too may end up paired, although he is somewhat reluctant.

Eviction night came after the three remaining non-Brotherhood housemates (Bonnie, Dawn, Glyn) were put before the public and then Dawn, the vigilant fitness trainer with a body odour issue, was chucked out in advance for establishing a code with her family which gave away press opinion of her. If it was stupid to set up such rule-breaking strategies prior to entry, it was suicidal (though possibly with intention) to then tell the others about it, especially as the airheaded Nikki didn’t understand and pretty much had to have it spelled out to her. Dawn’s graceless exit (“Oh shut up”) was parodied to huge cheers by Davina later. Losers are fine; cheats deserve all they get.

This left 20-year-old Loughborough care worker Bonnie, unfairly castigated as unintelligent by lazy media types because of an unfortunately drony accent, and Welsh sixth former Glyn, who spent the whole week saying absolutely nothing, instead glazing his eyes over the furnace smoldering before him, out of his depth, trying to be grown up, and enjoying sly glances at Lea’s enhanced chest (which took him almost over the sexual edge when she did a lap dance for him and forced those selling points into his thrilled face). Neither of these had made the Brotherhood through a combination of votes and chance, and as a consequence they had also yet to receive their suitcases. Bonnie was, not unreasonably, upset and annoyed about this (“I want my suitcase, y’bastards”) and an obvious U-turn, after much press criticism, came in the last 24 hours when the pair were allowed to gain the aspects of their luggage they could sufficiently describe in a three-minute time trial via the Diary Room. Bonnie subsequently described everything pink she’s ever owned; Glyn was interested mostly in any items which bore Welsh motifs. At the very least, it gave each the chance to wear their own underwear (something which was especially unfair on the shapely Bonnie as everyone else was either stick thin or didn’t bother wearing pants at all) and also put together an outfit in the event of their dismissal.

Bonnie got the nod from the public, and she came out to the usual array of out-of-context booing when she had not done anything wrong except be unlucky in terms of the beret-wearing Brotherhood and the exemption from eviction such privilege brought with it. BB on-site audiences (and voters) now almost certainly consist predominantly of jealous, hormonal girls aged 15 to 25.

Glyn is a decent looking lad but is a rabbit in headlights when faced with Sezer’s sharpness, Nikki’s noise and Lea’s attributes, and he has seemingly next to no part to play. Bonnie showed some emotion regarding her belongings and suffered because of her accent too – she got stitched up by everyone with any power.

In the long term though, she’s better off being out. Her reputation is intact. Already one is wrestling with conscience and needing to not cast the first stone, and as a consequence now the peeping toms are both begging for and praying against something horrific awaiting Nikki, even though it may take weeks to get her out. Meanwhile, for as long as she’s there, temperatures will not cool down in the house. Expect a spat anytime. And expect this BB, from the first week or thereabouts, to be a pretty good one.


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