Big Brother villains: Does reality TV always need a bad guy?

Nasty Nick was a memorable villain in Big Brother

Former Channel Four Big Brother contestant Nick Bateman at a press conference
Nasty Nick (Nick Bateman) was the first villain of Big Brother (Getty)

TV villains are some of our favourite people to watch — and they're often the ones who have us glued to our screens.

Big Brother has returned to our screens after five years and already there have been rows, tears and tantrums.

Also, there have been a few housemates who have been emerging as potentially the "villain" of the house.

Just days into the show NHS manager Kelly, 40, and dancer Olivia, 23, clashed and could be in the making to be the next so-called TV villain.

Makeup artist Farida, 50, too showed promise to become the "villain" before she was voted out in Friday's first live eviction.

All of this raises the question: does reality TV always need a baddie?

Why reality TV has villains

Here Edward Coram James, CEO of PR agency Go Up, has the answer.

The PR mogul shared the crucial details as to why TV bosses often choose to cast some individuals as the villains of the show.

He told Yahoo: "The editors don't always care all that much about presenting people in a fair and rounded manner.

"They care about creating addictive television. And, sadly, they often determine that for television to be addictive, they need a hero and a villain. Farida may well look back on the final cut of Big Brother and feel that, sure, she could have done things better. But she wasn't nearly as bad as the editors made her out to be."

Iconic TV villains

Nick Bateman enters the final Ultimate Big Brother 2010 House at Elstree Studios
Bateman returned to Big Brother for Ultimate Big Brother in 2010 (Getty)

Nasty Nick — Nick Bateman — was arguably the first and one of the most iconic TV villains of all time, having made his name in 2000's Big Brother by trying to influence the other contestants to vote for each other.

His questionable methods eventually led to him being disqualified from the reality series. But that didn't stop him making a success of himself when first leaving the house.

Despite the controversy, Nick chased the bright lights of fame appearing on GMTV, Through The Keyhole, and Big Brother's Bit On The Side. But he knew it wouldn’t be forever.

Nasty Nick then made a new life for himself in the sun, moving to Australia. Recently, the star told Lorraine: "I've been here in Australia 12 years. It's just much nicer – blues skies all the time great weather, great food. It's refreshing and it’s just nice to be somewhere where you're happy."

After all that happened, the reality star has no regrets though. He said: "No, you can’t have any regrets. Regret is a very negative thing to have. You can’t change the past, all you can do is change the present or the future."

Creating TV villains

All the Big Brother housemates
Big Brother housemates are filmed 24/7 (ITV)

Villains generally float to the surface through a combination of their actions, and how they are presented on screen through editing.

PR expert Mr Coram James lifted the lid on how TV bosses feed that storyline narrative with their editing process.

He added: "Producers, editors and show runners on the likes of Big Brother are often not the most ethical people in the world. They can pick a cast member, decide that that person is going to be the baddie for the series, and carefully select and then edit material to feed that storyline and narrative.

"Remember, if you're stuck in a house for months on end, being filmed the whole time, I'm fairly sure most people would do or say a few things that they would look back on a little bit sheepishly.

"Finding negative footage about any one contestant would be quite easy. So, it's important to bear in mind that someone that looks as though they've behaved pretty awfully over the course of a series, may in reality have been fine 90% of the time. You're not seeing the day-to-day. You're seeing what the editors want you to see."

Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay

Simon Cowell promoting America's Got Talent
Simon Cowell markets himself as a TV baddie (Getty)

Becoming the villain may not be a good career move though in the long term, according to Mr Coram James.

There are a few exceptions to the rule of course as both Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay carved their names in the spotlight with an initial mean persona.

But the PR guru pointed out that these stars were in control of their destiny, while reality stars do not wield the same power.

Gordon Ramsay wears sunglasses
Gordon Ramsay has softened his image in recent years (Getty)

He added: "Being a TV villain usually is not a good idea. Fine, some will (very occasionally) become very successful (Simon Cowell, in his early TV years, made his mark by being a villain, as did Gordon Ramsay, but both softened their images as the years rolled on).

"But usually it will have the reverse effect and will reduce marketability and potential revenue streams. By way of an example, reality TV contestants from shows such as Big Brother rarely go on to have successful television careers beyond their stint on said show."

What should reality TV stars do?

Instead, the Go Pro PR pointed out how a reality TV star should focus their efforts on influencing.

While being a TV villain courts attention, Mr Coram James highlighted it can make for short-lived fame in the showbiz circles.

He explained: "The most viable way for a reality contestant to continue generating income and remain part of the conversation is by influencing. But, even though TV villains can bring in a decent number of social media followers, it is harder for them to monetise that. Brands do not usually like to be associated with negativity, so the potential for sponsored posts can be greatly diminished.

Davina McCall and John McCririck during John McCririck is the Second Person Evicted from
TV racing pundit John McCririck's stint on 2005's Celebrity Big Brother painted him as the house's villain and he was the second person evicted from the show. (Mike Marsland/WireImage)

"Moreover, why would you want to become semi-famous by being unkind? That kind of fame is usually very short lived and plays very badly in the court of public opinion. It makes you look like an attention seeker that will do anything for their 15-minutes, again, a bad look for anyone considering extending their tv career into something more consistent and formal like presenting. What it boils down to is that programs such as Big Brother very rarely lead to lasting fame."

He added: "But being the TV villain only ever serves to handicap your future prospects. Remember, Ramsay and Cowell weren't contestants on a single series of a Big Brother style reality game show. They were the principal characters on their own series.

"Fine, it's technically all forms of reality TV. But it's on very, very different ends of the spectrum to the likes of Big Brother. They could get away with building brands based on being the baddie because they had the ability to control the narrative on respected productions.

Big Brother continues at 9pm on ITV2 and ITVX.