I promised myself I was done with this show. It had long since passed it’s peak and jumped the shark. It was axed by Channel 4, who by that point seemed to loathe it and were desperate to get rid of it, but then Channel 5 decided to take it, and given how low the average ratings are for Channel 5 for most of the British public Big Brother is a distant memory, with barely anyone watching it these days let alone it being the multiple water cooler moment source it once was. But, damn it, after a mediocre start with the first celebrity series and first ‘normal’ series on Channel 5, in 2012 they’ve turned out probably the best Celebrity Big Brother ever in January, and the recently concluded summer series has been the best in some years. I got hooked on this series. No, there wasn’t really anything that hadn’t been done before, but it was fun to watch.
As often happens with this show, there was a huge division with two rival groups forming and battling for control of the house and the affection of the viewers. Usually the two groups took the form of an in-crowd of ‘cool kids’ versus a bunch of quirky underdogs. Just like every other time, the cool kids were the dominant power in the house and the quirky underdogs were the ones the viewers loved the most. Sometimes, like in BB6 and BB9, it ends up as the baddies vs the baddies rather than the goodies vs the baddies, but this time the ‘good’ team held the affection of the viewers, indeed the ones that made it to the final ended up getting the top 3 places.
The Outsiders, called because they hung out in the smoking area outside, while the Insiders stayed in the house, although it seemed to suit the social hierarchy the house had. The unlikely friendships that can develop in Big Brother are some of the nicer things about it, and we definitely had this year one with reformed former LA gang member Adam and female-to-male transsexual Luke A having a strong friendship in the house. These two ended up with the runner-up and winner’s position respectively. I have to admit on launch night the first thing I thought about Luke A was that he just seemed like an ordinary bloke and wondered why he’d been chosen to go on, but then he revealed that he had been born female. With that many would have predicted him as a contender to win, but I’m pleased for him. He seemed like a very nice guy, and maintaining popularity in a show which frankly is designed to show people at their worst probably isn’t as easy a task as it might seem. The Outsider who I wish had made it to the final was Lauren, the slightly goofy bacon loving Kylie Minogue-lookalike farm girl. She was a fun, lovely housemate, and the only remotely interesting ‘love story’ this year was Adam having a crush on her and ending up in the friendzone. It was very sad to see Lauren getting targeted and picked on by some of the other housemates, but she was one of the few evictees who went out to a positive crowd reception, and it was a very close vote between her and Luke A. Almost beating the eventual winner and going out to cheers. They also did a poll on the official site of which evicted housemate fans would most like to go back in, and Lauren won that by a landslide with 49% of the vote. Not bad.
The star of this year’s series though was undoubtedly Deana. She was the first housemate who entered on launch night and was given a task to choose the three housemates to face the public vote. From then on she was a big talking point throughout the series. She was ostracised by the insider gang and had some very vile things said about her, but she didn’t behave like a victim and was very capable of standing up for herself, which if anything made viewers want to root for her more. She eventually found a role for herself as the leader of the Outsider gang, although she had her own name for them, the Soldiers. Standing like a proud elegant warrior queen telling her troops they were at war and praying at night for the battle to go well. It got very OTT, but it was still nice to see her, Luke A and Adam after realising they had all made it to the final when they thought all the odds were against them saying “job done”.
For me Deana was the best housemate this year, in fact I think she’s one of the best ever. She was criticised for being a princess and a bit of a diva, but in all honesty that’s one of the things I liked most about her. She could be hilariously funny, delivering cutting remarks to her rivals and as only Big Brother can, making breakfast related niggles seem like almighty battles, the way she became defensive after being accused of burning toast, and her ‘exorcism’ about being accused of spilling cornflakes down the sink was my favourite moment of the whole series.
Possibly more than other reality TV show, Big Brother needs baddies, and we certainly got those this time. In the early weeks the main hate figure was actually one of the Outsiders, highly strung Lydia, who kept going on and on and on about how people don’t know how difficult it is to have a famous fiancé. The famous fiancé in question? Andy Scott-Lee. Frankly, he’d struggle to be the second reserve choice if someone had dropped out of Celebrity Big Brother.
But she had nothing on the two biggest hate figures who were both in the Insider group. They were both school playground bully archetypes. Caroline, an unholy cocktail of previous Big Brother spoilt snooty queen biatchs Grace BB7, Bea BB10, the forced eccentricity of X Factor contestants Diana Vickers and Katie Waissel, all glazed with a birds nest on top as her hair. Caroline relentlessly bitched, isolated people and shit stirred, with whoever she targeted ending up being nominated for eviction in the early weeks. Eventually she heard “Get Caroline Out!” chants and seeing her days were probably numbered she ordered nothing but chocolate with the shopping budget out of spite. At the end of that week she was evicted against 7 other housemates and her deranged behaviour in her eviction interview was… car crash TV to say the least.
The other was Conor, a thuggish ape-like bloke who appeared to have a physically intimidating presence. He certainly came across as very aggressive and quick to anger. He became mostly known for his dislike of Deana, not least a disgusting rant about her which saw the series get almost 1000 complaints. There were many viewers who thought he should have been removed from the house altogether, indeed there are past contestants who were removed for much less. But they chose not to, and when he was up for eviction he had fans which kept him in the house. So it left a nasty taste in the mouth for many viewers when as part of a twist he ended up walking out of the house with half the prize money. It helped cement his status as one of the nastiest house villains though. The task saw two housemates, Conor and Luke S, being told the first to press a button would get £50,000 of the prize money but would have to leave the house. Luke S seemed to have been friends with Conor up till that point, but Conor had no trouble stabbing his ‘mate’ in the front to get the money even though he’d told him getting to the final was more important. Then in his interview Conor went out of his way to slag off Luke S and said he never liked him any way.
