On launch night, newly promoted host Emma Willis almost made an error saying “Tomorrow night’s Big Brother on Channel Fou.. Channel Five”. Coincidently, on the Channel 5 era of Big Brother this series was the most like the Channel 4 ones to date. Female presenter, return to a vote to evict, the housemates having to grow their own vegetables, and a slightly wider range of housemates, plus the first time a housemate has had to be removed since it’s been on Channel 5.
As usual there was the obligatory OMG!SHOCK!TWIST! on launch night, which was putting in an actor as a fake housemate to act as a mole for Big Brother. They hyped this twist up as something that they had NEVER!DONE!BEFORE!. Which indeed they hadn’t. Unless you count hiring Thaila Zucchi to play “Pauline” during Fake Week in BB8. But they’ve never put a housemate in on launch night to be a mole before. Unless you count Mario the Mole in BB11. Or putting then ordinary member of the public Chantelle Houghton in Celebrity Big Brother 4 and telling her she had to convince the celebrities that she was one too. Or…. yeah, this twist has been done before, several times over.
Anyway, this time it was an actor called Michael, and if his appearance on this is anything to go by, his acting style is very Ham And Cheese. He was even more annoying when he was himself in the diary room, all thumbs up and self-congratulation about the housemates NOT!SUSPECTING!A!THING!. Unless you count ex-police officer Dan, (dubbed Detective Dan by fans), at least one of the twins and fire eater/glamour model/DJ/first evictee Sallie, who all suspected Michael was an actor within the first few days.
The only really entertaining thing about the first week was the absolute car crash that was the first eviction interview. In Sallie’s own interview she had already given the crowd the middle finger, asked for food and booze and when rent-a-mob started chanting “OFF!OFF!OFF!” she shouted back at them “Shut the fuck up, you’ve been here since 4pm this afternoon, get a grip!”. Then when Michael left the house they had her remain during his interview, and their hostility towards one another was still there, with Sallie throwing insults at him throughout, such as “I don’t think it’s Hollywood for you, babe”.
The main eviction twist for week one though was that all the housemates were up to be ‘nominated’ via the public vote and then the public voted to evict. I think it would have been better if they had all the housemates up in a vote to save (I prefer vote to save to vote to evict anyway, but regardless), then a less interesting housemate than Sallie would have gone, probably the forgettable Jemima, who was obvious cannon fodder and was evicted in week two anyway. I’m not trying to say Sallie was an example of a great human being by any stretch of the imagination, but she had a lot of energy, and much of the energy in the house left when she did, and it took about a month for it to get going again.
Showing how fickle the voting public are, the other two that were nominated for eviction with Sallie were Dexter and Gina, who both became fan favourites all the way up to the final. They were fake evicted together in week 3 and sent into a secret house. Variations of that twist have also been done several times over, and this one most closely resembled the first time, in BB5 when Emma and Michelle were secretly sent to the Bedsit and were able to watch the other housemates on a TV. The only real difference this time was that Dexter and Gina were sent to the Safe House, which was more of a luxury hotel room than a bedsit. When Emma and Michelle returned to the house in BB5, it ultimately led to the infamous Fight Night. When Dexter and Gina returned it led to…. nothing much really. The other housemates weren’t even that surprised when Dexter and Gina returned.
Dexter was certainly an interesting housemate, he seemed to enjoy playing up to his Dexter the Devious house villain role, but I found him overrated. I couldn’t blame the other housemates for not trusting him and nominating him week after week. He came across as insincere, talking in reality TV clichés about how it was a “journey”, “going in a boy coming out a man”, that it was redemption for him from his life of gambling and sleaze. As Zippy from Rainbow once said about Orville the Duck “If you can fake self-pity, you’re half way there”. For the all the talk that he wasn’t in it for the money and fame he seemed all too eager to start showmances. In a task where they were told that whoever picked the lowest amount of money would be evicted with that money, when everyone else picked high amounts so they’d stay he picked one that was about ten grand lower, but still quite a bit of money. It turned out the whole twist was a lie anyway so nobody would be leaving or getting any money, but it added more evidence to him being a bullshitter.
