From Big Brother, we’re just looking for our little brother
I am still surprised it took this long for Big Brother to return to Australian TV screens. When it finished its run on Channel Ten back in 2008, I didn’t think it would be long before another network picked it up and produced a scaled-down, low-key version for some late-night padding to help fill up their Australian content quota.
As per usual, I was wrong. Either the image of the increasingly scandal-ridden show was too tainted for our highly risk-adverse network executives, or it took the good folks at Dreamworld a full four years to come up with a wacky new hot tub design.
So, I watched last night’s premiere on Nine with a genuine professional and personal interest (being a media studies academic, and having worked in a minor role in the production of one of the show’s earlier iterations), and I really wanted to see how it would all pan out.
For quite a while, things were looking promising, after the new host, and some early promotional ads (no, not the stupid BB shuffle ones), indicated that we wouldn’t be seeing just another conga line of wannabe celebrities who would end up eeking out a living by routinely posing topless for Zoo Weekly.
The first housemate, Michael, seemed like a funny guy. So, all was going according to plan.
But, when Angie, the blonde sales rep from the Gold Coast (yeah, totally original, huh?) stepped on stage, I started getting worried. Then, when we were introduced to Layla, the British beautician and suspected casting reject from The Only Way Is Essex, I was like Bill Paxton in Aliens: “game over, man. Game over.”
Fortunately, Bradley, the nerdy, stuttering virgin, stepped in at the end to partly save the day.
You see, I have this theory – and I’m pretty sure its correct – that Big Brother is at its best when it’s kept simple.
That the real pleasure was always in watching people we could identify with or aspire to be like, and empathising with their experiences and interactions. Like, when Zack fell in love with Billy, but Billy didn’t love him back. Or when Peter nominated his good friend Turkan for eviction, because she was home-sick.
We actually don’t want manufactured conflict (“ooh, that skater chick is totally going to have a run in with the xenophobic farm girl”), and we certainly don’t want to see the drunken antics of a bunch of slappers and douchebags (I presume everyone remembers ‘Hot Dogs’?). Leave that to The Shire.
In Big Brother we’re just looking for people to relate with.
Think I am wrong? Well, remember Andy? She was the bisexual dominatrix who was quite keen to sleep with as many people in the house as possible. She was also the very first housemate to ever be evicted from Big Brother in this country (and, unfortunately for her, having not achieved a single conquest). If your (married) housemate showered naked in the backyard, you might want to evict them too.
On the other end of the spectrum, the winner of each of the eight series so far has usually been the most unexceptional, ordinary, down-to-earth of them all. And, as Ten began ramping up the crazy over the years, and started contriving new schemes and new plot twists, the audience numbers started tailing off massively.
I think that shows we just want to watch real, normal people who are like us, and imagine what we would do when presented with similar circumstances in real life.
That’s probably the biggest secret of them all.
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