Back to Reality: Big Brother UK

‘Big Brother is watching you’ – George Orwell

I’ve never made it secret or been ashamed of the fact that I’m pretty obsessed with Reality TV which started in the early 90s with The Real World on MTV and has pretty much thrived since then. Of course the fact that it’s so cheap t make and turns out is pretty popular means it’s been everywhere, on every channel since the early 00s.


Like The Real World, Big Brother is one of those shows I’ve watched every single series of since it started and with the new series of Celebrity Big Brother starting this week I thought it would be fun to go back, waaaaay back…

It all kicked off with series 1 back in 2000 when it hit our screens on channel 4 off and coming from Dutch production company Endomol who’d run a couple of successful series with this format in The Netherlands. The format was simple, 10 people livig in a house together completely cut off from the outside world and being filmed 24 hours a day to see how they interacted. It really did feel like a social experiment back then and when you look back on footage from that time, it looks pretty bleak. There were no plush dwellings, swimming pools, hot tubs etc. It looks rather like a lot of ropy stay away camps i’d gone on with school in the 80s.

That series was a HUGE deal. Remember the drama when Nasty Nick was caught writing notes to people on bits of paper and Craig confronted him about it? Remember when Mel and Tom had a sexy massage? The country went nuts, and the highlight show was extended and the news ran late. It was simpler times back then clearly. But the live final was watched by over 10 million people that summer, that’s the population of Luxembourg 20 times over!

So safe to say series one was a roaring success and the following series were equally as popular. The format changed slightly over the years, there was the introduction of tasks to keep the housemates (and us) entertained, new rules around wishy washy reasons for reasons for voting (I’m looking at you Dean from series 2) and more twists like Rich and Poor house and face to face nominations to keep things interesting. Slowly over the years of course it did start getting more ridiculous. Every year they needed to up the shock value so housemates (in my opinion) became less diverse and interesting and more arrogant, fame hungry loud mouths.


In March 2001 we saw the first series of Celebrity Big Brother which was originally a one off comic relief special, they were only in the house for 5 days and apart from Vanessa Feltz’s epic meltdown, they all got along pretty well. It wasn’t until the show was resurected 2005 and we saw the horrific racist arguement between Jady Goody and Shilpa Shetty that it became more like the show we’d become accustomed to and we saw the celeb mask slip. These days some of the celebrities are so Z-list you forget which one is the celeb show and which is the regular show.

As such both series has been littered with controversy and criticism; sex under the dining room table (series 5) , simulating sexual acts with a wine bottle (series 6) giving away golden tickets in Kit Kats (series 7) racial slurs (series 8 and CBB12) bullying (series 9, 10, 13 and 15) higher levels of nudity (series 12) ectopic pregnancies (series 15) endangered animal coats (CBB4) and racism (CBB5) – phew!

Anyway, one of the biggest knocks to the show came in 2011 when the show moved from Channel 4 to Channel 5 and a lot of viewers refused to make the switch.Series 2 winner turned TV presenter seemed an obvious choice as host but he failed to bring the warmth and enthusiasm as our beloved Davina and he was replaced by the much more personable Emma Willis in 2013, so the BB train rumbled on.

Its safe to say its certainly not the sh0w it once was and for me tat’s largely down to poor selection of housemates. In the last regular series it was littered with people who’d already stared in other shows (Lateysha was on The Valleys, Ryan has been on the X-Factor and Alex  was Vicky Pattison’s partner in crime on Judge Geordie). That would never had happened in the early days, in fact I think if you’d been on TV before it would have immediately discounted you from selection and I find that a shame. I understand why personalities that are clearly going to rub each other up the wrong way will be selected, the Real World have been putting a gay person in a house with a self confessed homophobe for years. They want the drama and i get that but when was the last time we had some genuine sweetie pies like Helen and Paul from series 2, Alex from series 3 or Glyn from series 7?

If my hand were forced and i had to pick my favourite series? It would be between series 2 (which Brian Dowling won) and series 8 (which Brian Belo won) both had a good mix of characters and to me represented the show at it’s finest. I’d just love to see it go back to how it used to be with more diverse interesting characters. I’m sure it won’t though, it will continue to get more and more reality wannabe airheads. And i’ll continue to watch….

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