Big Brother, From Here To Eternity, 2007, Channel 4
Why we’ve given up on Big Brother
1. Every single eviction is predictable. We’re writing this just after it’s been announced that Jonathan is ‘bookies’ favourite’ for the chop. He may as well pack his bags now. For about the past three series, almost every single eviction has been known because of bookmakers’ odds. Davina can pause for as long as she wants but everyone now knows what’s coming.
2. Manipulative editing. We’re not naïve enough to think this started with the Jungle Cats a few years ago, this has been going on since series one – but now it’s much worse. Take the announcement that Jonathan is now the favourite for eviction on Friday. This evening’s episode will seek to cast him in a favourable light to provoke more people to vote for either Carole or Seany using the cynical techniques Charlie Brooker admirably demonstrated in the last series of his excellent Screenwipe.
3. Manipulative gimmicks. After the last series, it was apparent that everyone had grown weary of the incessant gimmicks and tricks the producers employed to make the show seem ‘innovative’ and ‘risqué’ when in fact they were perpetrating the erasure of the last vestiges of what made BB so vital just four years ago. On top of the manipulative editing, the housemates now have their buttons pushed by the producers so they will react in an entirely predictable manner leading to a level of conflict akin to red ants dropped into a black ant nest by chortling schoolboys.
4. More people voting means more money for Channel 4. If we remember rightly, C4 have said that it won’t make money from voting this year – but as it makes up 15% of its income, according to Lord Puttnam, the money must be being raked in somewhere else.
5. Charity, charity charity. As we’re sick of mentioning, slapdash TV shows donating money to charity is just an excuse to act appallingly with the justification that some sick child in Africa will be better off to slap down any criticism. This exploitative extortion actually degrades the efforts of those folk who genuinely want to help the less fortunate rather than guiltlessly revel in some contrived controversy.
6. Illiteracy rules OK. If we remember rightly, it was Lee and Sophie pointing to words in magazines that caused BB to ban any kind of literature in the house. Only now is the folly of such a corrosively unilateral edict being felt. While to many of the idiots who would rather spend their days sunbathing all day and can barely read, this makes no difference, it precludes any soul with an intellect above barbarianism from a chance of showing their true colours. Instead of a blanket ban, why not have a reading room, or demand that anyone reading does so in isolation?
7. Selective morality. Emily should have been kicked out as much for her idiocy as her utterance of a word that has been unacceptable for at least 30 years, but did Charley really suffer the same emotional trauma given the circumstances in which Emily used the word – as a naïve malapropism – as Shilpa in the recent CBB, whether the insults directed at her were of a racial nature or not. Cruelty is tolerable it seems, welcome even, so long as it doesn’t mean the head of C4 might lose his job and those text votes keep piling in.
8. ‘Group dynamic’. This phrase only came into being in about 2002 when the BB producers tried to infiltrate the carnival of stupidity with a stowaway of cerebral nouse. ‘Group dynamic’ does not exist in the real world, it is a compound of two words only used by fools who when they die their souls won’t go to Heaven or Hell but wander aimlessly off to take up eternal residence in the blueprint for some modern Tower of Babel.
Big Brother, Channel 4, Wednesday 30 April 2007
Our verdict on the 11 female housemates (Big Brother producers finally gave into temptation and recreated a scene from 1984, in which a pack of rats are tossed into a confined space to tear each other apart before starting on the male victim – he’ll be thrown into the oestrogen inferno on Friday).
• Amanda and Sam, 18-year-old twins, who will be causing anxiety among those who can remember the war as their incessant, shrill shrieking is identical to the sound of an incoming Doodlebug rocket. On the bright side, anybody watching Springwatch will have seen sibling cannibalism among barn owls, tawny owls and buzzards confined in a small space – we can but hope that such habits transferred into the BB house over the coming weeks. Or that the mystery man introduced on Friday is Dr Josef Mengele.
• Lesley, a 60-year-old retired headhunter who is so posh she probably pisses champagne but has an austere deportment that resembles a brutal caning, and facial features that seem to require planning permission to alter into anything but sourness.
