Celebrity Big Brother 17


The longest Celebrity Big Brother series to date, lasting from the 5th of January to the 5th of February, and they stuffed the house with the most housemates ever for a celebrity series, with 16 going in on launch night. Amazingly it ended up being one of the few celebrity series to have no double evictions! It was because there ended up being three contestants walking out. Coincidently all were more famous for their connection to a bigger celebrity than anything else. David Bowie’s ex-wife, Liza Minelli’s ex-husband, and Kim Karadashian’s friend.

This series had a Vaudeville/Victorian theme. Did they just stick a couple of pins in a dictionary to get the idea for a theme? Still, it didn’t really matter, as they didn’t do much with the theme anyway.

Early on the series was a glorified live action showbiz goss magazine, with the celebs talking about their addictions, “Fame is the biggest one”, gossip about who fancies who, and ex-Strictly Come Dancing dancer Kristina Rihanoff breaking the news of her pregnancy.

Winston McKenzie, an ex-boxer and politician, mostly known for joining almost every political party, including Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Vertitas and the English Democrats, as well as trying for Mayor of London. He has a connection to Big Brother, being the uncle of Angel McKenzie, who was a housemate in a civilian series BB10. Angel went fairly early, but she at least did better than her uncle, who was the first out. He never came across that well, leering at both Tiffany and Nancy, which Nancy complained about. A task revealed some homophobic comments he’d made in an interview before entering the house, which he didn’t retract. He held a meeting where he gave a very pompous, self-indulgent speech however, with “15 minutes for questions”. That eviction was decided by the housemates, with 13 out of 14 choosing to evict him. In his interviews he was full of hot air and avoided answering questions, like many a politician. His time on the show was all pretty unpleasant all round really, so it was a blessing that it was so short.

David Bowie passed away while his ex-wife Angie Bowie was taking part in the series, so obviously she had to be informed. But viewers didn’t like that the show broadcast what at first appeared to be Angie being given the tragic news. She had in fact been told off-camera, and this was a later conversation. But the show didn’t help its case by airing that in the “next time” trailer telling viewers to tune in tomorrow for Angie’s reaction. That was very distasteful.

Angie chose to stay in the house, but wanted to keep the news quiet for a bit, only telling David Gest and John Partridge. What followed though was a complete farce, and as Angie
herself put it “a comedy of errors”. It’s probably going to be the main moment the series is remembered for.

David Gest was ill and was sleeping in bed. Tiffany and Angie were talking, and Tiffany could tell there was something wrong. Angie said to her “David is dead”. Tiffany thought she meant David Gest had died during the night, and went hysterical, while Angie assumed that Tiffany must have just been a big fan of David Bowie’s music. Tiffany told the other housemates, and the back and forth misunderstandings continued until John more or less had to tell them what had really happened. It exploded from then, with Tiffany getting angry and the rest of the  housemates turning on her and considering a mass walkout. Gemma had given Tiffany some shoes, said she wanted them back. A few days later after an argument between Tiffany and Gemma, Tiffany said she could have her shoes back… but by that point Gemma had already taken them back without Tiffany noticing!

The second evictee was Nancy Del’Olio. I like Nancy, but she didn’t really do anything while she was there. She’s beautiful and glamorous, but that was all she added really. Decoration. She was a bit like some leftover Christmas tinsel that someone had forgotten to take down after Twelfth Night.

Jonathan Cheban, who is on Keeping Up With The Kardashians was the first of the quitters, but he did little anyway except low-key griping that his specific tastes weren’t being met, and he was forgotten about even before the series had ended.

David Gest unfortunately had been ill for most of his time in the house, so he didn’t really done much either before walking out, other than namedropping, including talking about “spider following” with Michael Jackson, whatever that is.

Angie also became ill, and couldn’t sleep in the main bedroom. She came in demanding her passport and a ride to the airport. Later, because some were having a party and Big Brother wouldn’t turn off the bedroom lights she started packing her suitcase, trying to exit through the eviction door,then banged on the Diary Room door. “I want to leave now, get me my stuff!” and “Open the goddamn door!”. When Big Brother told her they’d switch the lights off, Angie said “We’ve only been asking for three hours”, then barked “You pathetic capitalist whores! If you want to be cheap, get an uber!” To be fair, it didn’t look like they were taking her seriously despite her obvious wish to leave, so I don’t really blame her for losing her temper. She eventually walked out on Day 15.