Luke S seemed like he was going to be the most unwatchable housemate initially. Dull, incredibly poncey and vain, he was in a staggeringly unconvincing showmance with grubby, ‘fick’ cardboard cutout Essex girl Ashleigh. Those two didn’t even seem to like each other, let alone be in love with one another. But oddly what made Luke S more watchable was that he had no sense of humour. That made it much funnier if there was an opportunity to laugh at him, and he gave us plenty. He was tricked into thinking an agent wanted to sign him up where he did a tacky calendar shoot and basically admitted that he wanted to go in and pull a bird, Ashleigh irritated him and he’d rather be known as a player on the celebrity circuit than as part of a couple. Then the business with the prize money which made him look like a prat, and Deana took great delight in cruelly, but hilariously making fun of him for it. Best one was saying she’d pay 50k for his free pass to the final.
They put in a wild card housemate, big bubbly Becky, who started out well, jumping into the pool as soon as she entered the house and getting into a funny friendship with camp pseudo-posh boy Scott. But it all went wrong for her when she betrayed Lauren, who had been sticking up for her by letting it be known that Conor and some of the other Insiders were talking about nominating Becky. Becky repaid this by deciding to blab to the Insiders. She sucked up to the in-crowd that had wanted rid of her, and she remained a fiercely loyal member of that group afterwards. I won’t dwell on her OTT reaction to finding out Luke A made a joke about her BMI, but let’s just say that almost certainly is what got her evicted later that week, where she was booed and ended up looking nervous while scoffing a packet of sweets in one of her interviews. So from a promising start as a housemate Becky ended up being a bit… sad, really.
The two housemates which I found quite interesting were two which floated between the two groups, Scott and Sara. Sara a Scottish model most of the time seemed absolutely lovely, despite a tendency to say she was VERY OPIONATED, but didn’t want to actually say anything specific what any of those opinions were. Just as long as everyone knew she felt VERY STRONGLY about them. She was most fun when she got drunk, trying to undo her dress with a coat hanger, weeping with devotion and reverence to the Queen and best of all drunkenly singing Meat Loaf songs. I can relate to her on that last one, she did a better job that I ever have to be fair. She’s also one of the few people who got what was meant in ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’.
Scott was quite interesting because he was from a working class Macclesfield family but spoke and acted like the son of an 18th century lord. You could almost picture him in a powdered wig, knee breeches and frill on his jacket. Like a lot of gay housemates his persona was how flamboyant, camp and catty he could be, but most of the time on the show he came across as a bit shy and sensitive, not least when he got nervous and tearful in the diary room after learning that someone had nominated him. But he’ll probably be best remembered for introducing the word “rapscallion” to a lot of viewers.
Just to say, I think the spin-off show Big Brother’s Bit On The Side has been very, very good this year. The Big Brother spinoff shows have been various degrees of unwatchable since Russell Brand left, and Emma Willis is the best presenter they’ve had since him. I liked her making comments about fans having a go at her on Twitter for things which she as a presenter has no control over. We had Diane Youdale, AKA Jet, who was my favourite from Gladiators back in the day, and she is now a psychotherapist and life coach, and she made some good points. The evicted housemates reuniting for dinner, which saw Lauren calling Caroline out on her bullshit. Another contestant this year, Shivonne, was entertaining when she was on, even though she was irritating on the main show.They also seem to have stopped asking the frankly overrated Pete Burns to come so often. The only problem is they keep asking dreary Natalie Cassidy on now. But what I liked most of all about Big Brother’s Bit On The Side is that Rustie Lee was on frequently, and she was great fun, and I agree with that campaign that wants her to be a contender in Celebrity Big Brother one day.
* Benedict taking a chair with him as he was evicted.
* While it’s not as good with hindsight knowing what would come later, one of the most satisfying evictions was when Arron, the prank monkey to Conor’s organ grinder, and Conor himself were being nasty and smug to Deana and Becky in the diary room. Deana and Becky stood up for themselves fine, but the viewers sent a very clear message by voting to save Deana and Becky and Arron leaving with the fewest votes. Then hard man Conor was left crying in the corner.
*Speaking of Arron, his pranks caused the housemates to be banned from sections of the house. He got his comeuppance by Adam pouring some slop made of milk, anchovies and spam on him in bed.
* Lauren and Becky doing a great job playing rednecks in the Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly task.
* The Stuff 24 Marshmallows Into Your Mouth task. The prize was… 24 more marshmallows.
*The museum task itself was just a rubbish rehash of the amazing prison task in BB7. But I’m grateful for it for giving us the sight of astronaut Deana sneezing in her helmet and fighting T-Rex Luke S.
*The montage at the end of the last highlights of the whole series was actually quite sweet.
* Yet again they have a sacrificial lamb to some OMG!SHOCK!TWIST on launch night. This time poor Victoria was the victim, turfed out after only 4 days because of Deana having to select 3 people up only minutes after all the housemates were in.
* The much hyped White Room. The fact that it ended with Conor taking half the prize money is one thing, but made worse by the White Room task going on for 4 days at how boring and pointless it was until the prize money twist.
Edit: As he’s the only housemate from this series I haven’t mentioned, I suppose it’s only fair I mention second evictee Chris. He was alright, I guess.