You know that feeling. A removal van pulls up outside your house, so you peer out from an upstairs window and watch as the belongings are unloaded. Ugly couch, white pleather bar stools and a CRT TV. It’s pretty much all you need to know about your new neighbours. And that’s pretty much how I view Big Brother now. I’m usually curious enough to give it a couple of hours’ attention; just long enough to decide I want nothing more to do with the new inhabitants, before switching over to the Family Guy marathon on BBC Three.
The Channel 5 continuity announcer promises “the famous, the fabulous and the filthy,” but forgive me for lowering my expectations somewhat. The audience at Elstree is in good voice, but I have a sneaking suspicion they’ve been locked in here since Friday’s finale. Emma’s looking lovely as always, but her awkward stance makes her look as if she had to drip dry in the onsite Portaloo. There’s no point showing us around the house, because it’s been on our screens since late May, so let’s dive straight into our new housemates.
About as surprising an appearance as Emma herself, White Dee from Benefits Street has been talked up as a housemate for 12 months now. Despite sounding like outtakes from Cher’s Believe, Dee seems pretty easy to get along with, unless you happened to nick her regular table at the Gala Bingo. Making a mockery of Emma’s earlier comment about Champagne and Michelin starred restaurants, Dee has opted for an unforgiving grey sheath that makes her look like a giant, 43 year-old pupa. Apparently, Dee turned down a role in an X-rated spoof of Benefits Street. I’m not sure why – this one might have been played for more laughs, but I’ll bet that everyone who appeared in it still got fucked.
With Wikipedia permanently open in my browser, I can happily tell you that our second housemate is James Jordan, one of the dancers from Strictly Come Dancing. James was recently sacked from the BBC One flagship, and likes to think it’s because he’s the Bad Boy of Ballroom. That sobriquet is a lot less exciting when you consider he could have earned it by refusing to wax the parquet. Like many of his contemporaries, James spends most of his time pointing out just how incredibly heterosexual he is, before inviting us to admire his arse. Just don’t get too close – he’s been on the Immodium all day, which at least explains why he’s so full of shit. In the house, he has no idea who Dee is, so makes a point of telling her he’s been on TV for eight years. Of course, Dee knows exactly who he is, because, as the Government would like us to remember, people on benefits live for fags and Sky+.
Claire King is unusual, in that she’s both recognisable and talented, having made her name as the superbitch in Emmerdale. With a smoky laugh that sounds like the faulty transmission on an Austin Princess, she’s trying to compare Emmerdale to Dynasty and Dallas, but she’s not convincing anyone. I don’t remember Krystle and Alexis ever coming to blows over a partially birthed calf. She’s not too worried about criticism, reckoning she’s old enough and ugly enough. That’s a little harsh – if I’m honest, she just looks like she’s here as Helen Lederer’s stand-in. “I’m just a grumpy old woman,” she argues, clearly pitching for a slot on the Loose Women breakfast bar.
David Mackintosh considers himself to be an international heartthrob, having starred on the recent unsuccessful reboot of Gladiators. “I’m a muscle-bound eccentric who loves life,” he opines, before launching into a weird anecdote about crashing a van full of dead badgers. “I’m there because I’m an interesting person,” he argues, missing the fact that the casting team was given a tight brief to find someone with the exact same silhouette as Foghorn Leghorn.
Kellie Maloney’s life changed several weeks ago, when a story appeared in one of the tabloids about her gender-swap. Now, I’m assuming that’s the same story she took to the papers ahead of her imminent entry into the Big Brother house. Formerly known as boxing promoter Frank Maloney, Kellie is doing an incredibly brave thing – not least because no one should have to learn to apply eyeliner in front of a judgmental nation. Even so, she’s looking good, and from behind is completely indistinguishable from Claire King. Kellie seizes on James and says: “Are you the dancer? Can you teach me to dance?” I’d advise her to practice walking in heels, before she tries tackling a paso doble.
Audley Harrison is a boxer with size 17 feet and the kind of irrepressible spirit that’d give Kriss Akabusi a migraine. His VT is all very agreeable, which is why I’m more focused on the fact that he’s going into the house dressed as one half of Milli Vanilli. Marcus Bentley tells us that Audley has a degree in sport science and leisure management, which basically makes him Gordon Brittas with a decent right hook.
