OK, so I decided to watch and review the summer/autumn series of Celebrity Big Brother last year, but then I remembered why I never bothered before. There’s never any time,
and last year because of various reasons (illness, changing jobs and other stuff) I wrote some of this but couldn’t put it in anything resembling coherence. I will post it now just before Celebrity Big Brother 17 starts.
Most series of Celebrity Big Brother tend to made up of British and American housemates, but this series decided to use that as a full theme, making it UK Vs USA. While its debatable if the theme worked, the logo and house design were great. It included a 1950s Americana diner themed kitchen and dining area, a shower with a red telephone box door and a garden with one side decorated like New York City and the other like Downton Abbey. On launch night they opened with a dance number featuring Royal Palace Guards and cheerleaders.
As for how the series went, everyone fitted national stereotypes. The Brits were reserved, their attitude to being on the show was all “Keep Calm And Carry On” and they mainly sat having cups of tea. The Americans were loud, brash, competitive and confrontational and all about “playing the game”. Although the show likely cast it that way in the first place.
On launch night, the contestant that made the most spectacular entrance was American reality TV star Farrah Abraham, wearing a dress which incorporated elements of the United Kingdom and the United States flag. However, it kind of went downhill from there with her, getting into a confrontation soon after entering, and far from the last either.
On the second day one of the housemates was removed, though it was for things they did before even entering the house. Tila Tequila was removed for posting comments on social media saying she sympathised with Hitler. Considering the programme should have known about this before signing her as a contestant, that shows either spectacular incompetence or a very tacky publicity stunt.
Two further contestants entered on Day 2. They were probably held back from launch night as they were two of the biggest names for this series, in a similar way to Katie Price’s big entrance in the last series of Celebrity Big Brother (though her’s wasn’t planned from the beginning, she was supposed to have been in this one. Actually, it makes you wonder how she might have done in this series). Anyway, they were entertainer Bobby Davro and “the world’s first supermodel” Janice Dickinson, and their late entrance was so they could be the initial team captains for Team UK and Team USA respectively.
One of the earliest tasks saw the British housemates as members of a Royal Family and the American housemates as servants. It featured guest appearances from Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Diana, and former BBC news royal correspondent Jennie Bond. (There’s a lot of “former”s in this post. Well, let’s face it, this is Celebrity Big Brother we’re talking about). The most interesting part of this task is when the servants have to get scandalous tabloid pictures of the Royal Family. All in all, it was an elaborate, but rather bland and time consuming task.
The first proper evictee was actor Danny Baldwin, who seemed pleasant and normal, and therefore nothing like his brother Stephen Baldwin who had been in CBB7.
In a hotdog themed task the housemates dressed up as sausages, and they had to cover themselves in mustard and ketchup and slide themselves into a giant hotdog bun. This was won by Team USA. They elected Scoop as the President of the house, and he was given the option of nominating someone who would automatically face the public vote. He chose Chris Ellison, best known for being in The Bill. He became the second evictee. Not sure what to say about him really, he was a bit grumpy and…, well that’s all he was, he did little else. He possibly saw it as just another job.
The show used the Fake Eviction to a Secret Room Twist for the gazillionth time. There was a twist on the twist though, as this time the other housemates were let in on the secret. When (because I doubt this will be an “if”) they inevitably do this twist again I think they should just tell the other housemates that the fake evictee has gone into a secret room right away, as the housemates suspect it anyway it’s been overused so much.
This time, the two housemates who were voted in would get to watch the housemates in there as usual, but they wouldn’t know that the others had been told about it. The two housemates would think they were putting people up for eviction, but the joke would be on them as they were actually putting people up for immunity, and those left over would be up for eviction, so the other housemates had to actively try to get themselves “nominated” to save themselves from facing eviction.
To be fair, the twist on the twist was good, and the two who were fake evicted were the best choices to go into the secret room. Farrah because she was such an obnoixous, annoying, ridiculous, screeching, delusional nightmare who took everything as an insult. The other was former porn star Jenna Jameson. She was later voted by the viewers as the most strategic housemate. She seemed the most concerned with the team she was on and who should be on it and how they should play it. I rather liked Jenna I have to say, partly because many housemates have claimed to “play the game”, but she’s been one of the few to actually live up to it.
