Voices: A Big Brother reboot could be our last chance to save reality TV

·4-min read
Like so many others, I’m dying a ‘Big Brother’ comeback – and we might just be in luck (PA)
Like so many others, I’m dying a ‘Big Brother’ comeback – and we might just be in luck (PA)

Reality TV is mind-numbingly bad these days, isn’t it? It’s full of barely sentient beings with more lip filler than personality. Don’t get me wrong, reality stars on shows like Love Island seem quite nice – which is precisely the problem. I hate nice. I want nasty: specifically, Nasty Nick.

I want the spontaneous meltdowns, outrageous Noughties outfits, shopping sabotages, Chiggy, and Alison Hammond breaking tables. I want to see punk-rock Pete Bennett begrudgingly stomp into the diary room-turned-nightclub alone with EDM blasting and strobe lights shining in his eyes as millions of us watch gleefully at home. (Fans will remember that by the end of the night, Pete was pissed, belting out “YMCA”, and eating a kebab given to him by the so-called Big Brother Night Club.) TV gold.

Like so many others, I’m dying for Big Brother to make a comeback, and we might just be in luck. There’s a rumour going around that the TV show could return to our screens in 2023 – this time on ITV. It officially only ended in 2018, but newer seasons never got the same hype as the Noughties ones. I say give the people what they want: Big Brother is our last shot at saving reality TV. We need it now more than ever. But if it does get a reboot, producers need to get it right.

Big Brother was hilarious, voyeuristic magic when the classic seasons aired. Nothing quite got the country talking like Glyn not knowing how to cook an egg. It was an institution in my life, even if I was far too young to be watching it. My dad’s friend was a Big Brother 2 housemate, and I still remember feeling totally starstruck when I was handed a book signed by the season’s contestants.

Nothing beat eviction nights either. I had family in Borehamwood, where the Big Brother house was, so it wasn’t rare to hear the villains being booed out on Fridays. That was the best thing about Big Brother: it regurgitated Britain’s most egregious, most obnoxious idiots and put them on TV for the whole country to put in stocks and throw tomatoes at. Or fall in love with.

At least they had personality, which is more than I can say for the majority of vapid reality TV stars on the prowl for Boohoo brand deals today. Of course, some of this could be the producers’ fault. Faye from last year’s Love Island is one exception – she was made for Big Brother.

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Readers, it’s not healthy how much I hate reality TV today. But Big Brother definitely didn’t get everything right either. There were several occasions when producers could have reacted better to what appeared to be racism and bullying in the house (the treatment of Shilpa Shetty in Celebrity Big Brother 5 springs to mind). And there are parts of Big Brother 7, which I’m rewatching now, that make for uncomfortable viewing. Two of the housemates have admitted to being “scared of transvestites” and Sezer the Geezer is being way too handsy. Cringe.

Of course, I don’t want these bad aspects of Big Brother to return – and I do think it’s possible the show can get a reboot without them. But there was something guttural, something raw, about classic Big Brother that reality TV producers today fail to capture. For a start, there’s hardly any drama anymore. And if there is even a tiny morsel of it, it’s staged. Big Brother wasn’t like that. It was real. You couldn’t have manufactured Nikki Grahame’s “who is she?” tirade even if you tried.

There’s that line Davina always said when she introduced a new housemate: “Do you want another one?” If the rumours are true about a Big Brother reboot, then yes, I do want another one. It could be our last ever chance to revive the reality TV genre. So I’m watching you, Big Brother. If you get a reboot, please don’t be s***. The whole country is counting on you not to be.

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