Thursday 4 June 2009

Sheriff Stuart's hat

The reality tv series Big Brother UK starts tonight and so I'm facing the decision on whether I can afford to lose more brain cells over the next few months. So for the benefit of the three or four people out there who still follow this program I thought I'd recall one of my favourite BB moments, one that has a small western element.
This year is the 10th summer show and we're sure to get the usual mix of inane attention seekers, desperate future media stars, and clever people pretending to be stupid. Again in our house the cry will go up that we're definitely not watching BB this year. We'll watch the opening night though to see how bad it is… and three months later we'll still be watching. But no matter how bad it turns out to be, fans will probably still agree that the 4th series was the worst.

For the 4th year the makers tried an interesting experiment. They decided to see what would happen if you locked a dozen pleasant, quiet people in a room for three months. To nobody's surprise it turned out that pleasant, quiet people are pleasant and quiet. This was comforting, but ratings plummeted and the show nearly died. So for the 5th series the makers tried a different experiment. They locked twelve unpleasant, noisy people in a room for three months. To nobody's surprise it turned out that unpleasant, noisy people are unpleasant and noisy. The ratings soared.

Amongst any group of unpleasant people, there are inevitably some who are less unpleasant than the rest and Stuart was perhaps one of them. He described himself as being unpopular because he was too intelligent, although he never showed that side of his personality. I fondly remember the cruel voice-over: 'Stuart has been in the living room for the last one hour and twenty minutes playing with a ball of string.' That summed him up.

That aside, I remember Stuart for his naïve love of dressing up as a cowboy. Whenever there was a chance to dress up, there was always a cowboy costume available, and he always made sure he became Sheriff Stuart. And he was a pretty useless lawman too.

During the most infamous event in Big Brother UK's history of Fight Night (this was a night in which a fight broke out) the entertainment value came from the argument happening at a fancy dress party. Somehow a handbags at dawn argument between someone dressed as an Indian squaw and another person dressed as a clown comes over as surreal. Anyhow, despite Stuart's failure to instil order while dressed as a sheriff, he really did love his cowboy hat and he always delayed returning it until the last moment.

He loved his cowboy hat so much the production team promised him he'd get to keep it when he left the show. This led to a classic moment of psychological torture. About eight weeks in, the housemates had spent so long being unpleasant and noisy, they'd failed to win any tasks and so they had never received much food. Starved from only eating beans and rice they staged a protest. From now on they would be pleasant and quiet until they got a square meal.

Big Brother refused to feed them and so a stand off developed. BB tried loud music, louder music, taking away all their food. Nothing worked. They were staying pleasant and quiet until they got a big meal, and that was final. So BB called everyone to the living room and switched on the tv. A picture appeared of Stuart's cowboy hat and the ultimatum is given. Either start being noisy and unpleasant again or the hat gets it.

They did nothing and so petrol is poured over the hat. Still they did nothing. Then a match is applied and the hat goes up in flames. The agony written on Stuart's face as he sees his beloved cowboy hat being burnt to a cinder was a hoot. The protest died shortly afterwards and everybody spent their remaining time in the house being noisy and unpleasant.

Sadly, I doubt anything this year while scale those 'heights'. Even more sadly, I'll probably still end up watching the flaming thing.

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