Big Brother’s Little Brother

Sunday, July 15, 2001 by

The enduring pleasure of Big Brother’s Little Brother is the belligerently unsubtle way in which each evictee has been thrust onto our screens for five days, Sunday through to Thursday, thus reducing the compelling urge that most of them appear to suffer from – that a high profile media career awaits. For some, Bubble and Stuart for instance, the week spent on BBLB has been akin to a televised form of cathartic enema, (“like an amphetamine pessary, up the psychic jacksie” is a Julian Cope lyric that springs readily to mind) flushing out the toxic excess that bedevil them still. Others, Penny and Narinder you won’t be surprised to hear, reveled in this short televisual sojourn and voraciously devoured their time on the screen. Thus, we finally got to meet the one who calls himself Josh, the man who promised many, many things but, ultimately, failed to come good. No, that’s not entirely factually incorrect. It’s another story completely.

Captained by the increasingly impressive Dermot O’Leary, in many ways BBLB has become the most viewer friendly of the Big Brother shows. Forget the dangerously pregnant McCall on a Friday and the nightly updates on Channel 4, just tune into Dermot and you’ll receive the finished article – gaudily raucous, eminently watchable, charmingly self-deprecating and a show that positively basks in the glow of self indulgent navel gazing. Hosted with increasing confidence and pleasurable panache, O’Leary has grown into his role with accomplished ease. The jettisoning of Natalie Casey seems to have freed the manic, agitated O’Leary from the co-host constraints he had been shackled under, and unleashed a (short arsed) hyperactive one-man hurricane that transformed the show from a bit of a curate’s egg into the raw, unfinished article that now works so well.

So, to the freshly liberated Josh. Previous evictees have made genuinely interesting viewing. So far, they have fallen into three categories – “I’m mad as a brush” (Penny managed to reinforce the widely held belief that she was a trifle unhinged and Narinder, over the course of her five days, displayed increasing signs of rampant megalomania). Secondly, the “It’s mad innit?” faction (Bubble and Amma seemed genuinely perplexed by the level of adulation and recognition they received in the real world) and the “Well, I expected it to be mad” party. The sole member of this tribe, thus far, being Stuart who managed to come across as being an intelligent, erudite chap who had quickly managed to come to terms with the media maelstrom that engulfed him on departure from that house in Bow. So, where would Josh fit into this cod grouping? We’ll know by Thursday but early indications place in Stuart’s camp.

Strangely, this show, Josh’s “premiere” if you will, was remarkably poor. Despite his trademark faux roguishness and animated charm, Dermot, for once, struggled with the contents of the programme and a profoundly irksome guest. The opening preamble with a couple of BB “celebrity” fans is fast becoming redundant. We expect the public to be asinine, anal-retentive bores but not our C-list celebrities. Tedious works when it’s a daft old woman from Irvine declaring Elizabeth to be “deviant”, or a “raging queer” (his words, not mine) from Manchester declaring his undying love for Brian. Tedious does not work when it’s a plank from Hollyoaks or a piece of continuity deadwood from T4. Celebs in the amazing traveling diary room chair? Yes. Celebs in the studio couch? No. Not unless they’re really good. Well, reasonably witty anyway.

Dermot clearly struggled to cope with Paul Danon (who played Sol in ver ‘Oaks). This boy was suffering from delusions of adequacy and it was peculiar to watch Dermot continually try, and fail, to rein him in. Similarly, his co-presenter on T4, Margarite Taylor, seemed to be equally evasive and at one point, she was having two separate conversations, struggling to work out who she should be talking to. It was a blessed relief to wave goodbye to this section of the show.

Still, if that was bad, then worse to follow. Taking a one line joke (“Josh, you are charged with promising …” etc.) about Josh’s pre-house election manifesto, Dermot, clearly uneasy, played the role of judge as Josh was prosecuted and defended by Margarite and Paul. Had this lasted a few lines, it might have worked. Instead a small seed of an idea was transformed into a cumbersome six to seven minute segment that was tedious beyond belief. At times, BBLB suffers from a juvenile attitude to scripting and, when it does, the self-deprecation becomes self-indulgent tosh. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the oncoming articulated lorry, you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen whilst this parody was being performed. To underline how bad it really was, Josh was clearly the most natural performer. But he’s had a lot of practice lately, hasn’t he?

That this particular edition should fail was galling. Galling as, like Stuart, Josh is clearly a reasonably intelligent bloke and you knew that he could be constructive in any criticism of his former housemates and, let’s be brutally honest, it’s the dirt and the lowdown that we’re after. But our only exposure to him was limited (how ironic) to the end of show phone-in where Josh was allowed to deal with only the dullest of questions from the dullest of dullards. He managed to throw a few curveballs in there to Dermot, questioning the editing and standing his ground on the public’s perception of him for instance. But, by and large, no one asked him anything that would allow us an insight into life into the house. This was a stilted, punctured end to a shambolic, shoddy show.

On reflection though, the main reason that I was disappointed by this edition of BBLB was that it had failed (miserably) to live up to its own high standards and I really can’t hold Dermot responsible for the guests he has foisted upon him. BB2 has had its moments and these have been amplified and discussed in deeper depth (and with greater humour) on BBLB. For my money, BBLB has earned the right to usurp the nightly update programme on Channel 4 come BB3. Just don’t let those C-list celebrities anywhere near it. Unless they’re pissed.


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