Category Archives: Big Brother

Catch Up

Okay, another bit of a gap in blogging, and another catch up!

Pregnancy wise, Beth has been back and forth to the hospital several times over the past couple of weeks with stuff related to the gestational diabetes. The dietary stuff didn’t overly work – indeed her blood sugar seems to go all over the place whatever she has actually been eating, as a result the hospital have given her insulin which she uses to bring her blood sugar back to acceptable levels. However as a diabetic, albeit a temporary one, we have had to notify both the DVLA, and the insurance companies for the cars. For the moment it is just a note on the policies – whether there is any change in premium is dependant on whether Beth’s blood sugar settles down again after the birth.

One thing I didn’t comment on last week was the final of Last Choir Standing. Unlike some of the shows of this ilk that we’ve watched, we actually had some idea what was happening being members of the choir. Pretty well from the start of the final stages, I’d been pretty sure the final two choirs would be ACM Gospel Choir, based our of the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and Only Men Aloud, a modern twist on the traditional male voice choir from Cardiff. However things were thrown somewhat into disarray by the shock exit of ACM in the semi-final. Now I don’t know quite whether the guys from ACM got over confident and were caught out by the other choirs improving more, or whether they just had a bad night, but it did seem to thrown the competition open a bit. However by the end, despite some stunning performances – the improvement in Ysgol Glanaethwy, the youth choir from Bangor was amazing, and I’m still very impressed that a youth choir would attempt and produce such a fantastic performance of O Fortuna – but the ultimate winners were a well deserved Only Men Aloud. If you want to hear what some of the music was like, ACM Gospel Choir have an album newly released – although listening to it I can certainly hear the voices of some of the judges as a couple of things they spotted are present on the album.

Reality TV wise we’ve also had the finale of this years Big Brother. What perhaps is most interesting about this is that it was a bit of a bad night for the bookies as there was no clear winner. If you compare the final percentages for the 2008 finale with the results in 2007 you can see that each evictee on the final night was within a few percentage points of staying it – and the final winner was decided on only about three percent of the vote compared to a lead of over twenty percent last year – really it could have gone to almost any of the final five. Quite what will happen next year I don’t know – the programme got lower ratings than ever this year, and the show isn’t the guarantee of even Z-list status it once was. As this Times article from today quotes Craig Phillips winner of the first series:

“I speak to a lot of Big Brother contestants from the past few years and they’re all struggling. They can’t get work in the media but they can’t get a ‘normal’ job in a supermarket. It’s not going to be all red carpets for this year’s winner.”

I doubt they’ll drop the show before it’s tenth anniversary next year, but quite what it’s longevity will be after that I don’t know.

Class of 2008

So as one high-profile reality show draws to a close, with the Apprentice being announced next week, another, Big Brother, began it’s ninth run this week. Once again, The Times Online is blogging about the whole thing, which as before is an entertaining read, and if you don’t want to watch the whole thing is the ideal place to keep up to date with key events so you don’t get totally left behind in the water cooler gossip. The W.H.Auden rip off with which they began the blog this year about sums up their take on the whole thing:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the freaks, let the viewers come!

Looking at the selection who went into the house there were the usual stereotypical mix of Big Brother contestants, in fact you could almost tick off some of them. We have nineteen year old Stephanie wanting to be the most famous housemate ever – I fear she’ll be sadly disappointed in that wish though as very few of the later contestants have built any sort of major fame off the back of the programme. We do have the first couple to go into the house, Mario and Lisa, who are both a good ten years older than the rest of the contestants – as the first task, they are currently having to pretend not to be a couple, with Mario instead being required to pretend that Stephanie, the youngest person in the house is his girlfriend. It’s also worth highlighting that Mario presents himself as “the Italian stallionâ€?, (he does look rather like a cross between Joey from Friends and Sylvester Stallone) despite the fact that his real name is Shaun, and he’s never been to Italy… .

As had been rumoured beforehand, there is a blind contestant this year, Mikey, a radio producer from Scotland. The main change to help him was that he had a member of the production staff who guided him into the house, and a verbal announcement that the door was open for him to enter, aside from that it looks like there will be no differences.

Amongst the contestants most like to get noticed, chief amongst them is Rebecca, a nursery nurse from Coventry, who sounded frighteningly like Vicky Pollard at times, when she wasn’t screaming her way through the rest of the show. Also high on the hyperactive scale is Thai massage therapist Kathreya who loves cookies. We also have Rex, who is an executive chef. Whether he takes over the kitchen or not will be interesting to see. Taking over is quite often a recipe for a swift eviction… Needless to say there are quite a few with apparently strong opinions, usually totally at odds with other contestants, although at least half the time the strong opinions seem to be a ploy to get through the selection process.

