Celebrity Big Brother
Saturday, 20 August 2011
I’m very disappointed by the Celebrity Big Brother line-up. Somebody has forgotten something very important.
I’m excited by Sally Bercow being in there, obviously. If you happened to read this column, which I wrote a few months ago, you can imagine why I’m nodding at this latest development. There is a great deal of potential here. Sally’s being filmed 24/7 and John is at home alone, or on holiday alone with the papers and the internet, then sitting in Parliament again. I’ve been giving a great deal of (often involuntary) thought to all sorts of scenarios which could arise over the next three weeks.
I won’t spell them out. I don’t want to get sued. And they won’t arise. It would be unbroadcastable (however hard Richard Desmond might try). But, you know. Interesting move.
Other than SB, the contestants are all far too one-note. I’ve been a long-term defender of Celebrity Big Brother for its genuinely fascinating human dynamics and its old-fashioned moral structure, where (truly, it’s happened every time) good triumphs over villainy. Of the accusations which are hurled at this programme: lowbrow it may be, tacky occasionally, dull sometimes, but it absolutely isn’t amoral. Every time it’s aired, I have been heartened by our ongoing national inclination to love (and crown as winners and runners-up) those who are honest, kind, forthright and sporting, while punishing and evicting those who are cruel or duplicitous. At the end of the series, I always think: Ah, we’re still all right.
But surely the fascinating human dynamics - possibly also the ethical arm-wrestle - can’t work when the people are all exactly the same. I mean, not EXACTLY the same, obviously. But all of a type. All the women seem to be surgically-enhanced, froth-culture, possibly charming but obviously ditzy. The male model isn’t so different. The macho traveller chap is perhaps a little different, but not massively so. He’s still from reality TV, like Jedward. And there’s a paparazzo who’s near these people all the time anyway. I’d imagine they all like to talk about the same things, have the same life goals, would probably be friends anyway.
Who is the serious one? Who’s the intellectual? Who’s the wise old man or woman? Which one has read books? Which ones hates group socializing or popular culture? Which one would never be in Heat magazine? The line-up is crying out for a Moira Stewart, a Ken Livingstone or a Brian Sewell.
Even Sally Bercow, oddly, seems to have changed her accent so as to seem more like the others and fit in better. She went to Westminster! Last time she was on TV, she sounded much posher than that. There’s no shame in a posh accent. If there’s one rule that has always applied in Big Brother, it’s: be yourself.
But where are the great, weird juxtapositions? We need people who just don’t get each other, as if they came from different planets. I’m just not seeing the potential for a Jermaine Jackson trying to explain his faith to a Danielle Lloyd; for a George Galloway struggling to interact with a Pete Burns; for a Germaine Greer steeling herself before each new day’s encounter with a John McCririck or a Jackie Stallone.
These new ones just aren’t weird enough - or, if they are, they’re all weird in the same way.
Tonight, CBB will be preceded by a new X Factor - usually a night of great excitement, for me, as a viewer and a gambler, but I’m filled with overwhelming indifference at the thought of two new female judges I’ve never heard of, and no Simon Cowell.
I can guess what it’ll be like: they will go through the motions of previous X Factors in an act of soulless mimicry. Like in Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray no longer feels natural and impulsive as he falls laughing into the snow with Andie MacDowell, instead just shoving her onto the ground and shouting “I love kids!”.
There’ll be a bit where they all get the giggles and try to hide it. There’ll be a bit where they all look at each other in alarm when someone’s a bit too weird. There’ll be a bit where their jaws drop as someone has a ‘surprisingly’ good voice. But it won’t be impulsive, and it won’t even contain the echoes of previous impulsive moments, because they will be new and anonymous people trying to play Simon or Cheryl or Sharon Osborne.
Is this the end of an era? I have a feeling that I might not watch these two series. It’s even possible - and I say this with amazement and some fear, but one must always try to be strong, open-minded and ready for the most unexpected, heartbreaking or brilliant life changes, however and whenever - that I might not bet on them.