Celebrity Big Brother: The Wilderness Years

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tara Reid. She has no clue where she is, what she’s meant to be doing or indeed what her own name is, but she is arguably the most famous person to have entered the ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother house and for that we should be grateful.

Once upon a time, Big Brother was the the first step into a brave new world of reality programming. The central idea behind the show that made it so appealing back in 2000 was we had no clue how eleven strangers would react when banged up in a plywood house for three months. How this vaguely interesting notion transmogrified over the last eleven years into a bunch of narcissistic, intellectually challenged people from Essex repeating spoon fed lines and covering each others genitalia in tiny crystals (The Only Way Is Essex, like you didn’t know), I have no clue.

But I hope that given a glimpse into this dystopian future at the time, we would’ve quietly arranged to have the original concept put down shortly after birth, for its own sake as well as ours.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. When Big Brother began, it was a harmless exercise in entertainment crossed with social experiment. We forgot that we were only used to seeing famous people on TV, and embraced the housemates like old friends. By mere virtue of being there, in our living rooms, they were famous.

Of course, the truth eventually hit home.  You can’t just film people leading their own lives because they’re all actually really boring. Far better to create situations for them, prepare their reactions for them and carefully edit the results to maximise drama and minimise the possibility of any humanity escaping.

The result of all this is that we now have a vast ocean of people who have appeared on TV and are willing to be filmed doing almost anything for more exposure. It’s surely no past-meets-future satirical statement that two of the current CBB housemates actually acquired their own peculiar brand of notoriety via recent ‘dramality’ shows – Paddy Doherty from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the unashamedly vapid and pneumatically enhanced Amy Childs from TOWIE. They’ve got a reputation to maintain.

The sad truth is, Big Brother was a knackered old concept by last year, when Channel 4 did eventually try to do the decent thing and kill it off, it although by that point the damage had clearly been done to our mental health. Cheerily, Richard Desmond’s Channel 5 (the Brigitte Bardot of the television world, by the looks of things) rescued it from its rightful spot in the bowels of hell by buying the rights, kicking off their own version last night to much snurfling by the TV critics.

But before criticising the calibre of the contestants the station has managed to attract, haven’t they missed the point? Charlie Sheen, Pamela Anderson and Mike Tyson were unlikely to appear on Big Brother. They’re ‘real’ celebrities with jobs to do, refreshments to enjoy, tattoos to have. We ended up with Amy, Paddy, Bobby Sabel, Lucien Laviscount and Pamela Bach because they’re desperate for more fame. Soon enough, they’ll get it.

Big Brother is being consumed by its own offspring, people. You should probably watch it happen.

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