‘Big Brother’ has been a truly mixed bag this year, hasn’t it?
Things started off promisingly enough with the ‘Others’ twist, but by the time things picked up again with ‘Annihilation Week’, the show had lost a chunk of its viewers. With the final now less than a week away, here are some of the lessons Channel 5 should learn from this year’s series...
1. Get some housemates who aren’t reality TV pros
We know that finding 16 people to go into the ‘Big Brother’ house, who have absolutely no TV experience between them, is a bit of a tall order, but this year’s line-up took the biscuit. Half of them had already been at the forefront of other reality shows, while Ryan Ruckledge was one of the biggest early talking points from last year’s ‘X Factor’ (admittedly it was a slow year).
Half of the joy of ‘BB’ is seeing everyday people in extraordinary situations, so when half of them already know which way to look into the camera and what it is that’s going to make good telly, it feels contrived, and puts viewers off.
2. See twists through till the end
Remember the exciting lead-up to this year’s ‘BB’? ‘The game is changing’, we were promised. ‘Two houses’, we were assured. It was all very mysterious, and it felt like the 17-year format was finally about to be given a huge shake-up.
Two days into the series, when Jackson and Alex moved into the “secret” house next door, the housemates assured them in the face of their “fake eviction”: “Don’t worry, you’re only going next door.” Just days later, it felt like the wheels had well and truly fallen off, and before long the ‘Others’ were in the main house.
We’re not saying how we’d have resolved the issue of the housemates figuring out the secret twist they’d spent months planning, but we’re also saying Channel 5 didn’t have to set themselves up for a failure by attempting such a big stunt, and ultimately abandoning it really early on. If you’re going to try something new, stand by it, even when it hits a bump in the road.
And speaking of twists…
3. Stop orchestrating arguments
Since ‘BB’ moved to Channel 5 in 2011, it’s pretty much now a given that if one of the contestants slags off their housemate, they’re going to find out about it some way or another, because these days bosses just can’t help meddling.
If you put a group of people in a room together with nothing to do all day but get on each other’s nerves, they’re going to argue. The rows will come, you just have to sit back and let them, so playing videos of the group backstabbing or orchestrating tasks where they actively have to decide who is the “least trustworthy”, “bitchiest” and “most fake” feel clunky and completely transparent.
Worst of all is when snippets or even full clips from the Diary Room, the one space in the house that’s supposed to be a sanctuary, are played to the rest of the house. Leave them alone, and they’ll get on with it themselves in time.
4. Keep things nice and simple
Another complaint we have about the ‘Others’ twist was that didn’t actually understand what was going on for a vast majority of the time, and we can’t have been the only ones. It started seeming simple enough: one main house, one ‘other’ house which residents were made to break out of by any means necessary.
As the days rolled on, though, it became harder to get to grips with. Some ‘others’ were living in the main house, some main housemates were moved to the ‘other’ house, and it became harder to keep up with who knew about the different houses, who was clued up about some housemates’ histories with one another, and, sometimes, even simply who was living where.
The fact of the matter is, nobody is watching ‘BB’ to put their brains to the test, so it’s probably a good idea to keep future twists as uncomplicated as possible.
5. Find a timeslot and stick to it
While we’re on the subject of not being able to follow things - if you’re going to put a TV show on every night, how about some consistency? For next year, keep in mind you’re going to be up against ‘Love Island’, so a fixed 10pm time-slot is ideal, and will allow reality fans to get their nightly dose of their two favourite guilty pleasures.
6. Let’s talk about sex, ‘BB’
This year’s series arguably had more under-the-covers action than any ‘BB’ before it. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing by any means - in fact, one of our favourite moments of the entire series was Laura and Evelyn’s visible bemusement at not one, but two, couples getting up close and personal in the bedroom either side of them.
Even Ryan inviting Hughie to “smell his hand” (*heave*) shortly after one of their trysts felt like another cringe-worthy moment for the ‘BB’ vault rather than a moment worthy of outcry from viewers, but we must admit that Marco and Laura’s antics in the pod did leave us feeling a little uncomfortable. Yes, we’re talking about the choking.
Nobody wants seven weeks of conversations about knitting, Scrabble and kittens (actually, that sounds like a great show, but it’s not what we want from ‘Big Brother’ at least), but just in the name of taste, there are certain things we don’t want from reality TV. Choking is near the top of our list.
7. More ‘Annihilation Week’-esque stunts, please
When we heard about ‘Annihilation Week’, it felt like a cheap ploy to get rid of a load of housemates before the final, rather than a well thought out twist to actually liven things up. We’re now more than willing to throw our hands up and admit we were wrong.
In fact, the stunts provided by ‘Annihilation Week’ put moral dilemmas to the group and saw what happened when one person was given a choice to make affecting a larger living space, which felt more in keeping with the “social experiment” ‘Big Brother’ was first billed as back in 2000 than anything we’ve seen on the show in the past few years.
Good job, producers. More of this, please.
8. Mixing it up clearly works
For all we’ve said our piece about the problems we have with this year’s batch of housemates, where we can’t fault them is that they really mixed things up in terms of age ranges, ethnicities, sexuality and backgrounds.
Had we got the usual mix of aspiring models in their late teens and early twenties, we’d have never had Jayne’s legendary “are you fucking on drugs?” rant, or the drama surrounding Charlie and Jason’s relationship. At 52, Natalie is the oldest housemate the ‘BB’ house has welcomed in three years, yet she was still a major talking point during her time on the show.
This goes to prove once again, viewers don’t want to see a load of pretty people sunbathing and staring into the abyss. We want real characters, meeting people they’d never have had the chance to associate with usually, which is what has made Hughie and Ryan’s budding romance one of the most endearing ‘BB’ romances since Steven whispered “open it” to Kimberly in the dark of the ‘BB’ bedroom.
‘Big Brother’ airs nightly on Channel 5, with this year’s winner being crowned live on 26 July.
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