Tomorrow for supposedly the last ever time several hundred housemates will enter the Big Brother UK house in a forlorn attempt to forge a media career. Although the omens aren’t good for a long career as these days the media forgets about BB winners faster than the previous serial killer, the omens are good that the show may bow out with a bang not a whimper.
There's a heavy nostalgia factor, I hate football, and the Internet buzz is enthusiastic after the show re-introduced 24-hour coverage so fans can enjoy watching people silently picking their noses whenever they want. And the show appears to have rediscovered a sense of fun, as against all odds the last celebrity version was entertaining and it even had some intelligent conversation. Best of all the show is planning its worst ever opening night twist with more housemates cramming into the house than there'll be people in the baying mob of a crowd. Then based on some random process their numbers will be whittled down. Now, the last time BB picked a housemate randomly, the randomness somehow randomly resulted in the random housemate being the media-obsessed wife of a millionaire media mogul who had reportedly said he'd pay anything to get his wife in the house. Four years on conspiracy fans still debate that random moment and the coverage of that girl who almost wore dresses picking a random ball has been more carefully analysed than the Zapruder film. So picking all the housemates randomly is sure to get the show off to a highly-debated disaster and BB always works best when its close to collapse.
So once those random housemates have entered the house, how can one person come out as the winner several months after the last football has been kicked? After ten series the rules of winning are fairly well known, but here's my take.
1. Go on a journey
I don’t mean an actual journey like those two aliens who disguised themselves as human beings (or it might have been the other way round) to go around London last year did. I mean it's important to do something that the producers can interpret as an emotional journey. It doesn't have to involve any real emotion, but it helps to do things like boil an egg in week 3, or have slightly less arguments in week 7 than week 6, or give up smoking when the fags run out. You can come out of the house the same obnoxious, self-absorbed, work-shy idiot you were when you went in. But as long as you've done something that will let Davina use the word journey when she's gushing over you, you could be the winner.
Note of caution: If this fails and you get kicked out early, try to avoid using the word, although four years on I still fondly remember one housemate wailing, "but my journey is not yet complete!"
2. Represent a hitherto unknown socially disadvantaged group
At first sights this is a tricky one to accomplish if you're not a member of an obviously socially disadvantaged group such as being a virgin, a transsexual, or a cross-dressing crusty with tourettes. But luckily social disadvantage exists purely in the eyes of the viewers. Two years ago a housemate with poor hygiene appeared to have it in the bag from the start, but the viewers revolted against his revolting behaviour and voted instead for the less obvious disadvantaged group of girls next door. Last year they went for the even less obvious disadvantaged group of pneumatic, brain-dead glamour models, so this only proves everyone is disadvantaged and the winner just has to work out what their disadvantage is and position themselves accordingly.
Note of caution: Being posh will never be viewed as a socially disadvantaged group.
3. Pretend to be stupid
This gets harder every year as the bar was set very high early on by some depressingly stupid people. Luckily the capacity for viewers to enjoy watching loveable idiots who are too stupid to find France on a map of France or to count up to one even with the aid of a calculator is unlimited. It's not even essential to keep up the act. You can discuss the allegorical allusions in post-modernist art a few moments after claiming you've never heard of Shakespeare, or calculate to the penny how much your agent will deduct for you showing various parts of your anatomy in lads' mags immediately after claiming not to know who the President of Britain is. Viewers accept this as part of the game and even the merest hint of knowing something about the world that can’t be found in a celebrity magazine is sure to lead to an early exit. This is doubly important to remember if you do actually have a job, so, for example, trainee teachers should show they know less than their pupils do.
Note of caution: There are no prizes for being the second most stupid person in the house. That just looks stupid.
4. Start and end your faux-romance
Pretending to have a romance with the most photogenic housemate used to be essential to ensure you could sell your non-story of your non-romance to the non-thinking part of media. Now that the media send all their investigative reporters on missions to tease out the truth about other reality shows, the rules of romance have changed. Now it's important to pretend to have a romance and then pretend to end it. This gives you plenty of coverage on the highlights and then it provides plenty of sympathy when you separate and you make it look like the pretend break-up wasn't your fault. Either way, if you're a woman remember that WAG is now a profession with a higher standing than doctor, lawyer and accountant, so ensure you make it clear that you're training to be a WAG. If you're a bloke, make sure your pretend romantic object is unrequited or appear to be too self-absorbed to know someone is pretending to fancy you.
Note of caution: Do not start and end faux-romances with every housemate in the house, especially if you are already conducting a faux-romance with someone from another reality tv show.
5. Break the fourth-wall
Appealing directly to viewers always goes down well. Having a divine revelation that you'll stop believing in God if you don’t win or stating that if you don’t win you might not be able to afford a new boob enhancement will always bring in the votes. Direct to viewers speeches are always best done in the diary room where the other housemates won't get to see you being witty, clever and bitchy. They won’t find out you’re a threat until it's too late or until you annoy a producer and they show the footage to everyone in the house. If you're not erudite enough to do this, just mumble. Subtitles give the highlights a sophisticated European film feel even when every other word is like.
