There was a time when a new series of Big Brother carried with it a sense of occasion. In the final days before the premiere, the red tops would speculate about who was going in, and we’d all start practicing excuses for turning down social engagements, just in case it got really good. But ever since its Lazarus-like reappearance on Channel 5, the format has reached an exhausting level of ubiquity.
Emma can do her best to sound excited about the new line-up, but anyone who’s been on holiday for more than a couple of weeks would be forgiven for thinking that it never actually went off the air. From must-see TV, to inexplicably omnipresent fixture. Kind of like Last Of The Summer Wine, if Nora Batty punched a hole in those wrinkly tights with an empty wine bottle.
Maybe Endemol has started to get the message, as the show starts with a weird moment as Big Brother announces a system failure and attempts a reboot. Meanwhile, Emma’s doing her best to get a largely disinterested audience engaged in what’s going on. “Welcome to Big Brother Power Trip,” she announces, fully aware that she could be talking about her one-woman media takeover. “I’m so excited,”she shrieks, but given how often she has to do this, her hysterical reaction is a little like me wetting myself about renewing my travelcard.
The walkaround the newly redecorated house is as rushed and shambolic as usual – with a standout moment being the shot of Emma demonstrating how to use the toilet. Somewhere, someone’s taking some high-res screen grabs and will spend the rest of the week on Photoshop. The entire house seems to have been kitted out in Perspex, as though they’re planning to imprison Magneto in there. It’s also worth acknowledging GlobalCasino.com, who’ve managed to hit a new low in poor quality sponsorship idents. Looking like she should be advertising premium chatlines at 2.30 in the morning, the chatty croupier in a Primark party dress offers teasing snippets of insight along the lines of “Just wait till they all get to know each other.” It’s all so incredibly cheap and low-tech, I’m almost surprised they didn’t just use a zoetrope instead.
Time to meet the hamsters who’ll be spending the next four months in this glorified Habitrail. First up is Tamara – she’s a “global oil and gas headhunter,” which is LinkedIn-ese for ‘recruitment consultant.’ Despite telling us how fearsome and intelligent she is, the statement “I revel from authority” suggests she’s unlikely to be vying for Stephen Fry’s slot on QI. She seems quite insistent that no man can tame her, and it looks as though most of her tops suffer from a similar struggle. Clearly cast as this series’ villain, Tamara thinks she’s better than everyone, but given the low bar of previous line-ups, her assertion may yet prove pertinent. In a final flurry of tabloid baiting, she announces that she’s looking for a ‘man buffet,’ so I’d advise her to steer clear of the mayonnaise.
Mark is a visual merchandiser for Liverpool and looks like a dumpier version of Marcus Collins, or George Michael in a pair of comedy Scouse brows. He spends all his time and money on a painfully tedious beauty regimen, but the results demonstrate a poor return on his investment. In fact, a gym membership might have been a better idea.
Here to fog the boundaries between Celebrity Big Brother and the regular edition, is Helen, who owns a salon in Bolton and once fucked Wayne Rooney. She just wants to move on and stop talking about it, so it’s interesting that she chose to bring it in the first instance. Frank and straight-talking, she thinks that she’s quite easy to not like, and I’m willing to respect her for being right on the money. She’s arrived at the house in a cheaper knock-off of Tamara’s black and white dress, so the sparks should be flying before the first Champagne cork is popped. She might look the part, but her comment “I was shittin’ it I was gonna fall” ensures that she’s unlikely to be mistaken for Pippa Middleton too often.
Steven is a 23 year-old turd who set up his first company in competition with his parents, and now counts them amongst his employees. Now, call me cynical, but that sounds more like a smart way to avoid inheritance tax than any sign of business acumen. He turned over his first million two years ago, but neglects to mention how much of that was profit, and he boasts “I’ve got THE car.” To be fair, he’s got A car, but from the close crop, it could be a Renault Megane. He’s also been to 119 countries – but who counts that shit? “Oh, we like you,” lies Emma through her teeth, as Steven heads into the house. Four down, and so far the men are the ones with the most ridiculous eyebrows.