Dexter just seemed a bit slimy. He said stuff like he had no qualms about ruining people. I wonder if he saw himself as a Blackadder sort of figure, a smart, cunning anti-hero surrounded by idiots. I saw him as a bit like Edmund Blackadder, but more the “snivelling worm” version in the first series. The frustration the other housemates had with Dexter inspire a few memorable quotes though:
Sallie: “He’s a snake. Every time I see you I’m going to go SSSSSSSSSS. He’s like a mouse that’s got the cheese. Eat away as it will curdle and you will get a sour mouth”.
Jack or Joe: “You were six feet under, now 12 feet under. Call it a night and close your coffin”.
Sam: “He’s so rude he could make an onion cry.” “Trusting [Dexter] is like trusting a piranha with your finger”.
Gina also seemed to be playing up to a reality TV character role, that of a spoilt rich girl, accustomed to a life of luxury and “Let Them Eat Cake”-style statements showing how hilariously out of touch she claimed to be with how ordinary people live. This also came across as manufactured nonsense, but Gina had better social skills than Dexter, so she was able to get herself into the coveted position of being the fabulous and sassy glamorous diva of the house, who goes through every possible emotion thousands of times, and is usually the gay icon of the series. They always tend to end up in third place, and Gina carried on the trend taking after Makosi BB6, Aisleyne BB7 and Deana BB13.
I liked her odd friendship with Sam, which wasn’t shown enough on the highlights show. This moment when they made pasta sauce using chilli powder, white wine and beer was one my favourite from the whole series.
Then on the final day it was revealed that Sam had a crush on Gina all that time, and after getting very drunk confessed to her, which was kind of sweet but incredibly awkward.
Sam was my favourite housemate this series. He seemed like a really nice lad, and yeah, he was easy on the eye. He made a lot of corny jokes. They gave him a task where he had to do a deliberately bad stand-up comedy routine, which included something about toast being “bready” rather than “ready”. Sam occasionally had some genuinely funny one-liners though. One example was saying his “sex face” was looked like he “had a hot chip in [his] mouth. ” Sam is deaf, with 70-80% hearing loss, so it was difficult for him to join in and keep up with conversations with people all talking at once. He didn’t get much screen time for a while, but like a lot of quieter housemates, he came through more once some of the louder ones had gone. It’s rare I root for a reality TV contestant as much as I did with Sam, and I was pleased that he went on to win the show. My overall favourite winning only happens once in a blue moon, so Sam joins that exclusive club along with Chantelle Houghton, Jodie Prenger in I’d Do Anything and Tom Pellereau in The Apprentice.
As well as recycling twists, I think the show has had pretty much every ‘type’ of housemate it’s going to get now. They put in some twins yet again. This time they were chubby jokers Jack & Joe. They were OK-ish, but nowhere near as funny as they probably think they are. They had their moments though, such as one time when they were talking about all the stuff they’ve missed in the outside world while being in Big Brother, like Kate Middleton must have had her baby by that point. “Did Andy Murray win Wimbledon?” “Doubt it”. Twins tend to do quite well on Big Brother, to date all the ones that have gone in have all made it to the final. Jack & Joe finished 4th. Samanda in BB8 finished 2nd, Jedward in CBB8 finished 3rd, the Shannon twins in CBB9 finished 5th. Maybe the next set of twins will win! Until then, Kate Lawler who won BB3 is technically the most successful twin contestant.
