I thought Big Brother was gone - consigned to the history books like Margaret Thatcher, or smallpox. Its move to Channel 5 obscurity back in 2011 only confirmed my suspicion that it had never fully recovered from the 2003 edition, when
" >Cameron Stout (remember him?) plodded his way to victory like a tortoise with a club foot.
How wrong could I be? This year the show has not so much found a new lease of life, as had a syringe full of adrenaline and Baileys injected straight into its spinal column. It's like watching The Wolf of Wall Street re-made by Mike Leigh. Kitchen sink hedonism.
The plaudits must go to the producers, who have performed a resurrection miracle that should make Richard Dawkins question everything. If they can bring this much entertainment to Celebrity Big Brother imagine what they could do with Trooping the Colour, or the 10 O'clock news. We could have Huw Edwards read out a report on quantitative easing, whilst in a twosie with Keith Chegwin.
The real genius (yes, genius) behind this series is the casting. They have managed to assemble a group of perfectly mis-matched personalities who seem to irritate each other like chipotle in a paper cut. And when they're not fantasising about each other's death, they're climbing into each other's bed. This gives the show a febrile atmosphere that could, at any given moment, turn the house into an orgy or a borstal. Either way, they need lots of tissues.
I must confess at this point that I haven't actually watched this series from the very beginning. My Damascene moment came when scrolling through Twitter on a particularly dull Saturday night. I started noticing some fantastical and terrifying reports involving Lionel Blair and leather chaps. Further investigations revealed the source of these stories to be the new series of Celebrity Big Brother. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I tuned in.
What I saw that night will stay imprinted on my psyche forever, like a cattle brand straight to the cerebellum. It was like looking into the mind of Peter Stringfellow during the first stages of dementia. Jasmine Waltz, Luisa Zissman, Lee Ryan, and Lionel Blair - all dressed in bondage gear - were slipping and sliding all over one another like spawning eels migrating up the Sargasso Sea.
It was all part of a wonderfully deranged task in which one half of the house had to perform a 'U' rated version and other an '18' rated one. The most extraordinary thing of all was that Lionel Blair - born eight years before the outbreak of World War Two - seemed to relish the challenge more than anyone else.
After yelling out a couple of sexual instructions, he then proceeded to gyrate with all the frustrated enthusiasm of an angry gibbon. For a man old enough to remember Winston Churchill's 'Fight them on the beaches' speech, it was rather upsetting, but oddly impressive.
This task marked the high (or ultimate low) point for the show and I have been ensnared by it ever since - like an ant caught in jam. I'm not even sure I really enjoy it in a normal sense. It feels more like a compulsion that I have to satisfy, rather than a genuine pleasure. And after watching it for an hour a night, everything else on television becomes fuzzy. It's looking into the sun and then trying to read.
This retina-scolding series of Celebrity Big Brother will come to an end on the 29 January but it will remain lividly in the memory of millions, for years to come. How many TV programmes can say that? You decide.