Kristina’s eviction was overshadowed by all the walkouts, but also because she had been under the radar and not involved with anything through pretty much her whole time in there.

The next evictee was Megan McKenna, who had been on Ex On The Beach, and was compared to famous civilian contestant Nikki Grahame. While Megan was taller than Nikki, her temper was much shorter. It came to a head one time when she drank too much shouted and screamed at several housemates, getting called into the Diary Room and launching an incoherent, foul-mouthed tirade, hitting the camera meaning security had to enter to calm her down. It was surprising she didn’t get kicked out for it really, though
it might have been partly to do with her drinking after two days of a task where she wasn’t able to eat properly, so she was kind of on an empty stomach. She had to sleep in a spare room, which ended up being used a lot in this series were housemates had to be separated from each other, either because of illness or as a kind of solitary confinement.

Megan had an understandable rant about Stephanie leaving her clothes around like a teenager and borrowing her tracksuit, which ended up being thrown in the pool by Jeremy after she had put pasta and toothpaste in his hair. Megan didn’t reckon much to the Stephanie/Jeremy showmance, telling Jeremy Stephanie was “mugging you off” and that she will go back to her boyfriend and “you will be dropped like a sack of shit”.

Of course, Megan also had a showmance of her own, with Scotty T. I guess there was a kind of North/South coupling, with a Georgie lad and an Essex girl, a bit like Marky and Veronica in Charlie Brooker’s zombie Big Brother parody Dead Set.

Christoper Maloney was on the same X-Factor series as Rylan. I didn’t see that series, other than a YouTube clip via Sofabet of him singing ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’, backed by a screen of an enormous close-up of his face with special effects making it look like it was carved out of crumbly cheese dissolving in a vat of Tizer, and with lasers shooting out of his eyes. He became a hate figure in The X Factor, but he seemed nice enough
on here. At worst he was a bit dull and wimpy, the most memorable thing he did was throw up during a round of face-to-face nominations.

Stephanie Davis first came into the public eye on reality TV with Over The Rainbow, a singing contest casting to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz on the West End. John Partridge was a judge and they got on well back then. Then Stephanie got a part in Hollyoaks but reportedly was sacked for turning up to work drunk. She is actually talented, she’s a good singer and one of the better actors in Hollyoaks. Stephanie won the talent show task for her take on Amy Winehouse. “I’ve never even won at bingo!” she said afterwards. She can be funny and down-to-earth.

Unfortunately, what she mostly did while in CBB17 is a cycle of cuddling and kissing Jeremy in bed and then saying she wanted to marry her boyfriend outside of the house, Sam Reece. Then saying Jeremy was the most amazing man she had met in her life, then saying Sam was the one for her, then… over and over and over again, sometimes in the space of one night! She probably doesn’t know what she wants, but her behaviour was still a bit ridiculous, and as with most showmances, boy did it hog a lot of screentime.

It of course became a big topic in the house, with Gemma Collins stirring as usual, gossiping and judging Stephanie for it, saying she was “an absolute disgrace”. Stephanie counted that Gemma “chats shit about people” all the time, and that she’s only famous for TOWIE anyway. Stephanie was called to the Diary Room and later had to sleep in the task room (as David Gest at that point was in the spare room). Stephanie had a bizarre rant about how “Gemma is a thousand times taller than me and she looks down at me like I’m an ant!”. It looked even more surreal given that the task room was large, painted black and had the tiny bed in a corner, looking a bit like a psychiatric ward or to use another Charlie Brooker reference, the ‘White Christmas’ episode of Black Mirror, where Oona Chaplin’s character became trapped in a computer cell.

Stephanie called Gemma “The Lion King” and “Simba” because of her huge mane of bleached blonde hair. Later she said Gemma was like a lion and saw the other housemates as mice she picked up by their tails with her claws and putting them where she wants them.

