It was the British summer of the year 2000. In the previous year, a new television show concept had launched in the Netherlands. A group of strangers living in a house together, their every move filmed and every word recorded. The contestants had no contact with the outside world except for the disembodied voice of their keeper, Big Brother. In the year 2000, Big Brother arrived in the UK.
In anticipation of a niche audience appeal and potentially raunchy content, Channel 4 broadcast the daily highlights show at 11pm but by halfway through the series it was clear that Big Brother had become a national obsession, even without anyone getting jiggy for the cameras. The daily show moved to a friendlier time of 10pm. On Friday nights viewers rushed home in time for the prime time eviction show: “Big Brother house, this is Davina, you are live on Channel 4, please do not swear!”
I freely admit, I was every bit as obsessed with Big Brother as the rest of the world, maybe even more so. In 2004 I attended the UK auditions; in 2005 the Australian auditions in Perth. Being a much quieter creature than I can be now, I didn’t get very far in the selection process, but if you don’t try you’ll never know, right? In my first year in Australia I lived in a backpacker hostel, but I borrowed a portable TV from a workmate so that I could keep up with Big Brother.
In the early years, the Big Brother format was so unique that everything the contestants did was interesting; every aspect of the show was new and intriguing. How did people react to being cut off from the outside world, to interacting and bonding with strangers? Would people change, maybe even turn on each other after weeks of self-inflicted house arrest?
The friendships and relationships forming between the contestants quickly became the main focus of the show. In each series of the show alliances developed within the group, contestants using other contestants emotions and personality traits against them, because after all this was not a show about a group of strangers becoming friends, it was a competition, everyone was in it to win a chunk of cold hard cash.
Year after year, we’re watching a show about people conspiring against each other, forming strategic alliances masked as friendships, critiquing each other for competitive advantage or sometimes from sheer boredom. I’m almost ashamed to say that I only realised this year just how damaging these behaviours can be when replayed in real life; how Big Brother can actually encourage a negative way of thinking and of interacting with others.
The contestants in Big Brother Australia don’t actually do anything, for three whole months, except lay around in the garden and occasionally participate in increasingly brain dead tasks and games. Yet in the opening sequence of a show last week, I heard contestants earnestly lament that they had fought so hard to be here, that they would keep on fighting now to be in the final week, they would battle on because they were now in with a real chance of winning, blah-de-blah etc etc.
Excuse me, maybe I missed something, but what battle are you fighting exactly? What have you been doing for the last three months for our entertainment? I have not seen you recreate a celebrity chef’s signature dish against the clock at a moments notice, nor have I seen you puff and pant around a training field at the mercy of Michelle and the Commando. You have not participated in a treasure hunt that takes you across six countries in three days, while still finding time to abseil down the side of an iconic building or two. I have not seen you sing your heart out to the point of making Danni Minogue cry or Ronan Keating lead the audience in giving you a standing ovation. You haven’t even had an opportunity to get properly wasted and end up in a threesome with members of the cast of Geordie Shore.
Compared to the myriad of reality TV characters served up for our entertainment every week, you haven’t actually done anything at all. You don’t entertain me anymore. I think this year, it’s time to go..Big Brother.
I started this post a few days ago and as I sat down to finish it tonight; I found that that the Big Brother finale happened to be tonight. I made myself watch the whole thing, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything of substance and that my comments were justified. As suspected, I hadn't missed anything much; but regardless of my opinions, congratulations to BBAU2013 winner Tim :)
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
All text content © Nicola Ranger 2013-2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.
All reader comments are moderated before publication.