Celebrity Big Brother 11

Early rumoured names were Meat Loaf, Katie Price, John Prescott, Lindsay Lohan and the actors who played Les Battersby and Cilla Brown in Coronation Street. I would have watched the hell out of that line-up! But then I was a bit put off by the confirmed line-up. This included a member of Steps (Claire Richards), and Steps were a group which, frankly, I never liked much, the joke act from a series of The X Factor I didn’t watch (Rylan Clark), and an American reality TV couple I’d never heard of (Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt). Well, I tell a lie, I had heard of Heidi Montag as, being the pop music nerd that I am, I knew that Lady Gaga used to be a songwriter for other acts before she was famous and wrote a song called ‘Fashion’, and apparently Heidi Montag had an album and that was one of the songs on it. Anyway Lady Gaga later recorded ‘Fashion’ herself for her debut album The Fame.  The press said that comedian Jim Davidson was supposed to be the big name signing for this series. As it turned out Jim Davidson… had to pull out at the last minute, so he was replaced by former footballer Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock. For me this was a far better change as I like him much more and definitely think he’s much funnier than Jim Davidson.

The series started with the obligatory OMG! SHOCK LAUNCH NIGHT TWIST!11!!. Seriously, it’d be a bigger shock if they didn’t mess around with things before anything has started. Anyway, this time it was a reworking of the rich/poor divide from BB3, which had already been reworked as the Heaven/Hell divide in BB9. At this stage in its life, Big Brother UK has long since eaten itself, regurgitated, then ate again and regurgitated again its ideas. Most of the tasks have been done a couple of times before. One of the tasks saw Toadfish from Neighbours  (Ryan Moloney) having a hidden earpiece which told him to do random stuff, which is a task that was done in CBB9, Celebrity Hijack and probably more that I’ve forgotten. The twist this time was that the people speaking into the earpiece were Razor dressed as an angel and Rylan dressed as a devil. Yes, it fell flat.

There was also the dictator task, a reworking of the State of Susie task from BB7. But unlike the angel/devil one, this one was quite enjoyable. Jockey Frankie Dettori was cast as the dictator and the other housemates simply had to obey him. He had propaganda posters and a big statue of him, though Frankie seemed more happy with the fact that he had a remote control toy tank to play with. However, that was a cover for the real task, which was for the other housemates to stage a revolution. Big Brother told “comrade Rylan” he had to get himself put in the jail to find hidden dynamite so they could blow up the dictator’s statue. Meanwhile, Claire from Steps and glamour model Lacey Banghard (and yes, that IS her real surname) were invited to dinner in Frankie’s palace and were given the task of stealing a key and bugging Frankie’s phone, which they did by Lacey distracting him while Claire put on her lipstick in the mirror while stealing the key and putting the bug on the phone. Later the other housemates painted red crosses on the posters, pulled the statue down, caught Frankie in a net,  put him in the jail and ransacked the palace. The whole “real task is a secret mission” has also been done many times before, but I liked how it was done here.

The rehashed twist that probably had the biggest impact though was Heidi & Spencer’s fake walkout. They were told to pretend to quit the show but were secretly sent to another room where they got to watch the other housemates on a plasma screen. This was of course previously done in BB5 with Michelle and Emma’s fake eviction. While as before the result was them seeing housemates bitching about them thinking they weren’t coming back to the house, when Heidi & Spencer returned it didn’t quite result in another Fight Night, but it did result in a big argument. Then later Big Brother turned the tables and pretended the couple were being asked questions from viewers for a website, when in actual fact it was being broadcast to the other housemates. Rylan had to pretend to be a superfan of Heidi & Spencer and asked questions from a laptop in the house, and it saw Heidi & Spencer bitching about the other housemates. This led to another huge argument, but that was nothing on what would come with the next day.

Each housemate had to complete tasks so that that they would get letters from home. Heidi & Spencer refused to do their’s, which was to be apart from one another for a while. This was apparently too much to ask, which meant that one housemate, Claire, would be without her letter, which obviously upset her. After Heidi & Spencer clapped and later laughed about it, this turned the whole house against them, and in solidarity the others refused to have their letters and decided to completely ignore Heidi & Spencer, with the exception of Rylan who told them in no uncertain terms what he thought about what they had done. Eventually everyone got their letters and the house was in, well, ceasefire rather than peace.