There was that time when while going through dirty laundry John, Darren and Christopher found “pigeon shit” on some knickers. It turned out to be discharge, and the underwear belonged to Stephanie and there followed some pretty unpleasant scenes as it looked like the rest of the house were trying to humiliate her. Gemma and Danniella walked out via a fire exit, then came back again making sure they acknowledged everyone except Stephanie. Gemma later went out of her way to be nasty by blocking Stephanie while she was trying to get past and calling her a prick.

The next day, during an immunity challenge, Stephanie voted Danniella off, then she and Gemma walked out via the fire exit AGAIN. Eventually, amends were made with
a ceasefire over a fish and chip dinner. Danniella, whose problems with Stephanie seemed mainly to be about her leaving her clothes around, apologised and asked them to start again. Gemma did too, though Tiffany thought she only did that because Danniella had apologised.

It came back later when Danniella, who in fairness showed what seemed to be genuine concern for Stephanie, said she’d never work again because of how she’s acted in the house. Stephanie lost it completely, asked to see Jeremy so that they could leave the house together, covered up the Diary Room camera and security had to come in.

I did laugh at a couple of lines Stephanie said during all this, “I just want to go home to my dog”. “Before I came on here the hardest thing I had to decide was what to have for my tea”. But it was all a bit sad really.

Jeremy McConnell was another housemate with a connection to the civillian series of Big Brother, being friends with Marc from BB16. Though while he had a claim for a connection to Big Brother, his claim to “celebrity” status was a bit more dubious, it was said he was Mr. Ireland, but then it turned out he wasn’t. Jeremy is good-looking, despite all the tattoos. I’m not against tattoos per se, but he seems to have more tattoos on his skin than not. He looked like a treasure map! He was almost as inconsistent as Stephanie. One day saying he just wants to have fun away from Stephanie, then saying he’s in love with her. He was evicted against Stephanie (and Tiffany), and gave Stephanie a locket when he left.

After Jeremy left, Stephanie’s popularity grew. It might have been because their love affair wasn’t taking up all the screentime, and Stephanie was a lot more fun without it too. There were also rumours that Sam had cheated on her first, and he had an appearance on First Dates people found him boring. Stephanie also talked about her previous relationship with ex-One Direction star Zayn Malik, and it turned out all the other celebrities still in the house had cheated on partners at some point in their past too, despite getting on their high horses about the Stephanie/Jeremy situation.

Stephanie got to make a Killer Nomination for being the only housemate not to discuss nominations… but then she broke the rules a few minutes later meaning the house
had to go without hot water again. She later had a task where she had to be the centre of attention, which she did by spilling lots of milk. She won gourmet burgers and pints of beer for the house.

It’s become traditional in recent years for a “baddie” in the Celebrity series to go in the last eviction before the final, and this series that was The Only Way Is Essex star Gemma Collins.

Gemma was a shit-stirrer extraordinaire. She was very much the Mean Girl queen bee role that someone usually gets, ruling with an iron fist, having Christopher as a kind of domestic slave and taking him into the toilet to make sure he wasn’t stepping out of line. She was also lazy, refused to do tasks. One famous example was her not spending time in a mobile jail cell claiming she was claustrophobic, or “Kostra-phobic!” as she put it. She couldn’t even do it for ten minutes, even though she’d been in the jail with no problem earlier in the series. This was another source of conflict with her and Stephanie, with Stephanie disliking how vain, shallow and materialistic Gemma was, thinking she’s above using hair-straighteners and after choosing for the house to go without hot water so she could have a professional blow-dry, she was condescending to the hairdresser.

Gemma wasn’t a total monster. Like most of these Mean Girl types, she’s charming enough and friendly enough to get away with it. There were moments when you could even feel sympathy for her, one particular was when she was talking to Tiffany saying she wants true love and to raise a family but doesn’t think it will ever happen for her. Gemma out and out admitted a lot of what she did was for the cameras. One thing was similar to BB6 Makosi’s infamous “I think I might be pregnant” moment. I thought Gemma was a great housemate though, of all the contestants in this series she’s the one who you’d be most able to say “makes good TV”.