Time to stir things up a bit, with a healthy dose of controversy. Businesswoman, and Janine Duvitski lookalike Danielle is an old fashioned girl. She doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex, contraception or gay marriage, but she does believe in posing in her underwear as a part-time lingerie model. According to Marcus Bentley, she goes to church every Sunday (that’s British fundamentalism for you), but her VT seems to suggest she spends most of that time walking her dog round the graveyard.
Winston is a business development manager, which I think means that he tells Ukrainian women whether they can have £15k loan to open a nail bar. He’s a lot like Joey Essex, but with bigger arms and “a bit more smarter.” He’s a real ladies man, and enjoys a diversity of types, from nines all the way through to tens. He also knows that, if they’re not interested, they’re most likely lesbians. When he’s not busy obsessing about “birds’ arses and breasts,” he’s contemplating the likelihood of his victory in the house: “My name’s Winston. WIN.” Presumably, he’s planning to learn how to spell the other half once he’s been crowned.
Matthew is a media graduate who’s too posh for socks. Everyone thinks he’s gay, apart from his girlfriend of six years, who’s in for a cruel awakening. Continuing tonight’s theme of ‘Cameron’s Britain,’ Matthew is yet another self-important, entitled little prick, with all the impact of a soiled handkerchief. He has a panic attack at the base of the stairs, and given that he’s terrified of failure, the next few weeks could constitute some pretty effective aversion therapy.
Kimberly is yet another business woman and Playboy model – which means we’re dangerously close to turning this series of Big Brother into The Apprentice in D cups. She’s got a law degree and an MBA, prompting Emma to observe that “Brains and beauty are a lethal combination.” She’s going in there to make porridge and sunbathe, not take out an Al Qaeda sleeper cell. Marcus attempts to regale us with fascinating facts about Kimberly’s life, but he’s mustering all the enthusiasm of a narcoleptic reading the shipping forecast.
Our ninth housemate is another pleasant looking, 23 year-old media graduate. So far, the cast of this series is making the Bullingdon Club look refreshingly diverse. Christopher is a journalist who hates celebrities like Kim Kardashian who see fame as a viable career option. Don’t worry folks, we’ve got 16 weeks to call him on his hypocrisy. Christopher admires Katie Hopkins and idolises Madonna. That’s code, you know. As he enters the house, the men all stand together in their skinny jeans, like they’re waiting for an American Apparel fashion shoot.
Finally, we’re treated to a housemate who’s over 25. In fact, she’s almost twice that. 49 year-old Pauline is a dance teacher who, in a former life, went by the name of Jazzi P and provided the rap for Kylie’s Shocked. Pauline doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which means she’s in for a miserable few weeks. She’s cast aside the sweatpants for her big entrance, and goes into the house looking like she’s been styled by the Andrex puppy. She keeps breaking out the dance moves, but to my untrained eye, it looks like she’s suffering from an inner-ear problem.
Now, we’ve got nine obnoxious twenty-somethings, who seem to think that holding down a job warrants a standing ovation, and a take-no-prisoners 49 year old. Who do you think the audience will give the power to? In a shocking twist, the viewers decide to put Pauline in control, so she’s sent off to the control room to watch some ‘top secret footage’ of the other housemates. In reality, the poor woman has to sit through all their introductory VTs, so at least we can understand her pained expression. She then has to decide who will be rewarded, and who will be punished. In the garden, Mark and Matthew are stuck in Perspex boxes. Mark’s box is filled with cash as a reward for being nice, and Matthew is simply stuck in the air. Not to worry - David Blaine made a fortune doing that. By the time Emma hands over to Rylan, who’s now turned into Kenny Everett’s impression of Janet Street Porter, I’ve already had my fill. Six more housemates will be entering later in the week, and it’s welcome to them.