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Friday, June 18, 2004

Doublethink

Has Big Brother gone too far this time? Previous summers were spent responding to BB in a ritualistic way. And this one looked like it might be the same. To quote my friend Dolan Cummings, 'Bored people sitting about with a vague sense of sexual expectation in the air are no more or less entertaining now than they ever were.'

Then a 'near-riot' breaks out in the house, thanks to Big Brother 'getting evil'. Plying the contestants with drink in previous years was seen as a way of guaranteeing televised sex live, albeit for the producers to cut out. This year a heated row has been added to the national discussion of 'Britain's binge drinking culture'. Cue crocodile tears from the production company and boosted ratings.

Whereas some of the first bunch of housemates acquired a degree of celebrity as a by-product of going on the show, in later years most people have gone on the show in search of fame. A heated row peppered with death threats and broken crockery is a way to bolster that 'fame', for what it's worth, or a way for drunken wannabes to defend their corner when they think their bid for fame is being undermined. (See also how contestant solidarity with Kitten Pinder broke down once the prize money started to dwindle.)

Personally, one part of the BB routine to disappear this year is that I'm not getting as many interviews on local radio discussing the show. These invites started a while ago after I wrote a book chapter responding to the reality TV genre. (Its argument can be summarised as 1) 'get a grip, it's not causing society to break down'; 2) 'get a grip, it's not showing us a democratic and unmediated form of reality'; and 3) society gets the reality TV shows it deserves). Once on the radio, the discussion usually went something like this:
Presenter: 'On the line is Graham Barnfield, a Professor of Reality TV. Professor Graham, why has Britain gone Big Brother cray-zeeee?'
Me: 'Thanks Dave Doubledecks. One of the things that helps the show to fit in with today's audiences is that our attitudes to privacy have completely changed. Whereas in the past the stiff upper lip was in fashion, now we suffer from emotional incontience. Some people are now willing to share things with a TV audience which we wouldn't share with our closest friends in the past. In turn, audiences are entertained by details that are, in contemporary lingo, too much information.'
Presenter: 'Right. So who's going to win this year?'

I'm not sure if my disappearance from the airwaves this summer is a good thing or a bad thing; perhaps if they got me drunk first I'd be more entertaining.

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