There were 6 who made it to the final. Finishing in last place was ex-EastEnders actor John Partridge. He could be a little smug, slimy and serpentine at times. He started out as kind of the house leader, but he ended up losing that as many of the housemates found him two-faced and by the end he was an also-ran.

5th was Danniella Westbrook. She was relatively ‘normal’ most of the time. A little sour perhaps, but hey she used to be in EastEnders. I quite liked how Cockney she got. “Caff”, “gaff”, “mugged off”, “Old Bill”, “geezer”.

Tiffany Pollard ending up in 4th place was a bit of a shock, as she had been the internet favourite. She perhaps wasn’t one of the most well known to most of the UK audience. She’s an American reality TV star from shows like Flavor Of Love and I Love New York. “New York” apparently is her stage name. (Gratuitous pop music trivia/possible Only Connect question – another person who has “New York” as a nickname is Yorick Bakker, the second “bloke wearing a sailor suit” in 90s Dutch Eurocheese act the Vengaboys).

To be honest, I always found Tiffany a bit overrated. That’s not to say I disliked her, but the internet stanning for her seemed to be based on very little. Tiffany was mainly a reliable reality TV vending machine. Insert coin, and out comes a sassy soundbite at eardrum destroying volume. She started out losing her rag when she was nominated, and she began hitting on a number of the guys towards the middle weeks, Darren, Scotty T and Jeremy. When asked to rate the latter two on kissing, her verdict was “Jez, you’re a cheeseburger, but Scotty is the Big Mac”. Not a bad housemate, but definitely the sort that gets overhyped on internet fansites and social media, but who most of the average casual TV viewers don’t really care about. Still, I expected her to get higher than 4th place! She wasn’t that far off being 5th place either. I guess it proves that reality TV fansites and social media are a vocal minority, and there is a silent majority who just watch it on the telly and don’t get involved in the same bandwagons. But she had quite a bad edit in the final highlights, with yet another one of more those “revealing what housemates said behind each others backs” tasks. There is such a thing as bad publicity, as Darren Day noted when he said his ticket sales fell at one time after he got a lot of negative press coverage.

Speaking of Darren Day, he was third place. He was at one time always referred to as “love rat Darren Day”, but since then he has settled down and got married. He wasn’t much of a housemate though. He was dour and uptight. John nominated him early on and Darren bore a grudge throughout the rest of the series. Tiffany hit on him and he bore a grudge about that for the rest of the series. His exit interview was incredibly boring.

Runner-up and Top Girl went to Stephanie. I was pleased she managed to turn around viewer opinion after a lot of people were verbally or via text were all piling on to stick the boot in her over the situation with Jeremy, who didn’t anything close to the amount of bile thrown at him that Stephanie did, but that’s just the usual sexism of Big Brother viewers, isn’t it?  Stephanie might be a bit of a hot mess at times, and yes she needs to grow up, and yes it’s wrong to cheat on someone. But I don’t think she’s malicious, I think she just doesn’t know what she wants. To be honest, I quite liked her, she’s funny, she has a vulnerability to her and had the probably the least manufactured storyline of this series.

The winner ended up being Scotty T , also known as “Turbo Dick”. He didn’t have that much screentime really. He had a showmance with Megan, and a bromance with Jeremy. He was quite one dimensional, “I’m cheeky chappie only interested in partying and pulling fit birds” etc, and a bit two-faced. He had a tendency to nominate people and act like he was their best mate afterwards, to Stephanie and Tiffany in particular. He spent most of his winner’s interview plugging Geordie Shore, the show he is from.  He is the second person from Geordie Shore to win Celebrity Big Brother, after Charlotte Crosby in CBB12, and Scotty T has won only a few months after Vicky Pattison won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. Fans of that show obviously vote in large numbers.  There was a controversy where Gaz Beadle from Geordie Shore posted on Snapchat a number to call him on, which was in fact a number to register a vote for Scotty T to win, meaning Channel 5 had to refund and cancel those votes. Scotty still won by quite a large margin, but not a particularly great end to the series.

None of the tasks stood out this year, but some were quite good. Even if it was a way of advertising another Channel 5 show, the Lip Sync battle was quite fun, especially John and Christoper camping it up to Cheryl – ‘Call My Name’ and Stephanie dancing to ‘Bonkers’ by Dizzee Rascal dressed a bit like Harry Enfield’s Scousers.