At this stage, a lot of the contestants don’t really seem to stand out – it really starts to come down to which differentiate themselves (or are differentiated by the producers) in the highlights shows before the front runners start to show themselves. Certainly I expect we’ll find some of the contestants that attract most attention will be the most swiftly voted out, as whatever the audience seems to think about who is the most watch-able contestants, they are usually the biggest pains to live with so are swiftly put up for nomination. Anyway, in three months it’ll all be over for another year. Ratings for the launch were down again, but invariably it takes a bit of controversy for most people to start watching – equally controversy is exactly what the sponsors don’t want… So it begins again…

Here we Go Again

Big Brother 8 has kicked off, netting Channel 4 a 6.2 million average audience last night. The twist this year is that all the eleven initial housemates are women…

For a straightforward run-down of the first housemates head over to the BBC. Alternatively, The Times is once again providing a service to those who want to keep up with the house and is running their Big Brother Blog – their housemate rundown is somewhat more entertaining…

Whilst you’re taking a look at this years selection, check out this rundown of what previous housmates are doing now. There is a real mix of attempted media careers, normal jobs, and even a few who have left the country, but the biggest surprise is George who walked on day 13 last year, and shunned all media contact – he now works for Big Brother on their media relations team!

The Ultimate Car Crash TV – Beaten by a Car Crash

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So the most controversial series of Big Brother ever, the ultimate in car crash TV, was beaten in the ratings by a real life car crash – the return of Top Gear, complete with exclusive footage of the crash that nearly took the life of Richard Hammond.

Thanks to the wonders of Sky+, we watched both, Top Gear as it went out, and Celebrity Big Brother tonight – spooling through the adverts of course. 😀

Anyway, Top Gear first. Not surprisingly they made a big song and dance about having the Hamster back – quite literally. Clarkson and May opened the show alone, and then having done their opening spiel, introduced Hammond who came down a sort of slightly cheap effort at a glittering celeb style staircase – as Clarkson said, they didn’t really want to spend too much on it! After that Hammond thanked everybody involved in the aftermath of the accident, and people for all their good wishes, and the show proceeded very much as any normal episode. We had Clarkson taking the new Jaguar around the track, and all three of the presenters attempting to complete some roadworks in record time, and the star in a reasonably priced car was Jamie Oliver. Then we got to the main event. If you’ve read the Richard Hammond article in the most recent edition of the Top Gear Magazine this was effectively the same thing but with pictures. So we saw Richard Hammond do one of his pieces to camera where he rather prophetically says that using the afterburner could lead to the biggest accident you’ve ever seen in your life… We saw his earlier runs, and then the actual run that went wrong. There has been concern over whether the footage should be shown at all – Richard Hammond himself addresses it on his Top Gear Blog. He quite rightly says that although it is sensitive, the footage should be shown, precisely to show that things do go wrong, and that even with all the safety equipment and every care being taken, things do go wrong. As he says:

I figure that if just one individual scorching round the back roads in their hot hatch remembers seeing me upside down at 230mph and thinks that yes, if things can go that badly wrong in Top Gear’s TV fantasy world then they could in the real world, and they lift off because there might just be a tractor coming round that blind corner at the worst possible moment, then it’s all been worth it.

Not really much I can add to that. The whole segment, along with other clips is available online on the BBC2 Broadband Service, or an edited version on the BBC News Site.

So over to the other side, and the final of Celebrity Big Brother. Really there were no surprises – indeed I actually pretty well predicted the final order on Friday night. Danielle and Jack came out first. Although they came out together, officially Jack was in sixth, with Danielle in fifth. They were greeted by pretty unanimous booing, and as with Jo and Jade got the now familiar selection of clips, were speechless, and denied being racist. Ian was out next to a warm reception from the crowd – as Davina said, the first evictee not to be booed. Dirk was up next, again to a good reception – with parts of the crowd singing the A-Team theme. Then it came down to the final two, with Jermaine Jackson coming in second to a great response, complete with a Jackson Five sing-along.

Finally we had Shilpa, and a really quite surprising reaction from parts of the crowd. It was really apparent that there was a vocal minority in the crowd who really didn’t like Shilpa. I think it’s perhaps the first time that a winner has had quite such a mixed reaction. In terms of the voting, she had 63% of the final vote, so it was a win by a good margin, but clearly she is a contestant that divided opinion. Indeed some people even believed it was fixed.

