Big Brother 2017 launch review: Is the show heading for BBrexit?

Reality TV stars and outside contact - is it really the United Kingdom of BB?
4 comments - Posted on June 6 2017 at 08:04pm

Big Brother 2017 live set

Big Brother 2017 is officially underway, but is it really the United Kingdom of Big Brother, or more a knock-off Ex On The Beach? Find out what we think in our launch night review…

It was clear from the start that this year’s Big Brother faced an uphill struggle. After years of empty promises, Channel 5 is now the Boy Who Cried Wolf among BB fans.

Last year bosses promised a massive revamp, trailed with the buzz phrase ‘the game is changing’ – and everyone believed them, as they’d put their money where their mouth is by investing huge sums in a brand new second house.

But the game didn’t change at all: although fantastic housemates made last year’s series one of C5’s best, in terms of production it was more of the same, and since then that second house has been downgraded to a task building.

Big Brother 2017 eye logo - 'United Kingdom of Big Brother'

So when the broadcaster released its promotional spiel for Big Brother 2017 just over three weeks ago, it was rightly met with a collective ‘meh’.

‘United Kingdom of Big Brother’, they said. ‘A selection of people, from a range of backgrounds’, they said. ‘The ultimate social experiment’, they said. All phrases that could trick viewers in to thinking BB might return to its roots.

However, as last night’s two-hour launch trundled on it became clear that, once again, these were nothing more than meaningless marketing terms.

First, the ‘United Kingdom of Big Brother’. When the show is given a subtitle like that, you’d expect the housemates to come from all corners of the UK.

Big Brother 2017 live launch - Kayleigh Morris

But of the fifteen housemates the producers picked, only one resides outside England: Kayleigh Morris, of Port Talbot, Wales. (Raph Korine may be an ‘international student’, but his UK base is Exeter.)

Thanks to The People’s Housemate twist (which we’ll get to in a moment), there is another non-Englander – but the chosen one, Tom Barber, is also Welsh.

The only person representing Scotland, Andrew, was one of the three candidates rejected in the public vote – and there was nobody from Ireland whatsoever. Not exactly a cross-section of the United Kingdom.

Next, the ‘range of backgrounds’. Yes, the new line-up is multicultural, and it features an LGBT contestant in Raph, but there is one ‘background’ that unites more than a third of the housemates: reality TV.

Big Brother 2017 live launch - Ellie Young

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d tuned in to MTV during last night’s launch, as no less than three stars of its raucous reality show Ex On The Beach pitched up: Kayleigh, Kieran Lee, and Chanelle McCleary. It felt less like Big Brother and more like C5 giving free promo to its sister network.

They’re not the only housemates who have already tasted life on camera. Others you may recognise include Ellie Young from ITV2’s Ibiza Weekender, Lotan Carter from Sky1’s Pineapple Dance Studios – which starred his well-known uncle, Louie Spence – and Arthur Fulford from his family’s multiple shows, including The F***ing Fulfords and Life Is Toff.

The debate rages on about whether or not such Z-listers qualify for Celebrity Big Brother, but even if you think they better suit the ‘civilian’ version, the sheer amount in this series is galling. Randomers from off the street barely get a look-in these days.

Big Brother 2017

It’s a sad state of affairs that Big Brother, arguably the greatest reality TV programme of all time, now can’t seem to go a single series without turning to even trashier rivals to find contestants.

Finally, ‘the ultimate social experiment’. Most fans would take that as a hint at a return to Big Brother’s once rock-solid format: housemates locked up 24 hours a day, zero contact with the outside world, regular nominations, public vote.

But, having shed its core values slowly but surely over the last decade, BBUK no longer has a claim to that title – and now it appears that the big twist of the new series could destroy one of the last remaining scraps.

When C5 announced The People’s Housemate yesterday morning, it said that person “will hold great power, even having access to the outside world”.

