Wednesday 17 August 2011

Big Brother got back to us, after all.

A year after Channel 4 buried the reality show Big Brother for ever with the mixed signals of a funeral and the words 'Big Brother will get back to you', the hoped for resurrection on the other side has materialized. To the disdain of the chattering classes, who all claim they've never watched the show, this Thursday it claws its way back on to our screens on everybody's least favourite main station Channel 5. Whether it finds an audience there is a good question that only the next 17 weeks can answer.

The initial signs are good. Channel 5 is owned by Richard Desmond, a media tycoon who inhabits the murky parts of the media that are too disreputable for even the Murdoch family to delve into. I gather Desmond made his fortune publishing magazines such as the pottery periodical Big Jugs monthly and the premier magazine for cat-lovers Asian Pussies. After that he developed several magazines devoted to celebrities nobody has ever heard of. Then he took over two newspapers, which give new meaning to the word in that they are printed on paper but they don't actually contain news. Whenever I've seen one of the headlines on his tabloid I've never been able to work out what it actually means as it usually says something like: 'Loos looz Roos booz.' Presumably some people know what this means as it sells well. The only news item in his other paper is about the twists and turns in the Lady Di conspiracy story, an editorial policy that at first sights is a bizarre one as there hasn't been any new developments in this non-story for a decade, except strangely it's popular too.

Recently he branched out into television ownership. He took over the most downmarket and loss-making station in the country and promised to turn it around by taking it even more downmarket. A year on, the station makes money and so now he hopes Big Brother will aid his ascent. Based on his past triumphs, the expectation is that he'll fill Big Brother with screeching glamour models whose only interests in life are fake tan and hair straighteners, and brain-dead hunks whose only interest in life is getting into celebrity magazines by pretending to have a romance with a glamour model who likes fake tan and hair straighteners. Accordingly, reports from the auditions suggest that rejections were handed out to anyone who had more than one brain cell or who could do simple tasks like moving unaided or finding England on a map of England. This all promises that Desmond's version of Big Brother won't be the place to go to hear interesting debates on such matters as the Eurozone crisis. Or in other words, he won’t change a thing.

My prediction, for what it's worth, is that the show will succeed. The one thing that was obvious throughout the ten year run on Channel 4 is that the station hated the show and they did everything in their power to kill it off. Many anecdotes have been told over the years of the Nathan Barley types who run the station and their disgust at having their media chums associate them with the most brain-numbingly inane show in British tv history. Sadly they'd prefer to be known as the station that transmits such glitteringly intellectual shows as, er, It's me or the Dog celebrity special, Come Dine with me celebrity special, and My two-headed transplant celebrity special. Of course, as anyone who actually likes Big Brother knows, the show was never brain-numbing or inane. In a world where reality shows avoid reality in favour of scripted talent shows for viewers with low expectations and even lower attention spans, one show bucked the trend and was about something, namely people. Desmond is astute enough to know that and, unlike the Channel 4 bosses, he needs the show to be a success.

So hopefully he won't kill off the things I liked about the show in his quest to rebrand the format, and at first glance the initial celebrity version sounds promising. For a start I've not heard of most of the leaked names, which is comforting, and even after I'd read up the explanation of who they are, I still can’t see why they might be deemed celebrities. The only one I do know about is Sally Bercow, a politician who makes Sarah Palin seem normal. There's something called Jedward (this week's pop sensation amongst the under 12s apparently) and there's several people who have slept with people who would like to be famous. And there's the mum of someone who is famous for being famous. Also, Charlie Sheen and Mike Tyson probably won’t appear. As I said earlier, it looks as if Desmond hasn't changed a thing.

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