Big Brother returns: The reality show's most controversial moments

As Big Brother relaunches on ITV, look back at the headline grabbing moments down the years

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03:  Davina McCall hosts Celebrity Big Brother at Elstree Studios on January 3, 2010 in Borehamwood, England.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Davina McCall was the host of Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother during its heyday. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

It’s the television phenomenon that started the world’s obsession with reality TV.

Big Brother is back this week as ITV 2 relaunches the iconic show's first new series in five years,

Having started life on Channel 4 in 2000 before moving to Channel 5 ten years later, Big Brother has been off our screens since 2018 — but has been resurrected again with an all-new house, new contestants and new hosts, in the shape of AJ Odudu and Will Best.

But the reality reboot has a lot to live up to. Across 18 years of controversy, the show featured cheating, racism, fights, furious tirades, sexual encounters and some of the most ridiculous TV gold comedy moments of all time.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the Big Brother reboot

Here are Big Brother’s 12 most shocking moments – to date.

Nasty Nick (2000)

In year one, scheming housemate Nick Bateman was caught plotting against his fellow contestants and making a series of notes about voting plans.

The other residents, led by eventual winner Craig Phillips, confronted him after discovering his plans, and he was booted out of the show by producers, making headlines across the country.

Fight Night (2004)

One of the most headline grabbing incidents was the heated exchange between Victor and Emma, which led to an apparent physical exchange. The live feed of the show was pulled, security teams entered the house to pull the housemates apart, and the police contacted.

Victor — with clown makeup on — and pal Jason clashed with Emma, eventual winner Nadia and Marco over the mess of the house, which boiled over into threats and swearing between the housemates.

The First Time (2004)

In addition to the angry moments, series five of the hit show was also home to the series’ first sexual encounter, between contestants Michelle Bass and Stu Wilson, who she famously dubbed her ‘chicken’.

When she left the house, she refused to confirm it, but cameras caught hints of under-the-covers action between the pair.

Pregnancy ‘scare’ (2005)

Housemate Makosi Musambasi shocked audiences when she asked Big Brother for a pregnancy test following a hot tub encounter with eventual winner Anthony Hutton, although it was never confirmed if they had actually had sex.

She then walked off live TV when she was asked about the sex ‘act’.

Nikki Grahame’s rant (2006)

One of the most popular diary room rants ever saw eventual fifth-place contestant Grahame deliver a comic and vitriolic take down of rival Susie, repeatedly demanding, "Who is she?"

Grahame tragically died in 2021, aged 38, after a long battle with eating disorders.

The Cat (2006)

Then sitting MP George Galloway was one of the first major stars of Celebrity Big Brother, and in a fiery series, which saw a series of arguments and fall-outs, he joined actress Rula Lenska to rehearse for a task.

Galloway shocked viewers when he pretended to be a cat, sipping milk from a pretend saucer and purring around the room.

Racism row (2007)

Borehamwood, UNITED KINGDOM: On the final night, Indian actress Shilpa Shetty appears after being voted the winner of Celebrity Big Brother at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, 28 January 2007.  The series has drawn worldwide attention following allegations of racism from some members of the household against Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. The broadcasters of the programme, Channel 4, have said that they were worried the series would lose it's audience until the racism row began, bringing viewing figures back up again. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)
Shilpa Shetty was the winner of Celebrity Big Brother in 2007. (AFP/Getty)

Indian actress Shilpa Shetty was at the centre of an international incident following a racism row with fellow housemate Jade Goody.

Goody was subject of protests in India at the way Shetty had been treated and spoken to, while the matter was also raised in parliament.

Goody was evicted from the house by public vote, and later apologised and donated her fee to charity. She tragically died of cervical cancer two years later, aged 27.

"David’s dead" (2016)

One of the most shocking moments came after music legend David Bowie died in 2016. His ex-wife Angie Bowie was in the house when he passed away so the producers broke the news to her. She then confided in fellow contestant Tiffany Pollard that "David’s dead."

Pollard misunderstood and thought Angie was referring to unwell housemate David Gest and spread this through the house – accidentally causing uproar when they realised Gest was fine.

Gest himself died just months later.

Helen’s tirades (2014 and 2016)

2014 winner Helen Wood, who had previously been best known for being linked to footballer Wayne Rooney, won the 2014 series, but came under fire when she and other ex-winners returned to the house, after being alleged to bully housemate Brian Belo.

Ofcom received 2024 complaints but did not take the matter further.

Bear and Chloe (2016)

Contestant Stephen Bear made headlines with fellow housemate Chloe Khan when he colourfully propositioned her on live TV, which was followed up by loud noises from the bathroom.

Bear was then stunned when his girlfriend Lille Gregg entered the house to confront him over his behaviour.

Kim’s rage (2017)

Security was forced to intervene when How Clean is Your House? star Kim Woodburn was caught up in a furious row with former footballer Jamie O’Hara and model Nicola McLean.

She was removed from the house after her outburst which included telling the housemates, “You’re a two-faced bunch, chicken-livered s***s.” She returned to the show after cooling down, and finished third.

Threats (2017)

Former Ex on the Beach contestant Kayleigh Morris caused chaos in the house with a series of arguments, and was eventually thrown out of the house after being reported to threaten fellow housemate Chanelle McCleary during an argument about fellow star Ellie Young.

Big Brother launches on ITV1, ITV2 and ITVX on Sunday 8 October at 9pm.

Watch the Big Brother reboot trailer