Big Brother – Is Anyone Still Watching??

Is it just me or did it feel like Big Brother 2006 would never end?

The winner has just been announced (some headband wearing blonde kid who took home around $500,000 in cash and prizes who will no doubt milk his 15 seconds of fame for all its worth), and I am breathing a sigh of relief that Australia may never have to deal with this poor excuse for entertainment and ratings grab.

Only a few weeks ago, I had hoped the series would end, but on a recent Sunday night, whilst waiting for another show to start on Ten, I caught the end of the “Live Eviction” where BB announced 2 more housemates were entering the house the following week. They had just kicked out 2 male “fantastic housemates” (read: “idiots”) for a “foolish” incident (read: “sexual assault”) involving a female housemate (who was left to explain the “foolish” incident to the rest of the house on national television and now won’t press charges) – so why were they refilling the house with more people?

And these 2 new people were on top of intruders and other such people who have been put inside the house. I’m surprised there were still enough beds to go around – oh, wait – that’s what BB wanted – ratings.

And could Gretel Killeen be any more contemptuous to the housemates?

The 6th series of Big Brother in Australia kicked off earlier this year, with the usual fanfare and hoo har and the obligatory claims of “world firsts” to suck in the unsuspecting. I, for one, was not going to be sucked in again, and steadfastly refused to watch any episodes.

I am a reformed Big Brother fan. I was fascinated by the “social experiment”, where strangers consented to voluntary imprisonment in order to reap prizes and 15 seconds of fame. I was glued to the TV for the first series, where we saw an unassuming ex-bouncer Ben (who was bounced out of a job at my local) take the dubious honours of being the first Australian BB winner. For most of the second series, the romantic in me was hooked by the romance that unfolded between Jess the Flamboyant and Marty the Farm Boy. I cheered on Ben the copper in the 3rd series, whose aggressive nature pushed an emotionally unstable Belinda to threaten physical violence and death against him. And I cried tears of joy when Trevor, on national television, proposed to his girlfriend seconds after he was announced the winner of the 4th series.

So what turned me off the show from which I can still quote past contestants? The contestants from the last series as well as this one are awful – they are poor imitations of white trash – loud, brash and undignified. Plus I’d spent 6 months on the other side of BB, during the 4th series. I worked with the people who “manage” the “careers” of the housemates.

The bad taste in my mouth from that experience still lingers, and after the 4th series, I vowed to never voluntarily watch the show, ever again.

The housemates from the 4th series weren’t all that bad – most of them were lovely kids who applied to be on the show to win prizes. Most had the eye on the big prize, and all had hopes of translating their 15 seconds of fame into something longer lasting. After all, Blair from BB1 landed a role on Neighbours which lasted nearly 5 years, and other past housemates have had mediocre success on TV and in radio.

It is just a shame then that the housemates in the ensuing series are just so unlikeable.

It has come to light, since the “foolish” incident a number of weeks ago that more unsavoury incidents have occurred in the house in the past. More distressingly, there were other truths unearthed about current and former housemates. Is Ten that desperate for ratings that they would stoop to any length to get these “interesting” people to voluntarily be locked inside a house and let nature take its course?

One would have thought Ten might have learnt a lesson or two after the questionable behaviour of some of the housemates in the 5th series – debauchery, indecent exposure, harassment, bullying – and that’s just scratching the surface of misdemeanours committed by the housemates inside the house. Once on the outside, armed with the age-old “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” more bad behaviour followed, leading to one housemate being arrested for a lewd act in public. He’s gone on to “star” in a late night game show on Ten – which makes me wonder why I spent years earning my degree and working my butt off for a decent living if getting arrested and behaving badly was all that was needed to have a relatively lucrative TV career.

The “foolish” incident ensured BB captured the spotlight, and even moved the Prime Minister to decree the show as “stupid”. The public called for the show to be axed, and for plan for future shows to be shelved. Yet Ten soldiered on and kept the show moving, even introducing more people to the show in its dying weeks, making this series the longest in its history, with the most number of Z-listers produced from one reality TV show.

Will Ten learn from the train wreck that was this year’s BB? Only time will tell, but if I was a betting person, I’d put my money on “same time, same channel – see you next year”.

Incidentally:

1. From the “Where Are They Now” files, the winner from the 3rd series has come full circle when it was reported that she was looking to purchase a fish and chips shop. Reggie, the simple takeaway shopgirl from Tasmania, sold her takeaway shop shortly after she became the first female Australian BB winner. Thereafter, she divorced her husband and became embroiled in a torrid relationship that saw her winnings drained by a former boyfriend. She subsequently took to the skies as a stewardess for Virgin Blue, but had to quit her “dream job” when she didn’t / couldn’t / wouldn’t get along with her fellow steward staff.

2. The female housemate subjected to the “foolish” incident in BB06 finished in second place. Here’s hoping she’ll fade into the background before too long.

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