With the final UK Big Brother series halfway through its 11 week run it's a good time to report on how the show is doing, and against all expectations it's going well. Viewing figures are up, the show has been fun, the professional OFCOM complainers have been strangely quiet, and the stench of death that I assumed would hang over the series isn’t there.
This year the housemates are relatively ordinary with no great characters such as last year's Marcus, Freddie or Bea, but then again there are no depressingly dull housemates such as Charlie, Rodrigo or Sophie. The housemates also provide an interesting barometer on the nation. Ten years ago it was deemed a significant moment when a gay man won the show. A few years ago every show had to have a token gay person. Now almost everyone in the house is either openly gay, gay but haven't admitted it yet even if they're so camp they make John Inman look like John Wayne, or lied about being gay to get on the show. It's refreshing to see people be outed as straight.
In addition the production values are fairly high and best of all a change to the way housemates nominate each other for eviction has led to the uninteresting characters being evicted early. So we've lost Beyonce lookalike Rachael, teenage brat Govan, foul-mouthed Nathan and bald Ife. The only unfortunate losses have been trainee doctor (!) Sunshine, a vegan who didn't eat vegetables whose capacity for annoying everyone was so huge she sadly crashed and burned quickly after an argument about crisps. And Shabby, an erudite and lively bit part actress, who treated the show as an extended audition for her acting abilities, but who sadly decided to stage a walkout and nobody followed.
This leaves 11 housemates in the house and using my ten tips for how to win the show, I thought I'd look at who is using each method.
1. Go on a journey
Andrew is the only one attempting the journey route. We can tell that because he tells everyone he's on a journey about three times a day. He's modelled his journey on Glyn from BB7 of being the shy teenager who is trying to shyly grow up and get over his shyness by being shy and cute and a bit more shy. He's the only one in there I hate.
Prospects: Like Glyn he'll probably come second.
2. Represent a hitherto unknown socially disadvantaged group
Steve was hand-picked to take this role as the producers actively sought an amputee soldier. He's either a good choice or a bad one depending on how you look at it. The moment he clambered out of his wheelchair to go in the house every viewer and every housemate decided they might as well end the show there and then as he was clearly going to win. It's a testament to him that after five weeks viewers rank him as the most hated housemate and he has no chance of winning. But his presence has provided an interesting social experiment of the kind the show used to regularly provide. It's shown that if you're cute and 19 you can tell a woman you'd like to divide her legs and everyone will laugh, but if you're 40 and have no legs you can’t look at a woman without viewers deciding you're a disgusting pervert. And it's shown that if you're disabled, people will be nice to you and deem you a great bloke even if you're a dullard.
Prospects: Frankly he hasn’t got a leg to stand on (Steve would find that funny, honest). I expect him out in a shock eviction in 3 weeks.
3. Pretend to be stupid
This year there's a few intelligent housemates and the stupid ones are stupid in a boring way. Loud and annoying Corin is trying for the active stupid role with her fake tan, fake hair, fake bolt-ons, fake annoying accent, fake character, fake monologues in the Diary Room, and fake catchphrases. Claiming to have a vocabulary of about fifty words has proved tough for her and so she did slip up and suddenly used 'controversial', but the viewers didn’t mind. They love her, but then again they don't have to live with her.
Prospects: She'll probably win and in some small way the country will get a little dumber.
4. Start and end your faux-romance
Faux-romances have been mainly headed off at the pass this year. Rachael clearly wanted one and she got evicted. Corin tried to start one with Nathan, but he got evicted, so we're left with Josie and John-James trying the variation that hasn’t been done before of unrequited love on the part of the woman. I don’t know what to make of this as Josie is the only housemate that regularly makes me laugh. She's normal sized, which on reality tv means she's fat, and she's normal and real in every way, which means she often comes over badly on reality tv.
Prospects: If she forgets about the fake romance she'll win, otherwise she's doomed to go before the end.
5. Break the fourth-wall
Dave is going for this one in a big way in his attempts to promote his religious beliefs. He supports an unusual religion that as far as I can make out consists of running around shouting, jumping on furniture, dressing as a monk, and pretending to be drunk. I'm not sure whether his method can be deemed to be working as he's the sole member of his own religion and when he comes out it'll still have only one member. I'm amazed he's still there.
Prospects: Even the hand of God reaching down into the mire couldn’t elevate Dave's chances to the depths of hopelessness.
6. Remember your target demographic
Teenage girlies who write in txtspk and smiley faces on Facebook love grumpy Aussie John-James this year. He has the look of a surfer dude, but he enjoys belittling women, has issues, is aggressive, rude, arrogant, stupid, humourless, self-absorbed and he could start an argument in solitary confinement while asleep and gagged. In other words he has everything the teenies love.
Prospects: Will win if he keeps his shirt off.
7. Remember that most people only watch the highlights
Although Corin is the master of doing nothing for 23 hours and 58 minutes a day then providing 2 minutes of entertainment for the easily pleased, I've already mentioned her so this category will go to Rachel. She's a loud, chirpy Scouser TM and so she must be annoying to live with, but she comes over as only mildly annoying in two minutes clips a day.
Prospects: Negligible. Will get evicted next week.
8. Stick to the script
Do what the producers ask you to do and you'll get preferential treatment is a fundamental rule of this show, and this year reality tv veteran Ben is filling that role well. He's posh, lazy, selfish, self-absorbed and so dim he tried to tell 'war hero' Steve that Hitler was a decent chap. But he's filling the camp role he was picked for (essentially Freddie from last year without the warmth or humour) to perfection and so is strangely popular.
Prospects: Will probably go in a shock final eviction.
9. Have a no game-plan game-plan
Dull, alien loving geek Mario is trying to go for the under the radar approach of doing nothing for the first half of the show and then gradually exposing himself. Unfortunately now that we've all seen Mario's dangly bits several times I think he might have peaked too early.
Prospects: Will make the final and be first out.
10. Be a Alt-hero
The two remaining housemates Caiomhe (pronounced differently) and Keeley are fighting for this role. They'll both probably be up for eviction this week and whichever one survives has a shot at being the alt-hero.
Aloof Caiomhe hates the show, has never watched it, is too cool to have friends who'd watch such nonsense, and she hates the other housemates. So her couldn’t give a stuff attitude is gradually gathering a cult following.
Small Keeley arrived late and managed to annoy everyone within ten minutes, which is always a good sign. She actually had a job, so she's deemed to be bossy. The men in the house drool over her so she could become an Internet phenomenon. Unlikely to pick up any female votes though.
Prospects: Less than zilch.