Dreams don't often come true. Last night however, one did; though it was numbed and greyed in the process of actualisation.
Last night I attended the Celebrity Big Brother live eviction.
A friend had procured some tickets and - armed with a makeshift banner depicting the headless bodies of some wild partridges and the bodiless heads of Soap actor and professional homosexual John Partridge- the night was set to be a good one. Being fully paid members of generation (Whatever one we are now) we tend not to leave the house.
I'm not complaining, CBB is perhaps the most exciting part of my life at this current moment. Nightly we nest before the screen and watch the gamut of human experience play out, with the added sprinkle of fame that loosens their desperate lips. For someone like me, it is bliss. Moreover, one of my housemates says it's genuinely the only thing that gets him through the working day. The carrot dangling before the workhorse.
What first strikes you about the set up at Elstree studios is the sheer scale of the operation; around 100 security guards frisk and search each member of the frozen crowd. We Que for well over 3 hours, simply for the privilege of watching someone we've never heard of walk down some steps.
My colleagues were more surprised by the level of underclass we were among than I was;
I've been in a few TV situations now and one of the constant's is the appearance of odd, fanatics. Despite the level, success or genre, all shows seem to acquire a mawkish collection of oddballs who's life is dedicated to watching TV filmed live. A reductive pursuit no? I seem to attract oddballs- could I be the oddest of the balls?- and so invariably, I ended up chatting with a host of mentally interesting, onesie wearing super fans. Our primary limpets for the night were a group of young college students and one crutched grease haired boy who held a carrier bag with 6 bottles of coke in it, all of which he intended to consume. Ah Youth! Torn ligaments and glucose.
They told me that they go nearly every week and have been going for many series now, since they were children. This was their friday night out....and ours. One guy had been to every single live show ever in the history of big brother. He was also training to be a gym instructor, though his physique and speech patterns led me to believe that he was, in fact, the treadmill. They were harmless, as were most of the crowd who seemed in good spirits and well at ease with the laborious process of standing around in the cold being shouted at by floor managers. However, as we filtered into the neon paved 'studio' and were propped up in prime position (the work of the banner)I noticed an altogether more toxic team of fanatics huddled down the front; their hands resting upon the walkway, their eyes hypnotised by the Ian Fleming eye door that closes in on itself like the air vent in Alien.
They all seemed to be shaped like pebbles and were constantly attempting to speak to the warm up man as though they were part of the production team. Emma Willis emerged (looking like she had been carved from a diamond) and they shouted to her as if greeting an old friend. It struck me that even this weird TV show/social experiment gone awry, has a community. And they just wanted to fit in somewhere. Free live TV shows seemed to work for them. It became very clear that outsiders were not to cross the hardcore fans; We were foreign bodies in a tightly sewn wound that, nevertheless, still pulsed with sepsis.
Things became stranger still when the warm up guy - who was very good - stirred us into an uber modern dance off and scanned the crowd for those not participating, thus quietly instilling in us the core idea of the night- that we were forbidden from being inanimate. What would have been a jovial bit of banter to the common man, became an SS interrogation to the hardcore fans.
'STEWART' A clearly unstable woman shouted from the front row, whilst signalling to other hardcore's on the opposite side 'THE ONE IS GREEN AIN'T DANCING! SHE AIN"T DANCING STEW!"
For me, the darkest example of this was when the ringleader- so obvious was her archetype that I need not describe any detail- faced away from the big screen like some kind of roman empress. Nodding at the sound bites and shouting her support, all the while looking to the ground and in the opposite direction to the rest of us.
As with all high level absurdity situations- it doesn't hit you until later on, when you are in there; knee deep in the sublime
By the time anything started to actually happen, the joke was already over. The seriousness that took them was difficult to behold and suddenly it became a brutal and violent spectacle; A toxic fountain of cheers and boo's toward people who's personality had been entirely edited together by creative producers. Understandably, this is forgotten and abuse is hurled in all directions, landing predominantly upon the friends and family standing no less than 50 yards away.
The noise is evocative of being at a race track though, in truth, you would treat a race horse with more respect.
Boredom set in and i'd had enough of being told when to clap and when to shout. Having realised we are not actually 'Lucky' ticket holders but un-paid background artists, the evening was soured.
Jeremy emerged from the house and took to the steps, surrounded by a pitiful round of applause in what was- in reality- a relatively empty studio. They use wide angle lens and take shots behind people's head to make it appear full, when truly the turnout is pretty limp.
A young man who had fallen in love with a emotionally insecure, damaged girl on a TV show, was-contractually- obliged to discuss it live whilst soaking in the low hum of pantomime boo's aimed at the object of his affection. No one made him do it. Nobody forced him. They paid him to do it, and he accepted. That is the part which is most distressing; not the exploitation or the dumbing down of TV or any of that, but the fact that any aspect of the human soul can be brought and exhibited for nothing better than entertainment.
We shuffled out of the studio in the rain and realised that all this took place, beside a car park and a Tesco.