“What’s the big deal about big boobs?” asks the cosmetically augmented Lauren Goodger as she thrusts her man-made mams at the camera. Her whole VT is a senseless collage of meaningless phrases and pouts that look like she’s disgorging a dinner plate. She’s excited about the chance to appear on a show where she can just be herself, but even the TOWIE viewers are scratching their extensions at that one. As she enters the house, we’re told Lauren was once proposed to in a pub car park, which makes me wonder whether that’s a euphemism for the thing she was seen doing in that “intimate video” she mentioned earlier.
If you thought we’d already hit rock bottom, allow me to peel back the underlay and introduce you to George Gilbey – a man who watches telly. Like we were all doing. There’s a part of me that wished that Gogglebox were on at the same time, so we could initiate some kind of meta rift in the space time continuum. As it is, we’re stuck with George sipping gingerly at pints and telling us that wearing no underwear makes him quite Western. He’s so nervous that when he pours himself a glass of Rosé it’s like watching Ted Striker trying to overcome his drinking problem.
Our next housemate is a quarter of B*Witched. Edele was the lead-singer in the denim-clad Irish foursome, and seemed to have the biggest problem with everyone when the group reformed for The Big Reunion. She never came across as being particularly likeable, and this VT isn’t exactly swinging things in her favour. Emma seems particularly disengaged during Edele’s interview, probably because the humidity is doing weird things to her hair.
Ricci tells us that he’s “probably best known for the Geordie Shore.” I’m not sure where else his notoriety might come from, unless he’s also featured on cautionary posters in every GUM clinic across the North East. Like Lauren before him, his VT is all about “bringing the party” and obsessing about parts of his body. He’s particularly proud of his six-pack, whipping up his Hollister top to finger the ridges. It’s great that he knows how to do sit-ups, but since the rest of him is so unremarkable, it’s like buying a new car just for the alloys.
Stephanie Pratt is the sister of the universally loathed Spencer, who stupefied audiences last year with his self-involved delusions. Stephanie has appeared on The Hills and Made In Chelsea, and could give Reece Witherspoon chin envy. She’s determined to prove that she’s not ditzy, and seems to be participating in Big Brother for the social experiment because she once studied an anthropology module. She reckons that travelling on the Tube is fun, which means she’s never had to use it, and she seems to think that creating a line of belts makes her a designer.
The last three housemates have been separated out in the interests of Big Brother’s first big challenge. Dee has been selected to pose as a distant relative of the Queen, and if she can fool the next three housemates for 24 hours, they’ll all win a luxury food budget. The show’s stylists have simply wrapped her in a window display from Bensons For Beds and backcombed her hair into a beehive, so the Americans may take some convincing.
First up is Leslie Jordan, a genuinely hilarious comedian, raconteur and actor, who most people will recognise from Will & Grace, where he played Karen’s nemesis Beverley Leslie. I also remember him as someone who once got barbecued by Jason Voorhees, but that probably says more about me. As he greets Emma, it’s a lot like seeing Ronnie Corbett playing Elton John in a Comic Relief sketch. We also quickly get a sense that his line about falling out of his mother’s womb into her high heels is a lot like Dolly Parton’s “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” I’m going to bet this won’t be the last time we hear that one.
Angelique ‘Frenchy’ Morgan once appeared on a reality show about dating Brett Michaels, and seems to have been stitched together from the pieces they cut off Donatella Versace. She tells us that everything about her is fake, and I’m wondering whether that includes her accent, since she talks like a drunk Inspector Clouseau. “Obviously I like cock. I’m ze worst and ze bitch,” she admits conspiratorially. We also discover that she’s more comfortable when she’s naked, but I imagine she’d be the only one, since she looks more like a Gerald Scarfe sketch than an actual woman.
Our final housemate is Gary Busey – formerly a successful Hollywood actor, and now Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion on bath salts. Like a set of sentient dentures that have been left overnight in a glass full of crazy, it’s a miracle Gary even got on the plane, never mind made it through Big Brother’s psychiatric evaluation. His interview with Emma is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve seen all year, and I watched every episode of The Voice. I keep reminding myself that this is Gary Busey sober, and wondering if, maybe, we’re all doing it wrong. As Gary staggers towards the house, he insists that Emma accompanies him, and the producers cut her microphone feed, just in case. By the time Dee re-enters as the Duchess of Solihull, it’s clear that there’s one housemate she won’t have to struggle to convince. The state he’s in, you could probably introduce Gary to a ficus and tell him it’s fifth in line to the throne. Mark my words - no good will come of this.