‘Big Brother’ was once the most talked-about show on TV, but 18 years on, its future has been left hanging in the balance after a string of poorly executed series and tumbling ratings.
One of Channel 5′s top bosses has spoken out to say the show will not be returning “in its current form” after its deal expires later this year, with many fans now questioning whether this is the final death-knell for the former reality juggernaut.
If you are to believe what former ‘Big Brother’ winner Brian Belo has been saying of late, it is presenters Emma Willis and Rylan Clark-Neal who are responsible for the show being on its last legs, accusing them of not caring about it and not living up to former host Davina McCall.
Quite frankly, we think he’s wrong - they’re arguably the best thing about ‘Big Brother’ - but there is no denying it’s in a rut right now.
All is not lost, however, as the 2018 series gives bosses the chance to remind people why they once loved the show - or failing that, to go out with a huge bang.
With a re-invigoration of the franchise clearly on the cards, here’s what we think bosses should be doing to reverse the fortunes of its civilian series....
1. A more considered selection of housemates
Remember when the ‘Big Brother’ house was full of a range of people from different backgrounds, age groups and occupations? Nope, us neither. That’s because these days, you’re more likely to find a flood of ‘models’, a Z-lister’s second cousin once removed, or someone who once had a cameo on ‘Ex On The Beach’ taking up residence in the Borehamwood bungalow.
Not only are these people often desperate for fame, but they are usually fairly one-dimensional housemates, and you can almost predict who is going to argue and who is going to cop off with who (often just for the sake of a magazine deal).
What the show desperately needs is some everyday people. Someone you see down the local shop. Someone you’d have a drink with in a pub. Someone who is going to make us laugh. Someone with an incredible story to tell. Someone who is going to spark important conversations.
Having a wide-ranging mix of people, not only allows us to see the interesting interactions of people whose paths may not cross in real life, it also gives the public the chance to identify with at least one of the characters - arguably what made the early years on Channel 4 such a success.
2. The return of the social experiment
Since moving to Channel 5, ‘Big Brother’ has quite boastfully become a pure entertainment show, but it originally built its audience by establishing itself as as the ultimate social experiment.
Many people who watched it for those reasons have now long gone, but there’s the potential to attract some of them back, with a ‘back-to-basics’ series.
With a broad mix of housemates, we’d love to see the psychology element return to the show, with analysis and insights into the housemates behaviour.
Hardcore fans of the show would also argue having a real social experiment would require the return of the live feed, so we can watch housemates unedited and unfiltered (bird tweet sound effects permitting).
3. Make the house actually look nice
The ‘Big Brother’ house has had many different guises over the last 18 years, but lately it has become increasingly gimmicky and garish. While this has often been done to push the housemates to the absolute limit, it has also felt like an attack on viewers’ eyes too.
Last year’s house, for example, was once of their tackiest ever and looked horrid on-screen. When you compared this with how ‘Love Island’ looked on telly, with its gorgeous villa and sun-kissed garden, it isn’t hard to see why people were abandoning ‘BB’ in favour of its rival.
What it needs is stripping right back. Bosses should get rid of the colours, heighten the oppressive ceilings and make it feel like a place you might want to live. After all, there is a reason why the ‘Big Brother 3’ house has always been a fan favourite.
Moreover, it would be good to see the layout of the house properly changed. After years of it remaining largely the same, we’re long overdue a proper revamp - and who knows? They may finally make use of that second house.
4. Less arguments, more humour
If you think of classic ‘Big Brother’ moments, the majority of them will likely be funny ones - Nikki Grahame’s Diary Room rants, Alison Hammond breaking the table and Nadia Almada’s breakdown over cigarettes, for example. And while we’ve still had some belly laughs in recent years, all too often they have been overshadowed by grisly arguments.
What we need is less situations specifically engineered to cause conflict and tension, and ones where there are opportunities for housemates’ personalities to shine, as that is where genuine laughs will come from.
Too often, watching an episode of ‘Big Brother’ can feel like an endurance test, but a hearty injection of humour would go a long way in helping everyone feel a lot less stressed out as the credits roll.
5. Stop plying housemates with booze
The source of many of arguments in the house is alcohol, and while we’re not for a minute suggesting ‘Big Brother’ implements a booze ban, it’s time they tightened the taps of the free-flowing supply.
‘Love Island’ limits its contestants to only a few drinks a night, and the atmosphere in the villa is all the better for it, so lets hope housemates have to start earning their drinks, rather than just having to go to the Diary Room and ask for more whenever the house becomes dry.
6. No meddling from producers
As thrilling, original and frequent twists once were, 18 years on, it seems the ideas well has run dry, with rehashed versions of previous one trotted out series-after-series.
Not only has this become boring for us as viewers to watch, it’s also become predictable for housemates too, with them also foreseeing Big Brother’s next move at every turn.
So how refreshing would it be just to see the housemates completely left to their own devises, with no secret houses, no nomination twists (always clearly designed to save certain housemates - we see you) and no newbies thrown in for no apparent reason?
7. For production decisions to be stuck to
Cast your mind back to 2016 when it was announced - in a ‘Big Brother’ first - that there would be two completely separate houses. The idea certainly had promise, but cut to two weeks later, and the decision was made to end the stunt early - despite the fact millions had been spent on building a whole second house, and the marketing campaign for the series being based on the two houses.
But this is far from the first time producers have set their stall out, only for them to let things fizzle out.
While the series was a fan favourite, the ‘Secrets & Lies’ theme of the 2013 was quickly forgotten about, and the January 2018 ‘Celebrity’ series marked itself as ‘all-female’, only for men to be introduced three days later.
What we really want is for bosses to have courage in their convictions - to make bold choices and stick to them, rather than having everyone feel like they are making things up as they are going along.
8. A revamp of the live shows
Over the years, the crowd outside the Elstree abode has not only dramatically thinned out, but those gathered have increasingly become like a baying mob, which can often make evictions feel unpleasant to watch. Call it radical, but we’d love to see the eviction shows move back inside and given a format makeover.
Rather than just an hour of packaged highlights and an eviction chat, an element of ‘Bit On The Side’ could be introduced, where a panel could debate over the impending eviction, psychologists could give their verdicts, and friends and family could make their cases for why those nominated deserve to stay.
Emma could then make the eviction announcement inside to stop housemates from hearing the crowd reaction, and only head outside when it is time for the evictee to walk down those dreaded stairs.
To tie in with the return to the social experiment, the studio could also take on an underground bunker feel with lots of surveillance screens, capturing the real essence of ‘Big Brother’.
‘Big Brother’ will return to Channel 5 this summer, followed by a ‘Celebrity’ series, which could be the last ever.