One of the things Farrah and Jenna spied on was a talent show the other housemates put on to explain why they were put in the house. There were more than a few amusing bitchy comments. “Holy snorefest” being their immediate reaction to the talent show. Jenna thought Stevi and Chloe’s singing was awful and wondered how the hell they could have got on a singing contest in the first place. She thought that Natasha was a good singer but that ‘Whole Again’ is a crap song. She also this to say about Austin, who had probably the most tenuous claim to fame of all the housemates: “Cheers to your epic untalented ass”. I also agreed with Jenna and Farrah’s choices as to who should have won and lost the talent show; Scoop as the best and Bobby as the worst for his dreadful cringeworthy impressions.
That said, it was kind of satisfying them coming back rather smugly and then it being revealed that they had been duped. Bobby Davro dubbing them ‘the Ugly Sisters’ and his “no amount of lipgloss can hide the ugliness inside” nomination to Farrah seems to be the most remembered things he said about them, but I much preferred this which he said to Farrah after she came back from the secret room “Do you know why people take an instant dislike to you, Farrah? Because it saves time!”
To be fair to Jenna and Farrah, they did their own late entrant for the talent show, and it was one of the more memorable entries, involving them spraying chocolate sauce on one another.
While the twist on the twist was good, it had an annoying outcome of two of the nicest housemates ending up going.
Scoop was one of the best housemates this series. He deserved to win the talent show for his crowd-pleasing performance of his hit ‘Be Faithful’ from when he was known as Fatman Scoop. He was one of the more rational housemates, and had a peacemaker role. He wasn’t surprised to be voted out, saying that “Nasty is good television” and that “If I’d have known it was this hard I would have charged three times my fee”. He had a couple of other funny one-liners, including saying that Chloe should make a “cigarette salad” after her plan to go without food so she could have cigarettes, and that the house was so stressful “When we all get out we’re going to have a drink and go to a therapist!”.
TV presenter Gail Porter had kind of a housekeeper role, doing the cooking, dishes, general housework and unpacking Janice’s various suitcases. She seemed quite fragile, having gone through mental health problems in the past perhaps the CBB house wasn’t a good place for her to be. But she seems like a nice woman, and she provided one of the funniest moments of the series, interrupting an argument Janice was having to ask what she’d like on her toast.
It was a little sad to see Scoop and Gail go, especially as the reason they ended up facing the public vote in the first place was they didn’t want to try and say provocative things about Jenna and Farrah in order to get them to nominate them. It’s also likely they went in a vote to save because they didn’t want to get involved in petty in-house battles. Scoop went because he didn’t want to slate people he’d befriended, and Gail went because she didn’t want to be mean.
In yet another eviction twist, all the 9 housemates who were remaining were up in a vote to save, the top 4 would be safe and they each had to choose from the bottom 5 who would stay, with the one left over being the evictee. I don’t know if this was another twist intended to save Farrah, but she ended up in the bottom 5 and wasn’t chosen to stay by the others. I don’t see how anyone can be shocked that Farrah would be disliked both in and out of the house. Her self-absorbed, entitled, it’s all the rest of the world’s fault attitude and the way she constantly spewed bile over everyone else and went on and on about how perfect she thought she was were just the start of her annoying traits. Look, I get why housemates like this are needed, but they always end up getting far too much screentime and put on a pedestal by a vocal minority of fans. It was the same with “Speidi”, Perez and Marc in the last civilian series. They make them out to be the whole show despite them being overbearing, exhausting and basically a black hole sucking the life out of the series rather than enhancing it.
This series was billed as UK vs USA, and it wasn’t just in tasks. There was an almost series-long feud involving red wine, who should have it, how much they took and saw the house divided usually along Team UK/Team USA lines. Just one of many examples was when all the wine was kosher and Jenna and Farrah took all the non-kosher cocktails for themselves, so Natasha, Sherrie and Chris got the kosher wine as there was only one bottle and they didn’t see why Jenna should have it all to herself.
That said, what happened more often than the UK and US housemates rivalry was infighting in Team USA.
The Americans often clashed with each other, mostly with a lot of Team USA clashing with Janice Dickinson. Sometimes it was that she lost things for their team by getting confused. Other times it was more personal. She took some celery out of a fridge that was reserved specifically for Jenna’s kosher food. She told Farrah off once by telling her straight “You’re not the queen of reality, I am!”. She was often accused of being diva-ish and living in “Janice land”, which she kind of was, but sometimes I could see where she was coming from. Once she wanted a bath but couldn’t have one as Austin, James, Stevi, Jenna and Farrah were using all the hot water for an hour, and they didn’t clean up after themselves, Gail cleaned up after them.
Janice was another housemate who had some good one-liners. Once while she was sunbathing and she overheard some of the others bitching about her as they thought she was asleep, until she joined in a conversation they were having about seagulls. “I hear everything”. One of my favourite lines of the whole series was Janice making up after having an argument, calling it “Water under the duck’s back’s bridge”.
