Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

It’s All Over

Friday, 23 January 2009




Well, that’s killed it. It’s over. Finished. If Ulrika is the winner, then reality TV is no longer a morality tale, no longer a chance to reward the good and evict the bad, no longer the modern way of showing that bravery, kindness and honesty are still the values we treasure. It’s no longer about identifying the nicest person and congratulating them for it.

  I’m not saying she’s a bad person. I’m sure she’s fine. In fact I feel sorry for her - I bet she’ll come out to some booing, because she doesn’t have the popularity of a normal winner, because she hasn’t done the normal Good Things, and that’s not her fault. It’s not her fault she’s won. Something has gone bizarre and tits-up in the voting. She just isn’t a winner. Within the confines of that little world, she whined and complained, she took herself too seriously, she demanded to be centre of attention, took obvious pleasure in the eviction of others, and she sobbed “This is going to break me” as if taking £175k to spend a couple of weeks in a nice warm catered house was like being interned at Dachau. Meanwhile, LaToya was gracious and gentle; Coolio slogged his guts out to be funny and entertaining; Verne was lovable and admirable; Terry kept his cool, remembered his sense of humour, was honest with everyone without being rude to anyone, and displayed all the qualities of a winner.

  But Ulrika? Ulrika? It doesn’t make sense. I admit, I’ve missed quite a lot of this series because I’ve been in and out of the country; did she save a kitten from drowning in one of the episodes I didn’t see? Did she throw herself on a fire to save someone else? Did she take a stand against bullying? Maybe I missed all that; whenever I tuned in she was complaining, crying, stirring up trouble or taking offence. That’s not what people like, it’s not what people vote for. Have we lost our value system overnight? I think that’s killed it. Not the success of the show - it’ll probably go on to further successes, and there may yet be great series in the future to compete with the magical Barrymore / Galloway / Lenska triumph of 2006. But the joy of the fable is over and buried for me.

  Or the whole thing is a massive fix, or a total cock-up on the phone lines.

  In which case, that’s killed it anyway.

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Cribnuts in the U.S.A. at 7:30 am on January 24th, 2009

Lets talk about values, honest and intrigity.  Are you sure you want to point fingers?  We recently spent hours of research on a person named Victoria Coren.  Our research showed she is a kind person with all the things above…or is she?  Was our research done with rose colored glasses, so we couldn’t make the real read on you and it was all a bluff?  We recently sent you an e-mail that took alot of hard work to write because we are not journalest.  We understand going through your reps to protect your privacy, yet, we’re not sure if you even got to see our e-mail.  What your reps passed on was that you were flattered.  We were not flattered, we were very sad and disappointed that you, yourself, could not answer our e-mail.

Toolio at 11:45 am on January 24th, 2009

Shock horror, the person who demanded the highest fee wins. Abandoning the 7 month old baby for nearly a month paid off then. The two fame junkies with “careers” in TV battling it out in the final, how convenient was that? The TV twatterati sticking together it seems. Though Verne slobbering all over a doll probably sealed his fate. Now all we have to wait for is LaToya and Verne to get it on together and wait for the obligatory sex tape to appear.

AndrewT at 12:04 pm on January 24th, 2009

I think it was just that all the way through, the story was how Verne was super hot favourite, and was certain to win, so people simply didn’t bother voting - I’d imagine the voting numbers were way down on previous BBs. Therefore Ulrika didn’t need to get that many to win.

I think that on Betfair, at no point was Ulrika ever favourite to win - even when she was heads-up with Terry, the last price matched was 2.66.

I suppose Ulrika was due a win in reality shows - she’s done enough of them.

Alan Glaum at 12:46 pm on January 24th, 2009

Well, I watched none of CBB, but I expected Ulrika to win. I had heard of her and liked her persona.
So my question is whether the voters actually watched all or most of the shows. i suspect I am not alone in seeing CBB as Channel 4 broadcasting an hour of prime-time rubbish every night. 
But the end of a contest is interesting, so some people will only watch the last night and maybe Ulrika was their choice.
And that only applies if the audience who watch regularly is quite small. That will mark the end of reality shows.

