Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Microcelebrity Big Brother

I should know better, I really should. But the opening night of Celebrity Big Brother is always the best, because you get to find out which "celebrities" are desperate enough to debase themselves by appearing on the show, and (conversely) which "celebrities" the production team were desperate enough to let on. At the very lowest rungs of celebrity there's a fascinating question mark about who's exploiting who with these shows. That's especially amusing this year, since the tabloids have been hinting at some last-minute scrambling for contestants. It's a whole new form of symbiotic relationship: mutual parasites.

First up is... Jermaine Jackson. Well, at least everyone's heard of him. And there are probably interesting conversations to be had with him. They could do a lot worse. He's decidedly Z-list, but he could work in this show. Good lord, he's dressed up in some ridiculous pseudo-royalty outfit. It must be pouring down out there - you can actually see the rain in the flashbulbs.

Jermaine wanders around the house, doing nothing especially interesting.

Number two is Danielle... somebody or other. Danielle Lloyd. She was stripped of the Miss Great Britain title a whle back. She hangs around with footballers. She's apparently Teddy Sheringham's girlfriend. She's below Z-list. She's in a whole other alphabet, quite possibly Cyrillic. This girl is a real sign of desperation. The crowd boo her, which isn't a surprise, because Big Brother crowds are largely female and tend not to embrace sisterhood. It's clearly the reaction she was expecting. I think she's here to take a paycheque and run. Teddy is not here to support her.

Three: film director Ken Russell. Crikey. He's out of place on this show, but that's a strength. God knows why he's doing this. Well known, though. Bit of a wild card. Interesting choice.

Four: Jo from S Club 7. Hmm. She hasn't been seen in a while, but she's in the twilight zone of being a relatively obscure individual from a famous band. Apparently she's basically quit music and now breeds dogs for a living. She's certainly famous enough for this show, so they're doing alright so far. Davina asks her outright whether she's got a record coming out, and she dodges the question. Hmm. Didn't she have some sort of medical condition? A back problem or something? I thought that was the big angle with the break-up of S Club 7 - that Jo was the best singer but had to retire, leaving the way clear for Rachel Stevens to... uh, not sell very many records.

Five: Leo Sayer. He had some hits 25 years ago, you know. A remix of one of his old songs made number one last year (and it was quite good, to be fair), so they can get away with him. He seems slightly annoying. Over the threshold of "well known", although it's stretching a point to call him a celebrity in 2006.

Six: ....


I don't know who she is.

Oh, she's a Bollywood actress. Shameless bid for the Indian audience, then. This is a bit like booking Warren Ellis - hugely well known to a fairly small fraction of the population, virtually unknown to everyone else. Although obviously, there are more Indians than comics readers, so perhaps it's not a good comparison. She's never seen the show. Silly woman.

Seven: Caroline Malone?!? She's a columnist in the Mirror, apparently. They must be desperate. This is absolutely barrel-scraping. The crowd boo her, of course. The Indian woman looks at her with extreme scepticism.

Eight: Donny Tourette, lead singer of the Towers of London. "We've opened the Reading Festival." That's opened, kids. They have a reality show. On Bravo. Their biggest hit was "How Rude She Was", which made number 30 in 2005. This guy is a Z-list indie band wannabe who's probably known to fewer people in the country than the Bollywood girl. The crowd actually starts a "Who are you?" chant (which they didn't do for her), while he mugs for them. He's the classic example of a rock star wannabe who doesn't actually have the talent to back it up, and doesn't even realise that it's a requirement. They've clearly chosen him as a stirrer, but really, he's far too obscure to be worth having on this show.

Nine: H From Steps. "I think people know me mostly for being in Steps." Mostly? Try entirely. I was never quite sure what H actually did in Steps. He didn't seem to sing. He wasn't much of a dancer. Apparently he's now "a jobbing actor." He seems to be trying to reposition himself. His career urgently needs it. He's clearly insistent on being called "Ian Watkins" and not "H". Legitimately well known, I suppose. He's also just come out in a tabloid newspaper in a co-ordinated "Look at me" offensive. Always a useful thing to hold in reserve when you're desperate for attention.

Reasonably enough, H makes a beeline for Jo from S Club 7, his kiddiepop contemporary. She seems genuinely happy to see him.

Ten: Cleo Rocos. The girl who used to work with Kenny Everett. That was twenty years ago! This is a sign of real desperation. She's in the "barely remembered" category. Most of the people in that crowd were only just born during her heyday. They're cheering her anyway, but seriously, this is the first time in years that she's been anywhere near a major audience. But she seems nice.

Eleven: Dirk Benedict from the A-Team. Has he done anything in the last fifteen years? I'm sure he must have. He can't have spent the whole time sitting in his house watching re-runs and phoning out for pizza. He's still single, girls. "I'm just an old TV actor, come on." Well, at least he's under no illusions. Instead of a limousine, Dirk arrives in the A-Team van, complete with theme music. Everyone loved the A-Team. It doesn't matter that he's not strictly all that famous. He was in the A-Team. You want to like him. He actually comes across as quite pleasant, so he might have a chance.

So, there's your eleven - and the BBC look pretty stupid for tipping David Hasselhoff, who's actually in enough demand that he doesn't have to sink to this. There are some staggeringly obscure people in there - Bollywood stars, footballers' wives, newspaper columnists and obscure indie singers are signs of total desperation. And Cleo Rocos? I mean, really, Cleo Rocos? But Steps, S Club 7, Dirk Benedict, Ken Russell... they've got just enough star power (or vaguely-well-known-ness, to be more accurate) to skim by.

No obvious trainwrecks here, though. Even Donny Tourette seems content to have a drink and let everyone chat. They were probably hoping for more immediate confrontation, and they're not really getting it. No doubt they'll start panicking if they don't have a fight in the first ten minutes, and start screwing about with the format. That's what they did in the proper series last year. No patience, these reality show producers, that's the thing.