Another fun task was when 44 ducks were in the garden and Darren and Scotty T had to herd them in the pen, and ended up running around in circles.

On Gemma’s birthday, everyone had to go on a mission to make sure she had a bad birthday, in order to get a good birthday party later on. Stephanie and Scotty T had
to down two glasses of brandy meant for Gemma. Gemma’s response was “It’s a pleasure for you to enjoy the fine taste of brandy”.

John and Darren had to have a food fight with Gemma’s party food. Tiffany had to deliver a birthday speech all about HERSELF. Darren had to pretend he’d selected
only songs recorded by him for Gemma’s birthday playlist and Scotty T had to throw her birthday cake over the wall.

Gemma clearly knew what was going on, but it was still a fun task. She received a load of gifts afterwards, including going around the garden with Tony the Shetland pony. Scotty T’s one funny comment of the entire series was saying Tony’s mane had the same blow-dry as Gemma!

Though if there’s any task they should stop doing, it those ones where they get the housemates to eat gross things so we can watch and listen to them puke. Not only are they stale, lazy and unoriginal, it’s not exactly something people are going to tune in for anyway.

There was a Puppet task where the housemates had to be split into Puppets and Puppet Masters. The Puppets had to do all the work while strapped in puppet costumes,
had to sleep in boxes and were given slop to eat instead of normal food. At the end, the task was failed, but both Puppets and Puppet Masters were given a chance to get a luxury shopping budget for themselves by pressing the button. The puppets won, which was good. I mean, the Puppets had to suffer throughout that task and did all the work, the Puppet Masters did nothing. They wouldn’t have deserved a luxury shopping budget even if the task had been won! It was this task that might have led to Megan’s meltdown incidentally.

The initial cast already had a lot of ex-I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here contestants, with Gemma, Darren, Danniella and David all being on there at some point, and they even threw another one in as a “special guest”, Gillian McKeith. There had been rumours that Sam Reece was going in, but he turned them down. Then it was rumoured that White Dee from CBB14 would be the “special guest”. That’s a bit random in itself, but why put Gillian McKeith in? You have wonder how many potential “special guests” said no before they got to her. The Detox task she was a part of was tedious as hell too. Did they just need to pad the series out having made it so long? That’s even before you got into her usual schtick of looking at people’s poo. Who wants to watch that? Not only that, but she got to choose who wouldn’t be able to nominate that round based on how much their shit stank.

The only good thing to come out of this was it led to a telephone answering task where the housemates kept receiving calls from people but had a limited amount of time which obviously they wanted to spend on their friends and family’s calls. Gillian called up a few times and they kept hanging up on her almost immediately. Gemma gave one of the funniest reactions, slamming to receiver down and shouting “Fuck off Gillian McKeith! Go away!”

The press conference in the penultimate episode featuring people who go on BBOTS a lot (Vanessa Feltz, Luisa Zissman, showbiz journos, same people you see in the audience of BBOTS everytime) was awful. Are they that desperate for filler material in the days leading up to the final? Good on Danniella for not rising to Luisa’s cattiness (by just responding “It’s how I am, take me or leave me”), and Tiffany standing up to that fan of the show’s stupid slut-shaming of her and calling her “a cougar 20 years too early”. So, not a cougar then.

Are they going to have any rule regarding nominations, because it seems they just do whatever the hell the feel like at that moment. Like everyone who gets a nomination is up, or 2 or more, or sometimes they do the usual 2 with the most nominations that’s if they even bother doing nominations. I think they should still do normal nominations (fat chance of that!), but 3 or more people up each time and a vote to save.

A couple of random highlights. This bit of narration: “Christopher and Gemma are playing with a lemon in a sock”.

Gemma claiming she saw a ghost in the bedroom. Tiffany thought it would grow stronger as more people leave.

Celebrity Big Brother 17 was a decent series, but all the housemates were flawed in some way, so there was never going to be a completely satisfying winner.  In the end we had a default winner who won largely on a pre-existing fanbase. Perhaps the series was too long. Fatigue set in during the last couple of weeks. But it had its moments.

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