• Charley, 21. “I was a lapdancer,” she laments. But has now slunk even lower down the social scale into the fiery pits that even vermin are too proud to inhabit in her role as professional parasite leeching off her famous cousin soon-to-be-ex-Manchester United winger-cum-man-who-always-finishes-last-in-a-three-legged-race Kieran Richardson. She is also the absolute inversion of William Shakespeare to English resembling some semantic barbarian from Scandinavian shores hacking up the language with such phrases as “Just blaze it up” and “Bug my brain out.”
• Tracy, 36, the lovechild of Worzel Gummidge and Bez who seems to have lapped up her entire vocabulary – “proper buzzin’”, “Unlucky Kentucky” – from the verbal vomit disgorged by clubbers into a dank alleyway as they stumbled out of the Hacienda circa-1989. Strangely likeable.
• Channelle, 19, a woman with even lower ambitions for her existence than a sperm bellyflopping on to a Kleenex tissue – she wants to be Victoria Beckham. Has something of Sherlock Holmes about her in that she managed to track down Victoria Beckham’s unreleased second album “on the internet” – which makes it the second most execrable use of the internet, above spam emails.
• Shabnam, 22, the one who tries extra hard to be ‘whacky’ in their interview tape (“People think I have a larger than life personality!”), but are in reality so dull that they would cause laughter to jump off Beachy Head rather than be associated with them. Her face is also so shiny that should she ever go outside she will need to beware of magpies who will steal her lips, cheeks and teeth with which to feather their nests – but soon toss them out once they feel their cold inhumanity.
• Emily, didn’t get her age but judging by her maturity she will probably need a supply of nappies. Like many of the other housemates she seems to have been selected solely for her resemblance or tenuous link to some bloodsucking non-entity. In her case it’s Peaches Geldof. “There’s a new music that’s taking over the country!” she proudly exclaimed. What could it be? Experimental grebo-pop? Industrial balladry? No. “It’s called Indie!” A revelation that would shock Morrissey, Pixies and Sonic Youth. This claim was innocent enough, but did make her the perpetrator of a far more heinous crime – reading the NME.
• Laura, 23, is Dawn French on fast-forward and fills the role of the roly-poly one who everybody loves at first but who soon shreds their façade of jauntiness to reveal a visage made up of poisonous barbs which often fill deep pits that foreign-speaking blokes fall into in Indiana Jones movies.
• Nicky, 27, possibly the most average person ever to appear on Big Brother and even seemed likeable until Davina revealed her “dream shag” was “Calum Best”. For such people there should be a specialist police unit who can carry out summary sterilisation for anyone even thinking about perpetuating that repellent bloodline (sorry, George).
• Carole, 53, looks like what most people imagine lentils taste like. This peace campaigner acts as if she’s only got six months left to live but in that time she’s going to browbeat everyone she meets into thinking in exactly the same way as she does. Any dissenters will be slipped in a noose and dragged like a crippled dog to some dingy festival to be brainwashed by emotionally corrosive songs played on an acoustic guitar round a campfire while everyone else claps along before crawling into their tents for a night of slumbering complacency.
Big Brother, Channel 4, Forever and ever
1. Carole. Reminds us of the giant peach in James And The Giant Peach.
2. Tracey. If the bubbles surfacing on a witch’s cauldron ever evolved into humanoid form then this is what they’d look like.
3. Nicky. Has huge eyes that seem to be growing over her face at a faster rate than ozone holes over the poles.
4. Laura. Popular with the baying crowd as her plumpness means she is less attractive than most of them and can so be viewed as a harmless, excitable pet.
5. Emily. Has the perpetual look on her face of a rich student visiting an orphanage in a deprived part of Africa simply so she can have some photographs taken with emaciated children in her arms to impress her friends on Facebook.
6. & 7. Sam and Amanda. If Simon Cowell ever decides to try to wipe out birdsong and replace it with his own whining, wordless creations then the sum total of the ‘Twincredibles’ contribution could be his jackpot.
8. Lesley. Seems to have been cut out of rough cardboard to the point that she might be stolen from the house by an opportunist tramp and used as improvised bedding.
