Friday, 4 January 2013

Oh Brother

Once upon a time, the identity of the Celebrity Big Brother housemates was a closely guarded secret. The press would create a grid of silhouettes that looked like generic Facebook avatars, and speculate at length about who might be going in. All they had to go on was a sheet of clues from Endemol that was so cryptic it would have given Dusty Bin a nosebleed. Then again, those were the days when Big Brother was 'water-cooler' TV - so named for the fact that people would gather around it to discuss the previous night's action. Now, most of us would rather just watch the cooler than suffer through the show. And the mystery reveals are long gone, as the names and faces have been in the paper all week. Like a filmed adaptation of the Daily Mail's sidebar of shame, it's a predictable line-up of faces from soaps, reality TV, and a Bella article about plastic surgery fails.

There's a big twist this time, with the house divided, Downton Abbey-style. Half the housemates will live in luxury in the main part of the compound, with the rest in a shabby below-the-stairs basement. Brian's down there right now, threatening to unleash some 'true horror,' like a little gay Josef Fritzl. He promises two hours of drama and excitement, and I'm looking at my watch wondering whatever happened to sixty-minute shows.

Housemate number one is Frankie Dettori, who's talks about his successful horse-racing career and dismisses his drugs scandal as a 'moment of madness.' The audience look pretty miserable through all this. They're supposed to be having fun, but it's like watching out-takes from the new Les Mis adaptation. Five more minutes and it could all kick off over a damp baguette. Frankie's still on the carpet, waiting through the ad-break for his first housemate. And here I am, three days into 2013 and already writing about Rylan Clark again. He babbles and makes noises with his curiously stretched mouth, and I'm left to marvel at how someone can fail on a modeling show and a music show, only to qualify as a celebrity and clear favourite to win this series of BB. As the pair with the most ridiculous teeth, Rylan and Frankie will be deciding who'll be living in which part of the house. Rylan keeps squealing "drop me out," and I'm wondering just how clever my voice-activated Smart TV is. The boys are in the diary room ready to judge the housemates in pairs, but their curiously mismatched sizes make Frankie look like a ventriloquist's dummy.

Brian introduces our next housemate - it's the 'original supermodel' Paula Hamilton. She tells us that she can handle a chainsaw, and by the looks of her, so can her surgeon. Paula reckons she used to get picked up in a Lear Jet to go to work, but since she looks as though she spent last night in a shopping trolley, we can forgive her the occasional lapse into fantasy. She also describes herself as an eccentric, which probably means that she's so dull that I'd be excusing myself with tales of a bladder infection if I ever met her at a party. Tricia Penrose sounds like Lulu and dresses like she's trying out for the Priscilla musical. She's been in loads of TV shows, none of which I've ever seen her in. Rylan and Frankie have to decide which of them is going to the basement - Rylan apologises by explaining: "We have got a job to do." There's a first time for everything, I suppose.

While Brian busies himself by making weak jokes, laughing at them, then excusing himself, we're off to meet Toadfish from Neighbours. He joined the show just as I stopped watching it, and over the years seems to have grown from a lumpy awkward teenager into someone who might supervise a bin-round. Brian asks him if he knows Kylie. Because she's Australian, you see. He says he doesn't know her personally, but he knows who she is. I have a feeling that's the last time we'll be hearing those words tonight. Joining Toadie on stage is Gillian Taylforth, who's here so that we can all make blowjob jokes on Twitter. Brian wastes no time in getting one in about 'Gillian going down' - so the bar's been set pretty low. To be fair to Gillian, she's six years older than Paula Hamilton and could teach the model a thing or two about aging gracefully.

Speaking of Paula, there's an awkward moment as Ryan joins her in the basement and she thinks he's part of the crew. I guess even the name badges aren't helping with guest anonymity this year. Upstairs, Tricia's thrilled by how many crisps there are in the store room. And that just makes me a little sad about the standard of crew catering on Heartbeat. At this point in proceedings, Twitter is erupting in accusations of a conspiracy, as it's alleged that all the people going to the basement have come out dressed in their warmest winter clothes. This is shocking - I expect a higher standard of broadcasting integrity from my Channel 5 reality shows.

Sam Robertson is apparently an actor from Beaver Falls and Coronation Street. I just hope that Wikipedia doesn't crash under the weight of all the extra traffic it's going to be getting tonight. Oblivious to today's Yewtree excitement, he tells the crew he's got "three girls waiting in bed," and proceeds to jitter and twitch like Colin Farrell on a three-day bender. Somewhere in heaven, Kenneth Williams is pulling his best Maggie-Smith-face, as he hears that the next housemate is a busty glamour model called Lucy Banghard. The poor girl reckons that people think she's stupid because she's a page 3 model, and not because of the inane bullshit dribbling from her mouth.

Next in the firing line is Claire Richards, who describes herself as one fifth of Steps, when thirty percent might have been more accurate. She tries to pretend that it's other people who perceived her as the lead singer, whereas I think it's probably the fact that she did all of the singing. Claire's joined on the red carpet by Razor Ruddock, who's something of a regular on reality shows. He's talking about his wife in a derogatory way that suggests he might have been the last minute replacement for Jim Davidson. One from their 'loathsome misogynist' folder. Brian helps out with "Claire, Razor, Claire, Razor," but it's not clear whether he's making introductions or inciting her to self-harm. Claire gets to join the main house, as her fellow housemates bring out the food, but someone in the catering team appears to have got sushi rolls mixed up with tortilla wraps. Meanwhile, in the basement, Big Brother has to put 50p in the electricity meter. With David Cameron's notorious "We're all in this together" graffitied onto the double doors, I guess this is the closest we'll ever come to political satire on Big Brother.

I'd heard there was a massive pair of tits in this year's line-up and simply assumed they were talking about Lacey. Turns out, they were talking about our last two housemates, Spencer and Heidi from The Hills. That's the original scripted reality show that begat Real Housewives, TOWIE, Chelsea, Scousewives, Geordie Shore and the rest. For that alone they deserve to be locked in the basement and burned alive. Spencer's strategy for winning the show is to wind up the other housemates and make them quit the show. So, based on his previous form, he could have this in the bag within an hour.

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