We then got to the interview. It is interesting to note, that in her earlier interview, Danielle had been asked how she thought Shilpa would react when she saw the same clips, to which Danielle responded that she would be forgiving. That produced a decidedly grumbly reaction from the audience – but in fact proved to be right.

Shilpa was shown all the key clips, and all the things that had been said about her behind her back, and was quite visibly shocked. However in response she was anything if not magnanimous:

I just want to forget things. Things happen and people make mistakes. We’re all human beings, we’re all fallible. Jade didn’t mean to be racist…If this created any sort of misunderstanding, I want to put things to rest – she is not a racist…I am so happy I took up this opportunity. I don’t want people to think they welcomed an Indian and she made trouble here.

Those sentiments were further reiterated at the post show press conference when Shilpa along with the other celebrities defended Jade and also backed a tearful Danielle when she appeared to face the press.

Needless to say, the pleas have fallen on somewhat deaf ears with the tabloid press – having had Jade, and then Jo, they are now concentrating on Danielle, whose relationship with Teddy Sheringham is now the subject of ‘talks‘.

So fairly obviously, Jade, Jo and Danielle have done serious damage to their careers through the events of the programme, whilst Shilpa has gone from being unknown to being probably the best known Indian celebrity in the UK. I expect to see more of Ian and Dirk in the UK over the coming months too. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information to come up is that Jermaine Jackson is actually putting together a musical about his family that will be launched in the UK – expect many more sing-along a Jackson Five to come…

Big Brother Racism Fallout

Not surprisingly, as the first Sunday after Jade was evicted, we have more of the fallout from the events of the last week. Chief among them is the News of the World Exclusive, that main feature of this is ‘Jade on Trial‘ where they give her a surprisingly detailed questioning over all the controversial comments from herself, but also comments made by Jo, Danielle and Jack.

There are one or two other interesting points that have come out, firstly that Jade has visited India fairly recently as her perfume is manufactured in a factory over there and she wanted to visit the plant. Other interesting facts to come out are that according to the Guardian, Jade’s Mum is a practising Muslim – the quote stating this is about halfway down. The rest of the article is worth reading too, as it highlights quite what a problem Channel 4 now has with the perception that they let things go on longer than they should in order to boost ratings. Having said that, haven’t they always let this sort of thing go on longer than it should do boost ratings, remember the alcohol fuelled brawl in 2004 that earned a rebuke from Ofcom because they waited twenty minutes before sending in the security guards, an argument that was again underpinned by accusations of racism against Victor by Emma.

In terms of the ‘Was she told about what had happened?’ debate, Jade categorically denies this in the News of the World. Watching the highlights show for Friday it is clear that the housemates were aware something is going on as they appear to have been kept inside most of the day due to helicopters hovering over ahead. This coupled with both the lack of crowd noise, and the questions Big Brother had been asking them led them to conclude that something has been going on. Interestingly there were also discussions between the remaining two girls as to how they have been perceived too.

Of course as they will discover, their careers have just the same problems as Jade does – alongside the Jade interview, the News of the World has also said that Danielle has been ditched by Teddy Sheringham who is said to feel that he has been put in an impossible position with his team mates, who like many football teams are drawn from a range of different countries and backgrounds. Not surprisingly her contribution to the comments has left him ’embarrassed and deeply ashamed’.

In terms of looking for a positive outcome, the Education Secretary has said that schools should use the programme to tackle racial issues – and certainly suggest that with the number of young people who will have watched this week, youth groups could well use it as a topic for discussion. The Archbishop of York, himself invited to be on this series of the programme but who wisely passed, has commented on racism in the UK. It is fair to say that he is no stranger to the topic, I have always remembered him describing the number of times he was ‘randomly’ stopped by the police whilst driving his car when he was Bishop of Stepney, and the transformation in the behaviour of the officers when they found out who he was. His comments included the following:

“Sadly ignorance is not in short supply. Racism is real.

As the week’s events on reality television demonstrate, there is an ugly underbelly in society only too ready to point the finger at the foreigner, or those who might not fit in.â€?

Indeed, the leader in the News of the World makes a similar point – much as I said on Friday whilst large, there were still 18% of voters who voted to keep her in. They also want to see both Danielle and Jo booted out, and Shilpa to win.

Of course quite the most frightening part of this whole thing, is the fact that as a result, in the course of one posting, I’ve linked to, and approved of quite so much of what the News of the World has said… 😮

Jade Goes, Endemol Wins?