9. Chantelle. One of the Raggy Dolls who was exiled because of her tendencies to turn the toy basket into a model of fascistic efficiency.
10. Shabnam. Wears an expression of someone stumbling across a gruesome Satanic ritual who, after the initial shock, can’t help but relish the event.
11. Charley. If you go to the seaside and lift a shell to your ear, the sound of the crashing ocean is magically audible. Hoist Charley to your ear and you’re treated to an aural representation of the Battle of Hastings, replete with bitter arrows flying arbitrarily about the melee.
12. Ziggy. Ziggy Zach Zebedee Ziggurat Zarathustra’s entrance confirmed that to even enter the (ab)normal Big Brother you need to be at least famous by association. In fact, it’s probably worse than that as Ziggy’s top 20 hit as part of an anonymous boy band makes him at least twice as qualified to appear on Celebrity Big Brother than about half the housemates in its history. And what of ZZ Fop himself? Well, his pinstripe mouth looks like an escape tunnel from a POW camp that’s collapsed in on itself through being soaked through with egotism. He also has a number of tattoos. In a foreign language. Something which ranks him below dirty socks in things to rescue from a blazing building.
Big Brother On The Couch, Channel 4, Sunday 3 June 2007
Icarus Mope, parapsychopsychotherapistphysiotherapist to the stars, analyses the behaviour of Davina McCall and her guests with the aim of burrowing to the most profound root of human existence.
Davina McCall – You see Davina on Big Brother On The Couch and what do you think? You think, if you think like me, a woman on the verge of being knocked off her perch like a raven with a gammy wing. Her apparent insistence on providing the unnecessary narration to the actions of the housemates – which incidentally consumes about half of the programme – is endemic of someone feeling threatened.
It’s also to show the sceptics that she has more than one shrieky harridan string to her bow – she narrates as if commenting on a funeral of a non-entity that is being attended by at least three famous people.
Later on she provided indelible evidence that she felt out of her intellectual depth when offering her own theories on housemate behaviour. To do so she adopted a little-girl-lost’s voice so that should anyone expose her conjectures as the mindless prattling it so truly was then she can excuse its seriousness by claiming she was talking in tones of jocular levity.
Dr Harry Witchal – His inexperience of being in front of a TV camera was plain for everyone to see. His hands were everywhere – on his knees, karate-chopping down to emphasise his points as if fearful he would otherwise be ignored. He also had a nervous predilection of motioning his hands in an arcing movement, even when what he was saying had very little to with it.
He also seems to attribute Davina as the dumb figurehead of Big Brother, as when explaining something complex he fixed her with a stare and spoke faster as if this would aid hers – and the like-minded audience’s – comprehension.
Dr Witchal is also fiercely protective of his theories for when Davina tried to steal his thunder with some lame observation of her own he palmed her off with a “Brilliant!”; which may have seemed to be a harmonious agreement but was in fact a wilfully moronic rejoinder to reflect her distillation of his profound theories to a hackneyed platitude.
Dr Witchal’s observations of Tracey provoked Davina to perform an improvised impersonation of the housemate distinguished by her rolling shoulders – a physical action copied by Dr Witchal as he revelled in the social pleasure of having moved another human being to such excitement.
Big Brothers – The Big Brothers, in reality production staff trained in the art of inglorious monotone, have been ordered to extort the most primal emotions from the housemates with open questions that order “feelings” like a pink cardigan from a catalogue; a plastic product gift-wrapped for the supposed viewing idiots to compact feelings down to their basest form.
“You say you don’t have anything in common with anyone else in the house,” ‘BB’ asked Tracey. “How does that make you feel?”
The consequence is an illusory exchange of emotional data, that is as vague and intellectually choking as a dust cloud billowing through an arid plain.
A similar query was posed to Ziggy. “How does it feel being the only man in the house?” “I can’t tell you how it feels,” he replied, employing the cowardly tactic of the emotionally-illiterate by promoting the state of being unable to articulate emotion is somehow indicative of a more profound state of being than someone emotionally-literate being able to analyse their mental state down to the very last atom.
