Big Brother: The Young & the Desperate

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As bad habits go, writing  about appalling television sits on the social niceties scale alongside blowing one’s nose on the curtains.

Not only does the act provoke outrage and derision at the time, but everyone feels inexplicably dirty and wrong for a long time afterwards.


This particular foray through the seven circles of televison hell isn’t going to be fun, though. Not like it normally is. I’m not going to make facetious remarks about people’s hair or emit startled parps about Person A being surprisingly pleasant given that they spent the majority of their VT articulating precisely how catastrophically ignorant they are.

I wish I was.

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This one is about how, when I watched the launch show and saw the new housemates strut along the catwalk towards Emma Willis to the now predictably confused soundtrack of boos, hooting and yelled insults, I felt concerned for their welfare. Not because I thought they would suffer as a result of the very particular kind of exposure or publicity that invariably follows an appearance on reality television these days,  but because they’ve had fifteen series’ worth of warnings and applied anyway.

What can have gone so wrong with their self-esteem that they should seek recognition from the now finely tuned and infinitely vicious fickle celebirty contempt machine that has thrived beneath those unpleasant auspices?

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Don’t be under any illusion. Most of the people who are currently ensconced in that nicely furnished but still-built-of-plywood studio in Elstree are absolutely gagging for their moment in the spotlight. And while a few hide their need better than others, the majority appear to be impervious to the notion that they’re anything other than utterly alluring and/or talented.

Some, like pastor’s daughter Adjoah, cafe worker Harriet and chav Chloe (her words, not mine) have strayed slightly off the pout strewn path of least resistence, it’s true. In the early exchanges they preferred to court controversy instead; offering their opinions on the varied subjects of “pussy”, “immigrants” and “posh people” respectively.

Nick and Joel are the random, faintly baffled posh boys, Sarah the catfish chucked in to keep them all alert and Kieran the funnyman, who lacks timing, wit and any real sense of comedy as a concept.

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The affable Jack is the only vaguely likeable one among them and it’s a shame no-one will notice that the reason he’s probably going to win is because he’s not ‘conventionally good looking’ and therefore has had to use his brief time on this planet to develop a personality.

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The rest are seemingly bereft of anything but teeth, hair, tits, tight abs and garish fashion sensibilities. But they’re all the same, regardless. If they’re lucky, they’re forge a shiny but brief career hosting a programme about the accidents people have while inebriated, get fat shamed on a beach and release an exercise DVD in time for Christmas. If they’re unlucky, they’ll make an insensitive remark, get smuggled out and become an enemy of the state until Katie Hopkins launches another Twitter missive.

And yet they still queue up in their thousands for the chance to be exploited for our entertainment. Indeed, Channel 5, who have been producing the show since Channel 4 dropped it in 2010, are so confident that the Machiavellian torture won’t put potential participants off that they didn’t even bother to wait until this year’s crop had taken their party frocks off before showing them precisely how brutal the regime they’re now subject to can be. 

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Simon Gross, a theatre production company owner, was chucked out during the first episode, a mere two hours after going in. Gross, whose habit of shouting “SHOWBIZ!” at the top of his voice when confronted with any new and potentially perturbing development, was among five housemates voted to take part in Timebomb challenge, which basically involved the removal of a plastic key from a perspex orb that then revealed whether they’d be rewarded or punished.

Gross’s fate effectively articulates the disdain the show has for its contestants; they are merely pawns whose feelings and desires, no matter how peculiar they might seem to many of us, can be toyed with, teased and stretched before they’re mercilessly crushed for pleasure. I’m not perfect, I found Gross’s desperation unedifying and annoying, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to see his dream ripped away from hism and beaten to death while it quivers helplessly on a soundstage in Borehamwood.

We shouldn’t be dismissive of this being considered entertainment. We should be worried about what it says about our culture. That it’s seen as normal to seek self esteem in places that casually expose it and then publicly flagellates you for it.

It’s not normal. It really isn’t. It’s fucking terrifying.

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