Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Big Deal

The annual parade of fragile egos that is Celebrity Big Brother is on at the moment, along with shouty ads asking for auditionees for Big Brother 2009.

With each year that passes I am more and more frustrated by Big Brother. I was a big fan. But now it's just a big summer-long audition for people desperate for 'fame' at whatever price.

I really liked Dead Set, and many of the parallels were so spot on I found myself nodding at the telly like a loon. A few inaccuracies, which were necessary for the story, included the intelligence and common sense level of the housemates, which was too high. And also the nasty producer chap.

I really don't think the producers are nasty or deliberately exploitative. I think they don't have enough confidence in the format, or the fact that the relationships of the average person are endlessly fascinating to other average people. They don't have even nearly average people as housemates, and feel in order for it to be good telly they need to torture, starve and upset the housemates. It's boring. It's just so obvious. It's like human emotions by numbers. Make housemate A do something devious and nasty to housemate B and see if a negative reaction occurs. BORING.

Proof that the viewing public just like watching normal relationships form between normal(ish) people on the telly, as if it were needed, is provided in the form of both Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Both of which I adore.

Come Dine With Me is probably a closer relative of BB, as total strangers very quickly find themselves in quite intimate company, that is, throwing little dinner parties for each other. Grudges that develop as a result of refusal to eat the pastry of a Beef Wellington ("It's just not civilised") are far more interesting than those that develop as the result of being forced to pick the housemate with the biggest ego (as recently occurred with Terry Christian) then having it aired in front of said ego (Ulrika).

Come Dine With Me triumphs by exposing the subtle differences that crop up when seemingly innocuous domestic routines collide. And it's just as good when people unexpectedly form wonderful friendships. And all this with absolute minimal manipulation from the producers. People get comfortable. Big Brother tries really really hard to make people feel uncomfortable, so they end up doing crazy things like shoving a wine bottle up their chuff just to get some attention.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, what with Celeb BB on in place of Everybody Loves Raymond of a morning. And I used to think that Deal Or No Deal presented a similar argument. It's fashionable to turn your nose up at Deal Or No Deal but I think it is a work of bearded genius. Yes it's exactly the same every single damn day. BUT it's the people that make it what it is. Just normal people but, crucially, the SAME people.

They get put up in a hotel in Bristol, all together, and often end up spending several weeks in very close quarters, filming every day. There are characters, relationships between characters, and Noel makes sure the audience knows this. He plays it up, he amplifies aspects of people's personalities, creates a mythology around certain players if they have a history of always having a box with a high number. He makes it his business to know the players really well because really he knows that's why people love it.

It's overly sentimental, as are the relationships, with incredibly intense bestest bestest ever friends forming within weeks. Mascots and photos with accompanying nauseating stories are encouraged. I used to think it wouldn't work without this. That Noel and his 22 boxes (just one question) was further proof that relationships between people can make even the dullest format interesting and therefore BB should a) leave well alone and stop engineering upset and b) use normal people.

Until I was in America a few months back and saw this...

That is how they open boxes American style. Beautiful ladies. This is one of the most popular Deal Or No Deal ladies...

This is Brooke. Brooke opens box 15.

Can someone please explain this to me? Why does anyone give a shiny shite? Every other game show on the planet relies on our interest in other people's skill, or knowledge, or problem solving abilities.

I just don't get it. And it kind of suggests that I'm completley wrong about why people like Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal, and that I will in fact just watch any old crap.


Allison said...

I was somewhat astounded by how horrible Big Brother UK was while I was in England last year. Its different than the BB that runs on the American network (well at least the one I used to watch), and it was so fame motivated I couldn't watch it really.

I can't recall if there is a money prize to the last person in the house on the UK one, but the US one is more about games (physical and mental) and strategies to see who can win. Not saying that that is really any better, but it seemed less of a gong show as the UK one.

And there ends my reality tv show watching. It frustrates me too much. ;)

Karen's Mouth said...

Yeah. It's terrible. And I'd love to see the supposed psych evaluation, cos if you ask me a lot of them are clinical.

No ethics committee in the land would even consider the stuff they put them through.

There is money, but it's clearly not the motivation. I haven't been able to watch it for a few years now, but it's hard not to be aware of what's going on. And celeb BB is not really as bad. And who can miss Latoya Jackson I ask you?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm not much of a reality show watcher. But I do confess to watching Survivor and lately I find myself watching Mantracker with the Spousal Unit. in which a couple of guys on horseback try to track down 2 contestants through bush and swamp.

Nobody opens any boxes.

Karen's Mouth said...

I don't watch reality TV as such Barb. Just those shows. And I don't watch BB any more because it's ridiculous. I do however seek out stuff to read about it, which may actually be worse. Mantracker sounds interesting. And a bit on the properly dangerous side which is always good. Like Ice Road Truckers, which we love. Primarily I love their accents, and while I wouldn't want any of them to actually perish, the chance they might sink to their icy deaths at any moment is quite gripping.