Thursday, 18 August 2011

All eyes on FIVE

I don't mind admitting that, back in the early days, I was a proper Big Brother fan. I can still remember my devastation at having to head to the airport for a holiday in Greece the day Nasty Nick was unveiled as a duplicitous manipulator. In retrospect, the outcry over his machinations was a little overblown. He'd been caught scribbling housemates' names on a scrap of contraband paper, and yet the public reacted as though he was Myra Hyndley's hair stylist.

In year two, Channel 4 and Endemol turned the screws even tighter, treating us to round-the-clock footage on the newly created E4. Work colleagues were arriving in the office bleary-eyed, having turned on the TV at three in the morning because "I find it soothing to watch them sleep". Then came the add-ons and celebrity editions, until it seemed as though Big Brother was responsible for 80 per cent of Channel 4's entire output. 

By the time Pete and Nicky arrived in the house, the nation was finally beginning to wean itself off its addiction. We'd been through the early experimental phase, and had collectively endured several years of fame-hungry extroverts. Now we were stuck with the worst kind of housemates. Self-aware and media savvy, they actually talked about showmances and the lucrative nature of post-eviction magazine deals. Pop culture hadn't just eaten itself, it had thrown it back up again and was sniffing at it hungrily like a guilty spaniel.

So now here we are. Having finally said our tearful goodbyes to Davina's wardrobe full of black dresses and Marcus Bentley's dry commentary, Big Brother is back again. But this time, it's on Channel 5. If you thought it was a tacky freakshow before, this is going to be like a summer of back-to-back Sheila's Wheels ads. 

They're easing us into it with a few weeks of Celebrity Big Brother, although I expect that the definition of 'celebrity' is going to be applied creatively. Mindful that we need some familiarity to distract us from the fact that it's on a different channel, Five has retained the music and the set. They've even cast Brian Dowling as our emcee, having being crowned Ultimate Big Brother Champion at the end of last summer. They've even found a Geordie voice-over artist to add an extra wrinkle of familiarity. But the effect is not unlike buying one of those triple disc soul compilations in ASDA, only to find that it's all cheap re-recordings performed by "several of the original artists".

The first two into the house are Kerry Katona and Tara Reid. Both have had pretty public struggles with drugs and alcohol, and are slurring their words like Ozzy Osbourne with a migraine. Tara Reid hasn't really done anything of note since her early appearances in the first couple of American Pie movies. Since then, she's spent the best part of a decade having cheap plastic surgery and falling out of parties with one of her odd-shaped tits poking out her dress. And if you need an introduction to Kerry Katona, well, I envy your ignorance. 

Hopefully, Five haven't spanked all their money on the extensively refurbished house, because they're going to need a bunch of subtitle writers working around the clock. As if the blonde Bill & Ben aren't bad enough, now we've got bare-knuckle fighting traveller Paddy Doherty - think Brad Pitt's dialogue in Snatch, delivered by a sculpture of Mickey Rourke made out of Parma ham.

Hoping to raise the conversational tone, they've also thrown in Amy Childs, a woman most famous for having sparkles all over her lady-pelmet. She's still over the moon about winning a BAFTA against a bunch of dead clever shows: "They was really educational. Is it fictional or educational?" she asks a cameraman who's probably choking on his own tongue. Send in Dimbleby and we can do the next Question Time live from Elstree.

"I am everything that is celebrity", says an Australian twat who looks like he skinned Perez Hilton and fashioned a cheap suit out of the off-cuts. Darren Lyons is a paparazzi photographer, which means he's usually stuck behind a lens. Sadly, that's all about to change for the next few weeks. The audience are booing, but that might just be because they've realised it's another hour until they'll be let out of the enclosure.

Sally Bercow is up next, still getting some mileage out of the fact that she once wrapped herself in a bedsheet and looked out of a window. She comes across as pretty intelligent - it's almost a shame that she's going to be locked in a monkey house for the next few weeks. Three days and she'll be frantically writing conspiracy theories on the breakfast table in coloured chalk.

The housemates have been joined by Lucien Laviscount from Coronation Street and Waterloo Road, apparently. He seems like a nice enough young lad, even if he does sound like a secondary character from an Anne Rice novel.

As if the house wasn't already full of leathery orange skin and bleached hair extensions, here's David Hasselhoff's ex-wife. I don't know much about her, but the fact that David got custody of the kids, despite drunkenly eating burgers off the kitchen floor, tells me that she may have more than a passing familiarity with the vodka bottle.

Brian is promising two more housemates, which means that Jedward are about to be dumped into the house, like an envelope full of anthrax tipped into the air-con. In the meantime, there's a male model called Bobby Sabel. Me neither. He reckons he's not your average model, since he's not arrogant or vain. But he is desperately dull, which means he's at least living up to part of the stereotype.

And finally, here's Jedward to remind us of what happens when Louis Walsh is given a say in anything. They've come out dressed as a cross between Riff Raff and Tony the Tiger. As with all the other housemates, their arrival theme is punctuated with what sounds like a double gunshot. If only.

Now for the twist. I guess it's too much to hope for a giant concrete mixer quietly positioning its funnel over the bedroom. Kerry's been given a secret mission - she has to throw a 'diva strop' so that the other housemates select her as the most irritating contestant. Unfortunately, she's up against some stiff competition. I don't imagine that I'll be tuning in tomorrow to see how she fares...

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