Anyway, onto the housemates who made it to the final.
6th place went to Loose Women panelist (well, every series of CBB has to have one) Sherrie Hewson. She mainly had the “Nana” role, kind of the default for older female housemates. To be fair, a reason she might not have done much in the house was that it turned out she had a cancer scare before going in the house and didn’t get it checked before entering, which she now acknowledges as a mistake.
In 5th place were ex-The X Factor contestants Stevi Ritchie & Chloe Jasmine, who became a couple while on the contest. As CBB housemates, they were a cringey borefest, with Stevi bringing the bore and Chloe bringing the cringe. They sometimes sat around saying unconvincing sick-bucket lovey dovey stuff to each other like “You’re my cabbage”. “You’re my sprout”. Bleurgh. In what could have been out of Inside No. 9‘s ‘Nana’s Party’ episode we had Sherrie’s Hawaian themed birthday party, with Stevi doing dad dancing to ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ and Chloe going to sob in the Diary Room. Given that the couple they reminded me of from ‘Nana’s Party’ were a sad clown practical joker husband and a bitter, damaged alcoholic wife, lets hope that’s not a vision of their future.
Chloe Jasmine had technically been on Celebrity Big Brother before, as part of Kandy Floss, Chantelle Houghton’s fictional girlgroup in CBB4. Chloe’s contribution to CBB4 was far better than her contribution to CBB16 frankly, but another contestant with a connection to a former series was the 4th place finalist.
Bobby Davro has a link to the very first civilian series of Big Brother, when the housemates won a video of him as a prize, but some didn’t want to watch it and the ones who did weren’t too keen on it. In this series, he was the standard “old comedian telling old jokes” sort of Celebrity Big Brother housemate, nothing more, nothing less. Oh yeah, he sleepwalked a bit too.
3rd place and Top Girl went to Atomic Kitten singer Natasha Hamilton. She had a bit of an Amy Pond look going, red hair, green eyes, jumpers, chequered shirt and glasses, and a bit of a Cady Heron role, as the smart, sarcastic nemesis of the Mean Girls (Farrah and Jenna in her case). Most of the time she was one of the most down-to-earth and level-headed, while she stood up for herself she said she wasn’t going to waste her energy on people who can’t handle different opinions or even listen to them.
The top 2 were a homoerotic bromance of two buff guys who often stripped off and spent time in hot tubs together.
Austin Armacost finished runner-up. He’s an American reality TV star, he was in something called The A List: New York apparently, but he lives in the UK with his British husband. They live in Huddersfield. I used to go there all the time, so weirdly there’s a chance we might have met some of the same people. Austin seemed to get on OK with most of the other contestants most of the time, but there were occasions when his control over his emotions seemed limited at best, and he behaved awfully. One time towards the end he lost his temper and said some horrible things to Janice. The British housemates were disgusted. He continued on in a similar way to the other housemates. This was the last straw for the normally calm and collected Natasha, raising her voice, ironically with what she said to Austin: “You don’t have to shout!” Austin broke down and sobbed in the Diary Room about his difficult past, before going out and being offered a cup of tea by the British housemates.
The winner was James Hill who had been a contestant in series 10 of The Apprentice. James came across much different from what he did on The Apprentice, much more mature. In this company, he was one of the more sensible ones, and while he didn’t always come across too well in The Apprentice, in this series he seemed like a great guy. To be shallow, he is a very good looking too. He left the house to ‘Heroes’ by Mans Zelmerlow. So the brat of The Apprentice became the hero of Celebrity Big Brother. Draw your own conclusions from that.
A random highlight for me, the housemates dancing to ‘Push It’ by Salt-N-Pepa backed by Scoop MC-ing.
I also enjoyed the repeat actions task. Janice was repeatedly told to go into the Diary Room and told that her microphone wasn’t working. When Janice came out, Austin had to shout for James, Farrah shushed him, Stevi & Chloe kissed, Sherrie walked out with toilet paper stuck to her shoe, Jenna spilt a bottle of water, and Natasha sung ‘Whole Again’ to Bobby teaching him the lyrics. They had to repeat that over and over again.
Overall, Celebrity Big Brother 16 was pretty good. It had a decent set of housemates and twists, and had a few storylines going on rather than just relying on one or two housemates (like CBB11 being about nobody but Rylan and Speidi) or just being a random mess (like most of the civilian series for the past seven or so years). The theme also didn’t end up getting forgotten about the way Big Brother themes usually do, it continued more or less to the end. This was one of the better series.