Just like Charley in BB8, the producers twisted things to make sure the main hate figure and talking point was kept in as long as possible. The shorter series and the vote to save managed to keep Heidi & Spencer in right to end, and while they were good TV they crossed the line to being infuriating by then. Declaring all the other housemates to be beneath them, never lifting a finger to help around the house, demanding lawyers when they didn’t get their own way, obnoxiously chanting “USA! USA!” at any opportunity, spewing psychobabble, right wing gun nut rhetoric and cloying sentimental glurge about how much in lurve they were and having a massive sense of entitlement. Heidi looked like she’d been created from melding thousands of plastic rip-off Barbie dolls into a giant one, and Spencer looked like he was made from mashing what was left over into a blob. Spencer Pratt (such a fitting surname) seemed like he was very much playing up to being the reality TV bad guy, but even considering that he was a little… peculiar. Heidi occasionally showed signs that she could get on very well with others if she wanted to, but of the two she seemed the least willing to be on her own away from them as a couple.

With the spotlight very much focused on Rylan and “Speidi”, the other housemates didn’t get much of a look in. Paula Hamilton and her eccentricities may have had she not been first out, though it was predictable she’d be voted out first after it was announced she was up. Even she saw it coming. They bought her back for a fashion task though. It was more surprising ex-Corrie actor Sam Robertson was out early. But gorgeous though he was, other than serving as eye candy there wasn’t any role for him in this series. Lacey Banghard had a similar problem, other than her good looks all she bought was squeakiness. Gillian Taylforth in her interviews after leaving the house seemed lovely, but she had barely any screen time in the series and joins Natalie Cassidy and her that played Heather Trott Cheryl Fergison in the three series in a row Curse of the Eastenders Actresses,  a surprise Celebrity Big Brother eviction leaving in a vote to save against lots of other housemates first time she’s up. Intentionally or not, Gillian kind of got her own back for her scenes being left on the cutting room floor by accidentally revealing Rylan had been leaving the house to do X Factor tour rehearsals, dropping the show right in it and forcing them to offer an explaination. Frankie Dettori disappeared into the background halfway through, and Heartbeat actress Tricia Penrose showed glimpses of being fun and fiery, but seemed to be holding back while she was in there.

Of the finalists, Razor turned out to be a good housemate, up for a laugh, having an unlikely friendship with Rylan, prepared to dress up for tasks, in drag a few times and as a horse so Frankie could ride him, and showing off his body in all its gross glory. He was also the closest we got to an alpha male this series. Claire from Steps was nice enough, if a bit weepy, and alternated between house mother and fag hag. Ryan seemed like a decent bloke, which was enough to get him third place. But the ones with the most screen time finished top two places. Heidi & Spencer were runner-up, and Rylan won.

Rylan had actually auditioned for the normal series back when it was on Channel 4 but failed to get on, and then auditioned to be on The X Factor, so winning this was probably a dream come true for him. I didn’t know much about him before watching this series. He has flaws for sure, he’s clearly very insecure, he’s an attention seeker and is hungry for fame. On the other hand, he’s  entertaining and funny, seems like a good sort and is willing to grab the opportunity he’s been given with both hands.  His victory was quite nice to watch really, and while they don’t always release the voting percentages anymore, I’d imagine he was very far ahead in the vote, he was on the online polls and was a runaway favourite in the bookies odds. Rylan joins Stacey Solomon in first coming to the public’s attention by being a contestant on The X Factor and not winning but going on to win another reality TV show, just like Stacey won the tenth series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

This series took a while to get going, but turned out quite well, certainly a lot better than I expected it to initially. My highlight of the whole thing came at the very end though, when the housemates, presenters, guests and some of the crew all sang S Club 7’s ‘Don’t Stop Movin’ at the end, particularly as one of the guests was Tina Barrett who was actually in S Club 7.

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