Thursday, January 05, 2006

Celebrity Big Brother 2006

I love the launch night of Celebrity Big Brother. I usually lose interest in the show itself almost immediately, but the launch night is invariably compelling.

Ordinary people (well, semi-ordinary) go onto Big Brother to become famous. Celebrities (well, mildly prominent people) go onto Celebrity Big Brother, generally speaking, to cling by their fingertips to the last vestiges of a fading career. There's something surreally tragic about it. A bunch of vaguely prominent people locked in a big room, asking themselves: How famous am I? Am I still famous enough? Shows like this give them the miserable answer: You are as famous as Kenzie from Blazin' Squad. Look, he's right over there. You're on his level.

Last year we had a gloriously idiotic array of the nearly famous. They've been claiming a slightly more famous line-up this year. We shall see. Casting has been a problem with Big Brother lately - for the 2005 run, they filled the house with people they thought would cause conflict, but that just meant there was nobody sympathetic for the audience to root for. You don't need truly famous or A-list celebrities for these shows to work. You just need interesting personalities who people are vaguely curious about.

9.07. Tour of the house completed. They've added more indoor stuff because, obviously, the celebrities are hardly going to hang around the outdoor pool in England in January. This year's twist: there's a member of the public going in as contestant #11. Their job is to convince the rest of the housemates that they're a celebrity too. Given the quality of celebrity seen on a lot of these shows, that shouldn't be too hard. ("I have a show on Living TV.")

Okay, here we go.

#1. Chantelle is our non-celebrity. She's a model, and she's being presented as a dimwit Essex girl. I hate her already. They're telling her to be a pop singer from a girl band called Kandyfloss. This girl doesn't strike me as a born improviser. She's being set up to fail.

#2. Michael Barrymore. Oh fuck, the reports were right. Michael Barrymore has been off TV - and indeed out of the country - ever since his career as a family entertainer was brought down by scandal a few years back. And we're talking bigtime scandal. Not many people come back after a man is found dead in their swimming pool after an impromptu party. With high levels of drugs and alcohol in his blood. Oh, and widely-reported "anal injuries." Barrymore has been, at best, a tragic figure ever since, and he filed for bankruptcy a couple of years back. This is a blatant bid for rehabilitation. It could be seriously awkward. He is, nonetheless, certainly very famous. Although no longer for the right reasons.

#3. Pete Burns. Now this is more their level. Actually, no, it's probably below that. Pete Burns is a bizarre individual who has squandered his fortune (such as it was) on disturbing, semi-transsexual reconstructive surgery. He was the lead singer of Dead or Alive, who had a hit in the 1980s. He long since drifted out of the category of "celebrity" into "walking freak", and he's not even that prominent in that field. He presumably needs the money to cover his medical bills. Mind you, he's indisputably an interesting personality, if an obviously damaged one.

#4. Traci Bingham. Yes, we're scraping the barrel now. Traci's claim to fame is that she was in Baywatch. Which was... when? (Checks IMDB.) 1996-8. She's already done The Surreal Life and Celebrity Boot Camp. She's doesn't seem to have had any significant acting roles in years. She's clearly a professional minor celebrity, although by this point it's conceivable that she might just be running with the easy money rather than deluding herself that she still has a proper career. In which case, she might be one of the better adjusted people on the show.

#5. One of the lesser members of Goldie Lookin' Chain. Be honest, you don't know the names either. "I'm doing Big Brother because I've got nothing else to do in January." GLC are basically a comedy act and have sold enough records that, as a group, they have a fair claim to celebrity status. As individuals, they don't. They're the sort of people who could claim they were doing this show for a laugh and be believed. He introduces himself to the others as "Maggot from Goldie Lookin' Chain. Just here to make the numbers up, mate." Don't fool yourselves, fellow housemates. You are as famous as Maggot from Goldie Lookin' Chain. Behold your station in life, staring you in the face.

#6. Rula Lenska. Thirty years past her sell-by date, but undeniably famous in her prime. Last year, she starred in Gypo, the first British Dogma film. (I reviewed it back in the Film Festival stuff.) Point is, she still does genuine acting work, and hasn't shown much previous interest in clinging on to her celebrity status. She may well genuinely be doing this for the charity element.

#7. Jodie Marsh. Okay, she's genuinely famous. Not for doing anything worthwhile - she's a model, ex-stripper and general tabloid fodder - but she is famous. "I think the British public think that I am a slapper, a bimbo..." Yup, that's a fair assessment of her image. She claims she's doing it to try and break out of her public image. To be fair, I can believe that that's one reason why she's doing it. She's certainly far enough up the tabloid pecking order that she doesn't need to be here, so it may well be a PR exercise. The question is, will people like the real Jodie Marsh? A legitimate celebrity, anyway, so they can be proud of signing her up.

#8. Dennis Rodman. Ooh, somebody for Traci Bingham to talk to. They must have thrown money at this guy. He's way out of their normal league - which is to say, he's a bigger star than Maggot from Goldie Lookin' Chain. On the other hand, as a basketball player, he's not really as famous in Britain as he is in America. So they must be banking on him being an entertaining personality. Dennis has previously been on Celebrity Mole, so he's evidently lowering his standards a bit. Hell, he was in WCW for a while...

#9. Faria Alam. Not a celebrity. Had an affair with the manager of the England football team and the chairman of the FA. Sold her story to the press. Is clearly trying to cash in on her moment of quasi-fame. The token obvious villain. Seems to hope that this is going to make her famous, but as what?! The crowd boo her. Well, who wouldn't?

Two to go. I'm hoping for Charles Kennedy.

#10. The lead singer of the Ordinary Boys. The fuck? This guy fronts an indie band on the rise. This is the last thing he needs to do, careerwise. It's an absurd credibility-killer. He's obviously conscious of that but just seems to be a fan of the show who really wants to be on it. I honestly can't think of a cynical reason for him to be here, so I guess that might well be it. How strange. He seems a nice lad, actually.

Incidentally, there's no earthly way Chantelle is going to convince two currently active band members that she's in a successful girl band they've never heard of.

#11. George Galloway.

[rubs eyes]

#11. George Galloway. Where do you start with this guy? He's right about many of his criticisms of the war, which encourages people to overlook his very questionable history of support for dictators. He was my MP when I lived in Glasgow and he was in Labour. Never liked him. This is a publicity stunt for his minority party, obviously, and probably a serious miscalculation. The crowd boos him, which is a little surprising, since his video package wasn't particularly hostile, and he's normally quite the populist. He's certainly a coup for the show.

A bizarre mix this year. A handful of high profile B-listers. A bunch of tragic hangers-on. A couple of nobodies. And the lead singer of the Ordinary Boys, who must be out of his mind. Oh, and Chantelle from Essex. They're appropriately mismatched, so there's potential here if they don't screw it up by trying too hard to generate conflict. Which is what they normally do.