Judi James – The most notable feature of Judi’s contribution was her hand movements to explain her thoughts. They were quite restricted and passive in their flow, as if in the knowledge that she was forbidden to enter Davina’s airspace and that she is the interloper and must show respect.
Davina sensed this passivity and leaned in to challenge the intellectual authority of Judi and encouraged her to put forward some of her laywoman’s observations. All of which made Judi even more timid and her hand movements no longer seemed to correlate with what she was saying; becoming reflexive and well-practised, etching circles in the air, as if too repressed to act with any spontaneity.
And when Judi’s piece came to an end she was applauded by the studio audience, and ostensibly instinctively leaned away from the ovation, smiled meekly and held her arms tight to her body – all of which seemed to suggest modesty and that she was caught unawares by the applause. But given that applause are a mechanical inevitability on such shows, the whole response was more a façade to perpetuate the impression of her humility.
Tomas – Tomas had rehearsed exactly what he was going to say and so simply sat back in his chair and disgorged his theories on which housemate would be up for eviction this week. But he became so wrapped up in his own cerebral indulgences that Davina had to push for his answer, which was Charley.
Big Brother Final, Channel 4, Friday 31 August 2007
Did we like it?
Almost all the evil had been exorcised from the house in previous weeks and all that remained was a mish-mash of decency, agreeable blokiness, pink emptiness, endearing stupidity, micro-megalomania and sensitivity learned from books. Big Brother is still the ultimate expression of Hate TV and when the audience is denied the chance to hate it becomes hateful TV.
What was good about it?
• None of the six remaining housemates were especially appalling human beings. Jonty probably isn’t eccentric but merely likes to be thought of as such so people at least think about him in some way; Carole was just an old woman with a big mouth; Ziggy was perhaps the worst of the bunch but this was for his endless efforts at being ‘nice’ and ‘reasonable’; Liams are seen staggering through the streets of any habited area of the UK with a population greater than six; Amanda and Sam showed what happens when two pockets absolute nothingness up residence in the human skull; and Brian was an idiot, but didn’t seem to take pride in his idiocy, in fact he was so thick he doesn’t even know what pride is.
• Amanda and Sam not winning as their triumph would have been akin to a Best Planet in the Solar System Award being won by the empty vacuum between the orbiting celestial bodies.
• Ziggy summed up his entire life in one sorry sentence: “I don’t know what to say, man!”
• The bookmakers not being able to destroy what little tension there was with a correct prediction. The more parasitical bookies had “already paid out” on a win for Sam and Amanda in the hope they would be interviewed on the TV news standing outside a heavily logo’d branch. But the feral roar of the crowd indicated that millions of people were stabbing their mobile phones to vote for Brian “to win”, which he duly did.
• A thankful upshot of Brian’s victory the vanquishing of those voices as absurdly conspiratorial as the opinions expressed in the Daily Express over the true nature of the coercion of Amanda and Sam into ‘one’ housemate, i.e. to stop a black person from winning as opposed to killing Diana, Princess of Wales to stop the heir to the throne’s mother being married to a Muslim. It was nothing so ‘devious’; it was simply a method to artificially shrink the overcrowded house down to fit in with the ramshackle, virtually-improvised eviction schedule.
What was bad about it?
• “Channel 4! You are live on Channel 4! Please do not broadcast full-frontal nudity of any kind before 9pm else this demolishes your already crumbling right to act as any sort of moral authority on the behaviour of others!”
• The problem with Emily’s absence wasn’t so much the absence itself, but more that it had been sanctioned by Channel 4 as it was the moral equivalent of George W Bush’s protests against the Iranian government for their role in their slaughter of Iraqi civilians. In both cases, the decisions of C4 and Bush seemed to be fuelled by an outrage that both their acts were being stolen rather than any moral disgust – as the only controversy, racist or otherwise, in Big Brother is allowed to be caused or encouraged by BB itself, while Emily’s racist outburst wasn’t part of the carefully conceived script.