They put in a mother and daughter together, also hyped up as NEVER!BEEN!DONE!BEFORE! They’re not counting Jade Goody and her mother Jackiey in CBB5 then. The mother this time was even called Jackie as well. This Jackie was more interesting than her daughter, Charlie. Jackie was extremely middle class and spent her time dancing and power walking in between voicing disapproval of men in the house who fancied Charlie. Charlie however was draining to listen to, and the worst ‘storyline’ of the series was the tedious non-love triangle between Dexter, Charlie and Callum. Sports coach Callum fancied Charlie, and kept pursuing her saying cringeworthy chat-up lines despite her clearly not being interested. He was a buzzkill, you could imagine him as the sort of bloke in a pub who corners someone and bores on about his problems all night, and took minor events way too far, even for Big Brother. In fairness, Charlie seemed to enjoy the attention she was getting from Callum, and was happy to let him massage her and give her compliments one minute, and complain about him behind his back and nominate him the next. The other person in the triangle was Dexter, who looked like he was just trying to be part of a showmance. In any case, Charlie didn’t fancy either of them and said so, so it was all a bit pointless really. It wasn’t only viewers who got bored of it. The other housemates got sick of the whole thing, the editors took the piss out of it by putting the theme to Dawson’s Creek over an inane Charlie/Dexter conversation, and Emma Willis said she didn’t find it interesting to watch either; “I’m really bored of it […] because there is nothing going on apart from let’s get a little bit more airtime”.
The most controversial coupling in the series was Irish model Hazel and ex-boxer Daley. He had a girlfriend on the outside, she was single, but as depressingly seems to be the norm for Big Brother, the female housemate got most of the blame. It seems many of the viewers have the same attitude as Mrs. Brady, Old Lady from Viz. “Well don’t blame him, he’s just a man. If she’s going to offer it he’s going to take it and say thank you very much!”. Hazel was almost evicted for it, in a very close eviction with only 150 votes between her and Wolfy.
The day after that eviction despite the righteous anger of the viewers, Hazel and Daley topped a public vote to be sent together to the Safe House. I guess those people wanted to see what would happen, but they probably didn’t expect what did happen. Hazel and Daley were fooling around, she pulled his shorts down, he slapped her backside and put his hand around her neck and pinned her to the bed. Daley was removed from the show for the incident. He described it as playfighting that got out of hand, which may well be true, but he crossed a line and from what we saw of it, it was uncomfortable to watch, so it was the right decision to remove him.
Charlie and Hazel had a friendship through the middle of the series, though it didn’t last. The first cracks were when Charlie accidentally poked Hazel in the eye with a cucumber. Hazel was concerned about it damaging her eye, and Charlie made one of her trademark stupid tactless comments that she felt like how Daley must have felt. This caused a big argument, but it was nothing compared to a later argument they had. During Friends and Family nominations, Charlie’s friend nominated Hazel. Much as I found Charlie to be annoying, passive-aggressive and a bit of a drip, I felt sorry for her when Hazel laid into her. Hazel was like a unstoppable killer robot with her intense, staring eyes shooting lazer beams at Charlie. But, I have to say Hazel was a fantastic housemate. She was ruthless and an ice queen, but I admired her confidence and charisma, and despite all her conflicts she could have fun in the house too. She had a refreshingly realistic attitude to it all as well, despite them all saying they’re BFFs, they’ll all mainly go back to their lives when it’s finished. Or as she put it after a particularly bad day “I’ll no more be meeting them for parties than the man on the fucking moon. I can’t wait to see the back of them”.
The worst twist of the whole series was when they had the people in the Safe House be the ones put up for the public vote, which were Dan, Sam and Sophie, and it was kept a secret from them until the eviction. The problem was all three of those housemates were popular, so it was asking the viewers to evict someone they liked, which they never like having to do. Dan went because he was the loudest and had the most screen time. While Dan could be arrogant and pretentious, he was also one of the more intelligent housemates and a big character, and it’s a shame he went in such a way. It was also incredibly unfair on Sam to spring the surprise on them on eviction night, as he had trouble hearing the announcement and was confused about what was going on.