Big Brother 2017 - Candidates for The People's Housemate

And as soon as the chosen candidate Tom arrived last night, Big Brother told the entire house he’d have “regular contact with the Great British public”.

There are ways of doing such a twist while remaining at least semi-faithful to the concept. In 2007, one Big Brother USA contestant was named ‘America’s Player’: viewers regularly got to vote on who he should target in the game and which secret missions he carried out, as if the public itself was a housemate.

But so far, BBUK viewers aren’t explicitly telling Tom what to do, just giving him advice. Shortly after being instructed to put half the housemates in danger of eviction, he was straight on to a Facebook Live chat, taking comments and questions from viewers.

Tom is a fully fledged housemate eligible to win the grand prize: if he is getting unmonitored, unfiltered, unrestricted access to lines of communication with the public, then the ‘no contact with the outside world’ rule will lose whatever credibility it has left.

Big Brother 2017 - The People's Housemate Tom Barber enters the house

bbspy did ask Channel 5 if the messages Tom saw during the Facebook stream were specifically chosen by producers: the broadcaster did not comment.

As Big Brother continues to lose its unique selling points and jeopardise the support of the long-term fans helping to keep it alive, it’s no surprise that ITV2’s Love Island has snuck up as a serious contender for its reality crown.

Although C5 just managed to win the battle of the launches last night, with 1.32million viewers against Love Island‘s 1.25million, it was BB’s lowest-rated opener ever – down 280,000 on last year.

ITV2 Love Island logo

However, the new series shouldn’t be counted out yet. If the original version can maintain a series average of 1.1million this summer, one could argue that it is more stable than its Celebrity spin-off, which suffered a year-on-year audience drop of over 20% in January.

And of course, these days it’s not all about overnight ratings. Last year’s Big Brother enjoyed huge boosts in consolidated numbers, so much so that it ranks as C5’s third most watched ‘civilian’ series.

All Channel 5 can do now is hope that the United Kingdom watching Big Brother doesn’t use its remote to vote for BBrexit.

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4 comments on this article

  1. Simsfan9911 says:
    Tue 06 Jun Reply !

    I do have to say i am starting to rapidly go off of big brother. I really dont know why they even bother to have the normal series in the summer anymore as they only ever seem to put Z-listers in who have an agent/have done other reality tv. Why not just stick to the celebrity series and do away with the “normal” series. If anything big brother is actually pushing me towards love island, i hate the z listers they put in to the house now days and if im going to have to watch those types of people in big b year in year out id rather just go tune in to love island and watch those z lister type people there. There is nothing unique about big brother anymore that makes me want to come back and keep watching, I dont see the show being around for much longer especially if they carry on ignoring what the public want and keep doing this Z-lister thing.

  2. Bob says:
    Wed 07 Jun Reply !

    It’s simply not BB any more, I watched last night but had switched off by the time it got to 10:45, that’s might be because it’s early days but I didn’t see one likeable character.

  3. Oddlegs says:
    Wed 07 Jun Reply !

    Been watching and enjoying for many years, but the last few have been absolute dross,
    It certainly haven’t been big brother, not even sure what you’d call it but it’s definitely not BB,
    Already lost interest in this series after just 2 days,
    Probably watch a few more but looks like I’ll be switching off after a week or so,….. :down:

  4. Brekkie says:
    Wed 07 Jun Reply !

    The “No Contact with the outside world” rule lost all credibility years ago under C5’s management. Ironically had they maintained it the twist of one housemate having contact with the outside world might actually work, but as it is it’s just the producers using it as a cover for leaking information into the house and then blaming the viewers at home for it.

    The casting is shocking though – seems it is done by producers watching TV and searching Facebook now.

    As for the launch – nothing actually happens. It should be the opportunity to hook viewers in for the series but there was nothing on Monday night which made you want to watch the next night. BB Canada manage to tease an entire season in the opening VT of their launch shows (and actually meet most the promises), but there was nothing on Monday night to suggest anything worth watching would happen in the days and weeks ahead.

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