Former OK! editor Christian Guiltenane bids a sad farewell to reality juggernaut Big Brother
It’s the news, no Big Brother fan wanted to hear. The veteran reality juggernaut has finally hit the buffers and has been scrapped!
In what appears to be an act of televisual suicide, Channel 5 today confirmed that it had ditched both the civilian and celebrity versions of the show after having run the series into the ground over the last seven years thanks to a mix of dreadful civilian casting and terrible production decisions.
Channel 5 must be insane, as the most recent series of Celeb BB have been the most talked about shows in the country.
It is true that ratings have dipped over the years and that Love Island has become the reality show everybody adores, but let’s not forget without BB there would be no Love Island. And just look at the great characters it has unearthed over the years – Jade Goody, Brian Dowling, Nadia Almada, Nikki Grahame and many more.
Channel 5 are being incredibly shortsighted to be scared off by the very similar competition like Love Island it spawned.
The reason the sun-soaked love fest does so well is because the show’s casting team have been clever in selecting boys and girls who are as characterful as they are beautiful. None of the recent crop of love-seekers have looked super-desperate for fame. In comparison to the gobby vulgar sideshow stars of Big Brother, the Love Islanders were rather sedate and remarkable genuine and most importantly loveable.
But this is the problem BB has faced for yonks. Viewers fell in love with the villa mates because producers let relationships develop naturally with the smallest amount of interference. Over on Big Brother, show runners scoured the land to find the most odious individuals they could find, shove them in a hideously designed house (last year’s was a right state – fire the designer pronto) and then manipulate them into having arguments twentyfourseven. The result was absolutely unwatchable and so viewers have been turning off in their droves.
What Channel 5 also did was to totally ignore its core audience. Only around 30% of viewers are 16-35 demographic and yet for most years, producers have constantly chased a youth audience by filling the show with tacky down market former Ex On The Beach stars, glamour girls, thugs and twats which turned off the audience even more. The majority of the audience are those who have watched it since it started in 2001 so are in their 30s and 40s. Just look at the brilliant BBOTS audience – they’re not exactly spring chickens!
The last great civilian series was the year Jason Burrell won in 2016. That year had a canny mix of sexy young things; irritants like Ryan Ruckledge and Marco Pierre White Jr, wise and ridiculous older stars like Jane Connery and Jason and witty brainboxes like Andy West. Ratings even saw a slight rise that year and it looked like the show had found its feet again.
However, a year later, a change of casting producer saw the usual bunch of losers back in the house and the show recorded its lowest ratings ever!
Big Brother‘s demise is the result of its own success and that of the rivals it spawned. In a desperate but futile attempt to keep fresh and one step ahead of the rest, BB swiftly lost what gave it its initial appeal. Viewers had always liked watching real people without stars in their eyes interacting with each other. They enjoyed watching folks just like them deal with the obstacles laid before them. But then the series started to go horribly wrong when producers started demanding that house mates had to have some kind of TV experience before they entered the house. What a pile of shit, eh? It defeated the entire object of the show.
I personally still think there is life in the old dog yet. Even in its current state it can still be viewed as a worthy social experiment. Watching the power struggles between a bunch of people from all kinds of social backgrounds living together is endlessly fascinating and rather illuminating.
I bleat on about it this, because the show genuinely means a lot to me as it was such a big part of my formative years in journalism. My eight years at OK! magazine were spent interviewing legendary stars like Jade, Nikki and Michelle Bass, or dressing up Ziggy and Chanelle as Posh and Becks or turning Liam McGough into Henry VIII for a shoot with gobby Charlie Ulchea as one of his six wives – with her head chopped off in a basket! It was madness but brilliant madness, the likes of which you just don’t get nowadays!
I think Channel 5 is absolutely insane for ditching Big Brother and even more so for letting go of the Celebrity version, a series that has constantly made global headlines. The reasoning behind this decision has left me bewildered. I just don’t get it.
So all I can say is, goodbye Big Brother, it’s been fun knowing you. You have given us the best and worst of times. You will never be forgotten. And thanks for the great stars you have given us over the years! The world will be a darker place without you.