Sunday, August 20, 2006

Big Brother, Big Deal?

After 93 days, Big Brother crashed to an end. About time too! Most people will agree with that sentiment, even those who watched most of the coverage. Looking back, I haven’t commented about it on the blog for nearly three months, so you’ll maybe forgive me a couple of comments.

May 24 seems to be the last mention in AiB, when I said:
“This year, Channel 4 have received some criticism for allowing someone with Tourette’s syndrome into the house. Rather than looking exploited, Pete seems to be coping quite well. Either that, or the editing is intentionally sympathetic to build up audience empathy. In many ways, Pete is one of the more balanced characters – attempting to deal with ever present conflict, and providing insightful analysis of the house when he’s in the diary room.”
While Pete was the obvious winner, I couldn’t be sure how much the stress of waiting and winning was overshadowed with him just playing up his character for the cameras in the final. Not surprising that Davina’s interview didn’t achieve much.

Much more worrying was Nikki’s reaction on being evicted for the second time. A quivering wreck who shouldn’t have been witnessed live on national TV – Endemol’s duty of care to their contestants (house mates) seemed to dip below the line at that point.

While producing live TV on the scale of the BB final can’t be easy (and impossible to fully script), there were too many moments where nothing happened. House mates walking out of the camera shot and it taking more that a couple of seconds to cut to a camera that had them in vision. Davina running out of things to say, and listening for the director’s shout in her ear as they changed the running order. Sloppy.

While no where near as riveting as some previous years (rose-tinted spectacles making the early series seem more classic than they were?), there were some nice quirks in this year's production that made me smile:
  • Automated Big Brother – waking up to find a “glad you’re not here” postcard from Big Brother who had gone on holiday leaving behind a large telephone keypad in the diary room and a series of voice prompts (press 1 to leave a request, 9 to open the door, etc). Housemates reacted differently to this simple situation. Some couldn’t cope with the loss of a personified BB and wanted the character back. Others enjoyed playing with the keypad and making music. Others just found it a humorous ruse.
  • Welsh Big Brother – reminding the housemates (and the rest of the country) that English isn’t everyone’s first or chosen language in the UK. Finally Glyn was being spoken to by the state (well, BB) in his primary tongue, putting everyone else at a disadvantage. And talking of languages, did we ever get a chance to see Jennie’s skills – fluent French and Turkish?
  • I didn’t get the whole prison thing – though it felt good that the inmates were having a leisurely time while the guards were constantly having their sleep interrupted to work short shifts in the middle of the night. The smug ones were tired and narked.
  • Letters from home, however cringey and supportive, always make for strong and emotional television.
  • The narrator’s line “Richard and Aisleyne are sitting no where” made be smile every time, along with the "Bridge to no where" – neatly summing up the totally enclosed, restricted space that is the BB exercise yard.

Other thoughts:

  • One Friday night, Nikki was voted out because she was annoying and deserved to leave. Yet when given the choice to put her back into the house again, the voting public reckoned that she either made good television, or that the remaining housemates deserved her company. Voting her out into fifth place on the final night proved that she didn't really deserve a place back in the house as a full contestant. It wasn’t a pleasant last week—mainly due to her reintroduction.
  • Thirteen weeks was too long, and the cast list was too large.
If there is a Big Brother 8, it’ll need to properly reinvent itself to keep the viewing figures. As ITV have discovered with the unwatchable Love Island, reality TV and titillation doesn’t guarantee an audience. Creativity, intrigue and entertainment does.