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So not unsurprisingly, Jade has been evicted from Celebrity Big Brother. This Week, the late night current affairs programme, discussed the whole issue, and at one point the comment was made that if they were in Gordon Browns office today they would be frantically calling the number to evict Jade as all over the world it is going to be compared against his statement that Britain is not racist or intolerant. Looking at the results, Jade was evicted with 82% of the vote, a sizeable majority but not a record by any means – Grace was evicted with 87.9% of the vote and Sezer with 91.6% in the most recent series of the normal programme. Certainly after their statements those in government should perhaps worry about the fact that 18% of the audience wanted to either keep Jade in the house or remove Shilpa after the events of the week.

Having said that, Channel 4 and Endemol were nervous enough about the situation to ban the public from tonight’s programme. That’s not to say that they didn’t milk it somewhat. Rather than the usual routine for a non-crowd eviction of having Davina in the studio, they did the show pretty much as normal, out on the stage, and even added sound effects – Beth remarked at one point that she expected to see tumbleweeds blowing past anytime soon. They also didn’t play crowd noise into the house as they usually would, so the celebrities knew something was up – although many of them had already realised what was going on from the questions that they had been asked in the diary room.

Looking at the highlights shown before the eviction, it all told a very nice story, as by the end of yesterday, Jade had realised how her behaviour would have been perceived, and had made her peace with Shilpa, and had then gone and broken down in the diary room and considered walking out. Interestingly it then seems that she had decided to stick it out – quite how much she was influenced into making the decision we don’t know.

We watched part of Big Brother’s Big Mouth after the eviction, where amongst other people they spoke to Max Clifford about what will happen to Jade and her career now. He said that in his opinion she could recover, but it would be difficult. However he then followed this up with a fairly direct comment directed at Endemol, saying that he believed that they had exploited Jade. When they put her and her family in, they knew exactly what they were doing, and what they thought would happen. True, I suspect they weren’t expecting the international diplomatic incident – but certainly they were expecting fireworks, and that was what they got. Plus they got a significant boost in viewers as a result of the whole controversy. The thing is, is that I think Jade now realises it too. When in the diary room, and also on the programme tonight she was either played or quoted what had happened, she can quite clearly see how others will see her. She said several times that that wasn’t her, but sadly it is much the same way she behaved when she was on the show originally – all the producers had to do back then was give her some alcohol, and she provided a variety of press grabbing stories, and indeed that was pretty much what happened this time.

It’s also interesting to look at the points during the week when Big Brother actually called particular housemates into the diary room and quoted back their words. Notice that it was pretty well done one per day, and that despite Jade being the ring leader, they took both Danielle and Jo in first, leaving the discussions with Jade until last, and of course giving a nice little conclusion to the ‘story’, with Jade apparently realising the error of her ways, just in time to be evicted. Of course what else was said in the diary room, and how much she was told about what had happened outside is open to question.

So what have we got to come over the remaining days? Danielle and Jo had already made their peace with Shilpa prior to the eviction, even if they didn’t see it at the time, both of them like Jade can see how their words will be perceived when forced to think about it after the event, and both know that they need to redress the balance, to keep their careers. (Indeed Danielle was apparently given a list of tips by her agent before she went in – tips she forgot it seems…) The real unknown quantity is Jack, Jade’s nineteen year old boyfriend. His whole reason for being in the house was Jade, and I suspect that the original idea was that both he and Jade would make it to the final show, or at least that he would leave first – remember the rumours were that having been the most successful ex-contestant, this series was going to be an opportunity for Jade to win. The interesting thing is he hasn’t really registered on people’s radar – he’s just been in the background. The brief moments where he has spoken do register though. Although he hasn’t apparently been called into the diary room and had his words quoted back to him, he has been shown stoking up some of the bad feeling towards Shilpa in much the same way as the other three – there being one notable discussion that he had with Jade over Shilpa, where he says point blank that he hates Shilpa – there is debate over another part of the same conversation, as the word was bleeped, (Ruth Gledhill has a clip of the relevant scene with a clear opinion as to what he said) – either way it is not a nice statement at all. Whatever he said, he certainly has a big issue with Shilpa which may only get worse with him blaming her for Jade going. What with the other celebrities apparently now closing ranks, I very much think he is going to be the outsider – quite how he reacts, and how long he lasts remains to be seen. Whatever, it certainly could be a potential source of problems to come – although with his lack of celebrity if he does kick off I suspect he may end up being removed by the back door so as not to mess up the nice storyline that Endemol have managed to produce from this week.