Saturday, 11 September 2010

Big Brother. You Have Been Evicted.

The year was 2000, the programme was an experiment made by Channel 4.

I can still remember vividly the song being sang by those bright eyed contestants during that first series. "It's only a game show, it's only a game show".

Big Brother became more than that. Like it or loathe it, it became a phenomenon which epitomised the 'Naughties'.

A Social Experiment
I remember being genuienly transfixed by this utterly fascinating new programme that Channel 4 decided ro run on the back of its popularity in Holland. I was 17 during the summer of 2000 and completing my A-Levels. University was around the corner, but I was still a school pupil. I had read George Orwell's wonderful 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' so was aware of the whole concept behind what was to become 'Big Brother'.

I've always had a deep interest in psychology. What makes people tick? What makes us do what we do? How would we react in different given situations? I've never studied psychology but it is something I may study in the future one day.

It was with this interest, that I watched in absolute wonderment at what for me, was 'THE' ultimate experiment. Put a random mix of unknowns into a house over a period of time, cameras filming them 24/7 with their gradual departures through a mixture of internal nominations and external public voting.

Just seeing how they reacted to each other knowing that we, the viewers, were watching their every move and knowing that there was a cash prize at the end for the winner made it compulsive viewing. This was truly the first of its kind.

Craig won and the series progressed. I followed series 2 the following year as a now University student. It still goes down as my favourite (with "I like blinking" Helen Adams) series of all. The eventual winner was Brian Dowling.

From Experiment to Farce

For me though, the novelty value quickly wore off. Something which I first saw as being totally inovative, quickly began to take on a life of its own and spiralled out of control.

Suddenly, with the massing viewing figures and a media thirsty for celebrity fodder, Big Brother became an easy medium to serve the growing clamour for 'overnight celebrity'. As the series progressed, I despaired at what become evident was the clear motivation for the thousands of contestants who applied to be on the show. Suddenly, here was a 'Get Famous Quick' opportunity for wannabes across the land who wanted to be a 'Celebrity'.

A desire to be famous for an achievement is one thing. But a desire to be famous just for the sake of being famous, is another. Big Brother indeed became the 'Big Daddy' as it spawned a whole culture of 'reality TV'. This decade has been awash with it and we can all look back to the Summer of 2000 as the catalyst.

Goodbye Big Brother
The demise of Big Brother has been long in coming. The world-wide controversy sparked by the 'Celebrity Big Brother' off-shoot when Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara made racist remarks about fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty, was a particular low.

The whole operation became more outlandish as new ways of keeping an increasingly old format 'current' had to be found from year to year to maintain the viewing figures.

I actually watched the opening programme of this year's series 11 just to see if, by any small chance, the contestants picked may have resembled a reality that the original cast were closer too in 2000. I quickly decided that they didn't and once more switched off.

I must admit though that I have been watching the finale to the 'Ultimate Big Brother' over the past few days. A nostalgia for those innocent days of 2000 brought me back to watch the final scenes of a programme which has split a nation but which has defined a decade.

Brian Dowling, the winner of what was my favourite series, was the eventual and deserved overall winner. At least someone who brought so much life and positivity to the group was voted by the public as the No.1 contestant of all time.

The Future? We Decide.

I heard in the last week or so, a poll which stated that most people questioned now wanted more dramas and factual documentaries and less 'reality based TV' on our screens. This is welcome news. We can't get away from the fact that it is us, the public that created this monster. We're the ones who watched it and made it what it would become. But tastes changed and thankfully, viewing figures fell.

Hopefully, we can move away from this self-obsessed medium of TV and move back to more meaningful output. But that's our choice. We must demand it or we won't get it.

There are rumours of Big Brother transferring over to Channel 5 but quite frankly it's had its day and everyone knows it.

It really is time to move on.

Big Brother. You have been evicted.

1 comment:

  1. I think anyone in their mid-twenties appreciate the relevance and importance to our generation that Big Brother has had. The show has had its time - no suprise that channel 5 has nabbed it though - but I think that the last five years have been a struggle for the show. There is only so many morons who are 'crazy' enough to be on the show.

    The first series especially was almost an experiment which we could all watch - but this, more interesting aspect, was lost as the show became increasingly appealing to the lowest common denominator: lots of hot women in bikinis (starting a series with an exclusive female group!) and setting degrading tasks that clearly mock the desperation for fame the contestants seek.

    You think about the contestants in series 1 and compare them to the later series ... poles apart.