Victoria Coren at 1:54 pm on January 24th, 2009

To Cribnuts: I’m very sorry you were offended not to hear back from me directly. I did see your email. It was very memorable: most unusually written, for a professional request. But I was flattered that you might want me to get involved with your gaming project, and intrigued by the advice that rubbing toilet paper on one’s breasts make them bigger. I do apologize for replying through my agent, but that is normal with work matters. I asked her to be sure to thank you for your interest and wish you luck with the project, but to let you know that I’m not looking to endorse any casino games at this time. In fact, in my history of writing about gambling, I have always tried to give people advice about poker while advising them not to play casino table games or slots at all. I am really sorry if you no longer believe I have honesty or integrity, but I promise that professional approaches are always handled by my agent. I’m sure you’re very nice people. If you are serious about this project, I might advise dropping the stuff about loo paper and tits and head from your future letters to possible endorsers; it’s just a little bit too distracting from your business idea. I hope you’ll take that in the right spirit as a helpful tip, and good luck.

  re Big Brother - has Ulrika done other reality shows? I didn’t know that. But I think Alan’s analysis is right (assuming it wasn’t a problem with the voting lines, or a miscount); sadly I am just like all the other suckers on Betfair who didn’t see it coming…

Andy W at 2:36 pm on January 24th, 2009

My analysis is fairly succinct.  It’s voted for by people.  People are stupid.

David R at 4:07 pm on January 24th, 2009

For some reason, when I watch Big Brother, I find I either like a particular series, or I dislike it. There never seems to be any grey area where I can be objective about it. This year’s CBB was clearly in the “dislike” category, and probably the worst ever. 

Once Ulrika was out, the ad break came at a perfect time so I could switch over and see Jonathan Ross wearing his “SUIT OF CONTRITION”. Wow, what a fantastically apologetic suit that was. Dark crimson, and full of humility. I forgive you, my child.

LC at 5:15 pm on January 24th, 2009

Couldn’t remember Ulrika doing any other reality shows. But upon checking Wikipedia, it currently seems to reckon that CBB is all Ulrika has EVER DONE. Hmm…

Regarding this series, the fact that they can get in “big personalities” and it still be lacklustre means the problem is deep-rooted. Maybe people can’t be arsed anymore? It used to be must-see, even during the comparatively boring years (BB4, ffs!)  but no longer. The format has grown tired. Could be as simple as that.

And about UJ winning, very puzzling! She’s never been a particularly well-liked public figure (Shooting Stars being an exception) & wasn’t a fantastic housemate. Either the public had a sudden change of heart, or they still haven’t forgiven Terry Christian for The Word.

Cribnuts in the U.S.A. at 6:17 am on January 25th, 2009

We apologize if the jokes offended you in any way, we were under the impression you enjoyed a good joke and laugh on a good day at work, based on some interviews and articles we read.  We enjoyed much the one about your dad, how he would have laughed.  We thank you for your advice, and we normally do not start business activities with jokes, you were an exception and we actually enjoyed writing to you vs. other business people.  It would be so much a better world if there was more laughter.

Victoria Coren at 2:12 pm on January 25th, 2009

Absolutely. Nothing wrong with jokes. They are definitely welcome things in the world. And whatever you’d written, I’m just not looking to endorse casino games - I think your idea sounds lovely, but to get it into a casino you would have to make sure to give it a massive house edge, thus putting it (for me) on the ‘enemy side’ of the equation.

  It was just my two-pennorth, that the salty tone might distract some people from the business proposition, and worry them slightly. But if they were just jokes specifically for my benefit then thank you, I did laugh, I appreciate the effort and good luck again with the endeavour.

John at 3:06 pm on January 25th, 2009

Davina gave another great performance of a control freak lip-synching to the urban TV myth that the audience really matters.

David Bodycombe at 3:29 pm on January 25th, 2009

Having been in a casino for the first time relatively recently, in this case the Macau clone copy of the Venetian, I was very disappointed to find how depressing the atmosphere is.

While the decor, cocktails and cheesecake were wonderful, the choice of games was extremely poor, some of the computer-run games were decrepit and there wasn’t any poker (only 2 casinos have it in Macau thus far).

By and large, they appear to be temples to human stupidity that people would still flock to in their droves even if “Negative EV” was printed at the top of every roulette spin sheet.

Overall, I’d much rather feed £1 coins into the arcades at Grimsby where you don’t have to fend off jailbait-age hookers every 17.5 yards.

Cribnuts in the U.S.A. at 6:23 pm on January 25th, 2009

Thank you for your replys and we except your decline. It was not so much your decline to our idea, it was the impersonal response that made us feel as if celebrities are so much better, what a change technology has done for communications.
Our game mathmatics do not hold a enormous house advantage, yet as you well know it must have a house advantage (Similar to a rake in poker).  We designed it focused on the player, so that the player could enjoy and be entertained much longer for their money.  We don’t see our game as the enemy - a more improved game to entertain patrons who visit casino for entertainment.  Thanks again and best of luck to you in all your endeavers.