Note of caution: Simon Cowell has raised the bar on mawkish appeals to viewers so dead hamsters, relatives with colds and the trauma of a particular leaky zit is not enough. The fate of the entire planet now needs to hang in the balance in your appeal.
6. Remember your target demographic
Most viewers who are old enough to pay their own phone bills don’t vote, and most viewers who are male don’t vote either, so remember who you’re trying to appeal to. If you're a bloke, try to look cute by taking your shirt off. Teenage girls don’t care if you're so obnoxious you try to pick a fight with someone when you're in the middle of getting a formal warning for picking a fight with someone. As long as your shirt is off, they'll excuse you. If you're a woman it's harder to appeal to teenage girls, but being unattractive and so not being a threat appears to work best. So pretend to be drunk a lot, worry about your looks, claim to be unlucky in love, and put on as much weight as you can. Either way avoid housework as the young voters think that's a boring thing that adults do. It'll prove you have the right priorities in life and it'll make everyone else look bad when they shout at you for being a lazy poseur.
Note of caution: Teenage viewers don’t watch BB any more. You might spend 3 months with your shirt off and all you'll get is a cold and a gay following.
7. Remember that most people only watch the highlights
Being entertaining 24 hours a day is a sure fire way of ensuring the other housemates will remove you very quickly no matter how often the producers change the rules. So pace yourself. For the first 12 weeks spend 23 and a half hours a day in bed to ensure you don’t get into arguments, but do ensure you provide two minutes of great tv a day. This means picking the moments that'll be shown on the highlights to be animated such as tasks, other people's arguments, anything involving music and dressing up, and being the last one to go to sleep at night. But remember not to leave your two minutes until after you've been evicted. Going surfing across a crowd who move out of the way will ensure you're remembered, but there are no cameras in the Casualty department.
Note of caution: Dressing up as an old woman every night will only make the highlights if you dress up as a funny old woman every night and you're not an ignorant twerp.
8. Stick to the script
The producers picked you for a reason, so do it. If they put you in because you claimed to be loud and annoying, start fights. If they put you in to be bullied, distance yourself and be a victim. If they put in you because you’re an arsonist, set fire to something. If they put you in because you said you were barking mad, be creepy enough to ensure the viewers with OFCOM on speed-dial start complaining. And when you’re in the house, listen to the coaching. If you're asked who you fancy or hate in the house, find out who the producers want you to fancy or hate. If your ex-partner gets surprisingly put in the house, be surprised. If you're walking by the diary room door and a random person is asked to come to the diary room, know that you're the chosen one and stuff those chillies down your throat until you vomit. In short, do what you’re told and the producers will love you, give you plenty of coverage, and they won’t deport you too quickly when you get kicked out for pervy behaviour.
Note of caution: Not remembering your lines is the worst BB crime. The producers will change every rule in the book to get rid of you, your best bits footage will consist of you getting evicted, Davina won't say you were a legendary housemate, and George Lamb will forget your name.
9. Have a no game-plan game-plan.
The show is based on the idea that after 3 months the viewers get to know everyone thoroughly and so they can decide who is the nicest person. This is a dangerous area for housemates because after 3 months everyone becomes boring and worse, most housemates are boring people anyhow. So create interest by having a game plan to be someone else, preferably someone more horrible than you are. Then, when you revert to being your usual boring self viewers will like you. Make sure you ruthlessly eliminate your rivals, stab everyone in the back, and seek allies everywhere to avoid being nominated. You cannot win without a game-plan, but whatever game-plan you choose, do not on any account ever admit you have a game-plan or even look as if you have a game-plan. Even stating that you don't have a game-plan means you've thought about it too much. Nominations should cause you more pain than dental torture and it's a bad idea to shake a fist in triumph when people you hate are evicted. You must appear that you've just turned up to have fun, that you have never, ever, not once thought about winning, and that when you strategically voted for your nearest rival in the final week it was a pure accident.
Note of caution: Include a small part of your own character in the housemate and catchphrases you create, so Thai cookie monsters and chirpy 'I'm only having a laugh, me' geordies are a bad idea.
10. Be a Alt-hero
If all else fails, position yourself as the Alt-hero. Work out who the teenage girls will vote for, then try to be an Internet phenomenon instead. Being quiet, boring and asleep will help as viewers will decide you have hidden depths as after doing nothing for 3 months you must surely be a very deep person. Being dull will ensure you don't get mentioned on the spin-off shows and so it will look as if the producers don't want you to win, appealing even more to the fans of alt-heroes. Even better, when you do something such as eating a cake or dressing up as a cake or making a cake or being in the same room as a cake, it'll appear to be comedy gold. This plan does need preparation though, so get the website set up beforehand, get the facebook campaign started, and get friends to spam the BB forums with support. Then sit back, do nothing, and wait for viewers to bestow hidden depths upon you.
Note of caution: Sadly, you'll be forgotten about ten seconds after Davina troops off to the dole queue, so all in all it might be best to get kicked out in week one and get a job instead.