Celebrity Big Brother is back and it’s time someone sued it for false advertising. It ain’t big and these aren’t celebrities. I don’t even recognise the presenter. Emma Willis? Emily Wills? I did, however, identify Shaun Williamson, aka Barry from EastEnders, as one of the contestants, an actor who has never quite bounced back from being killed off in 2004. There’s proof that when you hit rock bottom you can always roll around for 13 years.
You know the score: 15 stars are locked in a house and compete not to be voted out of it. It might sound tough, but for a down-on-their-luck celeb it’s better than sleeping in your car. This year, the £50,000 cash prize isn’t going to the winner but to charity. I’m worried that no one’s told Barry. He seems to be taking it far more seriously than the other contestants, which include a psychic, a comedian and a former Girls Aloud singer called Sarah Harding. Again, who? We are informed that she was once a pizza delivery girl. I assume that was shortly before her agent rang with the offer to appear on Celeb Big Brother.
Am I being harsh? Perhaps. But reality TV is a pernicious institution that has not only dumbed down entertainment but reduced the people involved. Several contestants are former reality TV stars – humiliating themselves has become a cruel cycle from which they either cannot or, more likely, will not try to escape. And so they leap from one fly-on-the-wall to another, always desperately seeking that first hit of instant fame, which must have felt so new, so exhilarating at the time. Would it kill them now to retire into a more dignified profession such as, I don’t know, neutering cats? Nobody is forced to perform for the cameras, and while the producers are doubtless to blame for making all this happen, those who take part in it have to accept their own portion of responsibility.
Before each episode of Big Brother begins, we are warned: “This programme contains highly offensive language, adult and sexual themes”. This is largely untrue. There is one way in which reality TV is much like reality: it is tedious and uneventful.
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