Kenn at 9:23 pm on January 27th, 2009

Despite your, and i can’t believe i’m saying this again, unnatural obsession with this show, Ulrika is a woman of loose values and indeed isn’t a good person. Maybe not a good person is a bit harsh, however i refer you to her numerous affairs stretching from when she hosted Gladiator right through to the post Sven Goran episode. She is in no way a role model and didn’t deserve to win, that is for sure. Remember when Jack Dee won? He was the best role model to ever win BB. A guy who MADE his own career and came good, doesn’t have good looks or anything like that to run off, just did his stuff, did it well and made a life for himself unlike Ulrika. ahem/. Rant over.

Matt at 2:31 am on January 28th, 2009

Hi. First visit to ur blog. Loving ur sense of humour, although some people seem to be missing the point. Not wanting to slag anyone off, but cribnuts, I think Miss Coren is being polite in not saying ‘jog on’. Like take the hint, ur idea obviously sucks!
As for big brother….. it was called ‘Celebrity’ big brother and she is the biggest celebrity (most funny when appearing on Shooting Stars) so perhaps she should have won?
Verne must be loaded anyway…. Vicky would you do big brother? I’m not sure I could, or at least wouldn’t be very entertaining….. would mostly piss people off I think.
If you think I’m random, I have had a botlle of Blossom Hill :-)
Night dudes…....x

Victoria Coren at 3:40 am on January 28th, 2009

Kenn, I think you’re a bit harsh on Ulrika - bitter though I am about my betting losses on the show, I’ve always felt sorry for her that her relationships haven’t worked out and she’s seemed to be upset by it, I don’t think that’s a barrier to winning. The constant complaining when she was in there - that’s what I thought the barrier would be!

  But Jack Dee, ah yes, now there was a winner. Not your obvious “easy nice guy”, but so funny in that series. Of course, if I’m remembering rightly, that was the first one and it was part of Comic Relief, so it had a slightly different vibe to the way it does now. Vanessa Feltz went crazy, and everyone took it really seriously - except Jack, who took the mickey all the time, mucked around and was baffled by the others treating it so sombrely - voters really appreciated that because it was clearly intended (back then) to be a comedy thing.

  Would I do it? That’s a great question for anyone to ask themselves. Not that they’d ever invite me, but in a theoretical world where they did, I’d have to say a reluctant no. No, because those reality shows are looked down on by a lot of people who think the contestants are desperate and the principle is cheap - I DON’T think so, but I couldn’t be bothered to fight the weight of that opinion. I’m irritatingly choosy about what I do on TV, and it would scupper years of saying no to things if people suddenly thought that I’d do (in their eyes) any old rubbish. But it would be a *reluctant* no, because I’d love to test my theory about what you need to do (and not do) to win. Ulrika’s already disproved my system completely, but that may be a weird glitch. Big Brother’s the easiest one of the reality shows to be on, because you just have to sit around and play games (unlike, say, the jungle show, which I wouldn’t do for a million pounds. Seriously not. If they offered me a million - why in God’s name would they?! - I’d say no). But if there was a universe where I could do Big Brother, just to see if I could play the game right and win it like a poker tournament, and then somehow wipe the viewers’ minds clean like Superman so nobody ever knew I’d been there…. well, then I would. Couldn’t resist it.

"Buxom" Barry at 1:54 pm on January 28th, 2009

For the last few days, for varying reasons, I got into the habit of rubbing toilet paper on my man boobs. It worked! Industrial strength bras are now mandatory. Currently waiting on a reply from those lovable rascals at the Daily Star. Who knows, you may see me on next year’s celeb BB.

David R at 4:01 pm on January 28th, 2009

My theory is that reality shows like Big Brother replaced ordinary scripted drama about 10 years ago for many people as the main place to see realistic drama on TV.

That’s why I enjoyed last summer’s Big Brother, because I felt the show looked at the “Big Themes” in life, such as:

Romantic Love:


And Variety to rival Jimmy Tarbuck circa 1978:

David Scott at 9:57 pm on January 28th, 2009

You all missed the obvious reason Ulrika won CBB. She was the only female in 6 and the voters (young female) had a sudden attack of sisterly solidarity.The boys all had at least one reason not to attract the votes (misogynist, too worthy, dull, mancunian, politician) so she was the “might as well vote for her” choice. And Davina had encouraged the idea of the domineering men, when in fact the girls were simply, as you said before, hopeless.
It was statistics wot won it.
And don’t be modest Victoria, bet CBB would love to have you. They like to even the mix with the odd “serious” person, and you have added cute. (witness pic over there <—-) So look forward to seeing you in the house next year in your PJ’s.

Jim at 11:45 am on January 29th, 2009

Speaking of pics, love the new home page shot.

Victoria Coren

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