For those who’ve never heard of Big Brother (and I expect they form a minority group of narcoleptics, adventures and warrior tribesman from far flung Islands), this reality show has become somewhat of a British institution.
The pioneering spirit of the Americans, children of the pilgrims, have a preference for down and dirty Survivor and the dog against dog Beauty and the Geek, but for the British, home of bad weather and cosy fires, we like to watch a dozen people shoved into a house for a long duration of time whilst eagerly awaiting the cabin fever to set in.
For many people, the highlight of their summer is sitting on their sofa crying over evictions and deciphering whether people are having sex from the movement of covers and the stifled sounds intermittently sparking into their microphones.
When Big Brother first emerged back in 2000 it was a Channel 4 product that was marketed to us in an entirely different way. It was on late at night and was depicted as being more of an experiment as well as a game show, a way of monitoring how people lived when watched and exploring their psychology.
Fast forward several years and the show has vacated to Channel 5 and in keeping with the sensationalised times, has become far less low key, and instead a more edgy, desperate, grappling kind of show, eager for viewers and eager for housemates. One way of achieving this was to convince celebrities to move into the house. What could be more exciting than watching normal people living their lives on camera than watching celebrities with strategically marketed images to uphold, completely change our perceptions of who they are in one racially heated argument?
In my youth, I was a complete and utter Big Brother obsessive but for the last few years I realised I’d ‘outgrown’ the show – the formula was never any different and the contestants were always variants of the same stereotypical staples, selected to maximise the potential for arguments, sexual trysts and complete mental melt downs. As such it's kind of embarrassing to admit you like watching this show. It's like confessing to harbouring a penchant for watching prisoners fry in the electric chair or seeing kittens thrown into the ocean.
Sadly, channel hopping last night (always dangerous...I should stick to regular hopping), I found myself watching the contestants entering the house and I pray for strength because I might just regress and get sucked into this weird, warped world.
For those who are interested, here is a rundown of the latest celebrity contestants. Some are from years gone by, others are successful names, I have no idea who some of them are...either way, their motivation is usually to gain a little of the colloquial, every-day sheen that Big Brother manages to baste its contestants with, in the vague hope that they might just be able to use the show as a platform to greater success and social and cultural relevance. Maybe it’s just a case that the recession has hit the celebs just as hard as us normal folk:
1. Natalie Cassidy
Natalie Cassidy was well known as established character Sonia Fowler on British soap Eastenders – a look at the life of a group of East End errr people who lived in the small and incestuous Albert Square. As such its rather fitting that Natalie should leap from one British institution to another, embracing the potential of reality TV. She has since produced a fitness DVD and stared in numerous documentaries and projects. Bizarrely, Natalie Cassidy alone is what has endeared me to this latest series.
2. Michael Madsen
Big Brother always gets ahead of itself by seeking out big names from across the pond, but whilst we once might have scoffed at BB’s gall, the fact that they’ve managed to get people like Pamela Anderson and Jackie Stallone on board reveals the shows terrifying power. I still have no idea what strings they had to pull to get Michael Madsen to say yes. Michael is memorable from a catalogue of film roles including Free Willy and Reservoir Dogs and dare I say, is far too good for this show. Big Brother tends to wipe the sheen off of many an apple, but I’m still hoping that Michael emerges as the winner!
3. Andrew Stone
You might recall Andrew from reality show ‘Pineapple Dance Studio’ where he emerged as an eccentric and frankly hilarious caricature of a 'metrosexual' performer, outdone only by co-star Louis Spence who liked to prance and dance his way around the studio. There’s something equally endearing and irritating about Andrew. I wouldn’t know whether to punch him or hold him tight to my bosom.
4. K and K
For me the most interesting fact about this American Playboy duo is not the fact that they slept with Hugh Heffner (and probably together) but the fact that they are twins AND Libras (far too much duplication going on!). Every series has to include the staple of the sexy blonde, and this series has given viewers two for the price of one. Possibly an Americanised version of the ‘Samanda’ twins from an earlier series.
5. Frankie Cocozza
Anyone who has watched this years X Factor will be aware of Brighton Boy Frankie, who disappeared from the show under a storm cloud of controversy following his dismissal by mentor Gary Barlow (that has to hurt). In celebrity land though, there really is no such thing as getting the sack...Big Brother is always around to collect the dregs and allow them to circle the drain before their final flush into no-man’s land. Presumably, Frankie is here to redeem himself and tell his side of the story.
6. Gareth Thomas
I have to say, as someone that does not follow Rugby and probably never will, I have no idea who Gareth Thomas is but supposedly he is a former Welsh Rugby player who achieved much success prior to his retirement. Also, intriguingly, he is gay and has done much to support the difficulties surrounding the predicament of coming out in such a masculine and traditional environment.
7. Nicola McLean
Again I must confess I have no idea who Nicola McLean is...but she has posed for Page 3 nearly 300 times which might mean she becomes the new house pin up (that will most certainly drag the young male viewing demographic in this year). Being married to a famous footballer, Nicola is not a fan of girls who sleep with married men which might cause her to spar with another housemate...
8. Kirk Norcross
Everyone seems obsessed with The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), a reality show from 'stereotype in a can' style TV that claims to showcase the REAL life’s of a group of Essex young things, one being Kirk himself. Kirk owns ‘Sugar Hut’ one of the shows hubs of lively socialising and is a bit of a cheeky chappy. He is also the ex-boyfriend of former contestant and glamour model Amy Childs (you might remember her from my earlier TV review ‘It’s All about Amy’)
9. Georgia Salpa
The exotic Irish model who has frequently been compared to American counterpart Kim Kardashian, Georgia is somewhat of an up and coming star in Ireland having advertised and modelled her way through an assault course for pretty much every product and company going! She will most likely catch the eye of Kirk Norcross who has confessed for having a little crush on Kim Kardashian lookalikes!
10. Natasha Giggs
This is where Big Brother becomes a moral minefield. We all know the path to fame is littered with backstabbed bodies, shattered dreams and little sprinkles of cocaine...but we also know that one easy breezy short cut to this revered state is to have an affair with a famous man and then have it reach the tabloids. Natasha Giggs, sister in law of Ryan, blew up in the media earlier this year when it was revealed that she slept with her married brother in law but was only one of his many extra-marital affairs. On the surface, Natasha is a controversial choice, encouraging promiscuity and infidelity as a guaranteed path to achieve success and money. She isn’t the best role model, but that is the nature of the fame game.
If you had a thing for mainstream garage back in the early noughties, you might recall Romeo from garage group So Solid Crew (other notable members include Harvey and Lisa Mafia...and I have no recollection of anyone else).If not this might just spark your memory: "2 multiplied by 10, plus 1, Romeo done". With lyrics as groundbreaking as these, it's not hard to see why the group enjoyed such high profile success
Most people seemed to bicker over whether they preferred Romeo or Harvey, but if I had a preference, I would be a Romeo girl, as he seems a soft-spoken gentleman with a little more going on beneath the surface. Then again he did rename himself Romeo, which suggests either an ill-fated romantic fictional figure, or a massive lothario.
12. Denise Welch
Most people like a loose woman, cue Denise Welch, renowned actress and television presenter and panellist who enjoys talking sex, marriage and affairs. She’s bound to do a far bit of straight talking once she’s let loose.
So will you watch?
What are your views on Big Brother?
Who would you like to win?