Had it been a vote to save, I wonder if Sophie would have gone. She wasn’t the worst housemate of this series, but she was one of the most disappointing. She was a type of housemate that usually does well (blonde, bubbly, a bit dim, working class, regional accent), but she never became more than a supporting character. She was the twins’ best mate, she had a hatemance with Sam, and ended up being the bridesmaid to Gina’s Bridezilla. Perhaps she was just too ‘normal’ for Big Brother. The only bigger disappointment was Wolfy. She was popular on launch night; a lesbian fisherwoman – the jokes write themselves!- and a shaman. On paper she sounded like a good housemate, but in practice she kept spitting a lot, telling people that passing insects and flocks of birds had predicted events that happened in the house, but only mentioning them after they had actually happened. She took any sort of feedback, positive or negative, far too much to heart so she ended up despairing when she found out she’d been voted least attractive and least hygienic on an online poll, and when she was cheered by the crowd she boasted that she would not only make the final, but win, which did nothing but turn people against her. She took her inevitable eviction to a booing crowd well considering, but I don’t know, for some reason I expected more from her as a housemate than what we got. One thing we got out of it was a task where they had to talk to some animals. Brian the cute emu, Mr. Hops the rabbit and Margaret the oyster, who as she was an oyster didn’t do anything, which oddly enough made her the most remembered of the three.
One thing I think was very good this year were the tasks. A zombie out-break one seemed to be inspired by Dead Set, Charlie Brooker’s Big Brother zombie film. There was a Remote Control task, where a giant remote control which would light up on pause, play, fast-forward or rewind, and the housemates had to react to it. When on ‘pause’ they had to freeze, and then they added stuff into the house for the housemates to ignore. These included a flock of sheep with shepherd and sheepdog, Dexter’s mother, Sophie’s boyfriend, Jack & Joe’s parents, Can-Can dancers, ravers, and BBOTS presenter Rylan and body language expert Judi James walking in talking about the housemates. This was a bit of rehash of the Ignore The Obvious task from BB11, but it was still quite good. When on ‘fast-forward’ they had to go faster, when on ‘rewind’ they had to go backwards, and if it then went to ‘play’ they had to do what they had just been doing again. This was used to good effect with Dan having to put blue and pink coloured sunscreen on his face three times.
The Puntastic Prizes task saw the housemate compete for prizes which were misleading puns. Jack & Joe had to sit in creepy Hall Of Smiles room with distorted pictures of the housemates to win “booze”. What they actually won was “boos”, a speakerphone which played boos. Dan and Sophie had to suck super sour sweets to win “steaks”, which turned out to be wooden stakes. Callum and Sam had to be spray tanned with the words “I’m with Stupid” to win “brownies”, which were wooden brown letter Es. Best of all Hazel and Dexter had to eat a disgusting meal to win “letters from home”, but what they got was “lettuce from home”. I loved the fact that they had lettuce with name tags on them with messages like “love Mum and Dad, x”. Sam thought the whole thing was funny, but Hazel didn’t. “We ate sheep’s eyes and scorpions for a fucking lettuce, are you joking me!?!”
There was Gina’s Fanmail task, where she wrote fake fanmail letters to the housemates. Her writing the letters was soundtracked by the theme to Murder She Wrote. One was to receive no fanmail, so she chose her nemesis Hazel. She wrote Dexter a letter from a deranged rabid fangirl type who fancied him. Gina was also given the starring role in the Bee Task where she was cast as Queen Bee, a part she relished. The others were worker bees in a honey factory and they had to put honey into jars. They could be ‘stung’ with a buzzer if they weren’t working hard or fast enough.
Overall, I found this to be a reasonably good but average series. My favourite housemate won, so I can’t complain too much about how it turned out. For once the dynamic in the house wasn’t one group in a house vs another, which was a refreshing change, and meant that evictions were more to do with events in the house and based on housemates as individuals, and the house ‘battles’ were smaller and more personal too. Of the production changes made, I’m not pleased they’ve bought back the vote to evict, because at the risk of sounding like a broken record it tends to get rid of the more interesting housemates earlier. Promoting Emma Willis to the main show host is one of the best decisions that have ever been made for this programme. She handled some difficult interviews well, like Sallie’s, and she was sensitive towards Katie, Daley’s girlfriend, who was interviewed while the Hazel/Daley relationship was going on in the house. (The interview with Daley was less good, but I suspect damage limitation may have been the order of the day for that one). But Emma Willis is likeable, professional, and is able to be snarky and make fun of the show without it coming off as smug and try-hard. In fact, I’m going to go as to say that I think she’s the best presenter the show as ever had.