• The charity clause, whereby all the amorality of Big Brother, such as the abysmal manipulation of fascistic punishments for minor indiscretions that causes antagonism amongst the housemates, is rinsed away by the warm glow of charity.
• Carole’s speech in the farewell dinner on Thursday during which she recited the worst poem ever written: “What can I say/ You’ve made it all the way.”
• Amanda and Sam seemed to have inadvertently invented a moron’s dialect of Orwell’s newspeak with “Treble cringe” replacing “Plus, plus bad”, coupled with the fact that they probably can’t say 2+2=4 as the numbers look too much like spiders.
• Channelle looks utterly dreadful as if she’s a life size plastic model of herself in the Big Brother toy range. Her face seemed to need the assistance of an industrial crane to express her hurt – “What about me?” – when Davina seemed to omit her from the roll call of ex-housemates after the booing for the preceding Charley had drowned her out.
• Jonty’s forlorn hope: “We should all make sure we stay in touch, not just say that we will.” There speaks the voice of a thousand false goodbyes, striding away from joyous times in his life with optimism bobbing in his breast that his new pals will break down the gates of Hell to see him again but after a month or so his conviviality is sucked out of him by their silence.
• Upon his eviction Jonty delivered the most gauche and excruciating performance of televisual discomfort since Harold Wilson’s chat show. Davina crowed: “The man [in the crowd] just said ‘legend’! Well done!” This was perhaps the most crushing moment of the whole night; a ‘legend’? In a thousand years will tourists snake through the ruins of the Big Brother house and stand mouth agape in awe as the tour guide points out where Munkety Tunkety exhibited signs of Jonty’s borderline insanity, the bench where Jonty slapped Kara-Louise’s arse or the invisible wall of derision that built up between Jonty and the rest of the housemates until they realised they could pity him and show their sensitive side to raise their stock with the voting public.
• And when Davina was mocking him for his excess wind, he made a pun worthy of a lab assistant – “I have to say life was a real ‘gas’ being in that house” – it wouldn’t have mattered if the crowd had understood the joke (they were the usual scrapings of facial acne who would lose out on a place at university to the audio waves created by a tiger stalking through the jungle), it was a very weak joke.
• The only people with a more craven desperation to be famous than some of the ex-housemates are those fools who scream out nonsense during the interviews before inevitably posting it on YouTube, which is a refuge for the hordes of mediocrities who yearn for glory above their talent.
• Davina: “Journeys! We all talk about journeys!” Nobody talks about journeys other than squawking TV hosts frantic to fabricate a narrative from the shredded threads of a nobody.
• Davina’s technique for cutting short a rambling housemate once she’s extorted the flesh and blood of their “time in the house” is to launch into the BB lifeblood of an ad break is to pay them a uniform, completely inaccurate compliment in the hope that it will shut them up. Carole was silenced with a “I hear you, sister!”; and while Brian’s gibbering moved out of the galaxy of intelligible English, Davina silenced him with a “Brian, we love you. You’re such a deserving winner!”
• Every time Ziggy opens his mouth on his smooth slab of a face it resembles a perilous crevice opening up on in the Antarctic wilderness after being stepped on by an oblivious explorer.
• Davina: “There are FOUR minutes until the next vote count!” She may as well have dived through your TV screen and snorted up any coins and notes in the house such was her fervour to drain the country of a little bit more of its wealth to support an infirm TV show.
• In his interview Ziggy said: “Carole used to cook shitloads, oops!” Suddenly aware that he was live on Channel 4 and that he shouldn’t swear, but was unaware that his “shit”s have been broadcast uncensored on Channel “please do not swear” 4 since about the third week.
• Davina’s Bill Clinton ‘impression’, in which she sounded more like Dennis Bergkamp, when broaching the subject of his relationship with Channelle: “Did you have sexual relations?”
• Brian tarnishing his victory with his adherence to Noel Edmonds’ odious belief in cosmic ordering, and Davina’s implicit endorsement of that same whirlwind of mendacity when she compared Brian’s cosmic order for a “journey” to his victory on Big Brother. Although this dalliance with foul faith did align the show with the original concept of Big Brother – the eradication of free will