Exclusive: Big Brother’s executive producers speak

13 comments - Posted on September 23 2012 at 02:02pm

Big Brother 2012 eye logo

In an exclusive interview with bbspy, Big Brother 2012 bosses Denis O’Connor, Katy Smith and Suzy Price answer your questions on twists, nominations, housemate ages and more…

Big Brother arguably has the most loyal fanbase of any TV show. Even after twelve years on air, a crippling ‘race row’ and a change of broadcaster, there are still 1.8million people on average who tune in each night to watch the latest antics from Britain’s most famous house.

There are hundreds of even more dedicated viewers who have opinions on every single aspect of the production – from presenters to punishments and scheduling to sound effects.

Anyone who reads bbspy or follows us on Twitter will know that we’re usually quite opinionated. So, having relentlessly pored over the show since it moved to Channel 5 last year, we approached Big Brother for an interview with the executive producers – Denis O’Conor, Katy Smith and Susy Price – to give them the chance to respond to some of the many criticisms that have been thrown about and address some of the fans’ biggest issues.

Big Brother 2012 Eye Logo

After taking scores of suggestions from you, our readers (it was rather tough whittling them all down), we sent off eighteen questions. Some topics they chose not to cover, for whatever reasons – notably live feed, editing style, and the fury over Conor’s £50,000 win – but you can read what they did have to say below.

Big Brother UK is now twelve years old. How challenging is it to keep it fresh, exciting and different?
Working on keeping each and every series of Big Brother fresh and exciting is a brilliant challenge and one that we love stepping up to every year.

How do you think Big Brother has improved this year compared to last year?
We feel the show generally gets bigger and better and that it has found a fresh, solid grounding on C5.

Since Big Brother begun airing on Channel 5 last August, they have aired no less than five series (three celebrity and two normal) in little over a year. Are you concerned that the increased amount of series will result in viewers becoming tired of the show?
The commitment to the show by viewers and the reception the series have received indicates to us the show remains compulsive viewing for the public and that there is a healthy appetite from BB fans.

It’s no secret that the Celebrity version now gets higher ratings than the normal version, leaving some fans worried that the normal series may eventually be dropped. Channel 5 recently renewed their rights until 2014 – will the normal series continue to be a fixture on our screens?
Yes, the normal series will be a fixture and will be as exciting and gripping as we can possibly make it.

At a time when other reality shows are dramatically increasing their prize funds – Britain’s Got Talent has gone up from £100k to £500k, and Sky1’s Got To Dance from £100k to £250k – is it not a bit unfair to halve the already comparatively low Big Brother prize fund in order to reward housemates who haven’t even made the final? Is there ever likely to be a prize fund increase in the future?
Big Brother is a show that isn’t just about the money – over the years Housemates have always said that the idea of being crowned the winner has always been more exciting to them than the cash prize itself. The sense of personal achievement and being deemed the most popular Housemate of the series has always been first and foremost what keeps being driven.

Conor, Luke S - Big Brother 2012 White Room prize fund twist
Conor hits his buzzer and takes £50,000 out the winner’s prize fund

Fans have been very vocal about the lack of order in the house. Housemates constantly talk about nominations, and all but a handful of times in recent series, Big Brother has simply turned the hot water off. Will Big Brother ever reaffirm his authority and get tough on rule-breakers – surely if a housemate breaks nomination rules, their place in the house should be put in jeopardy?
Rule breaking has always been taken very seriously by Big Brother. Sometimes it is more effective to punish the individual who breaks the rules and sometimes it shakes things up to punish the house as a whole as this can influence house dynamics. Simple provisions like having hot water mean a huge amount when you are living in the house and as a punishment it’s always proved very effective. However there are an array of ways Big Brother can enforce the rules.

In recent series we’ve seen housemates’ friends and families nominate on their behalf, going against the once-sacrosanct ‘no contact with the outside’ world rule. Why do you think it’s a good idea to allow limited outside influence on nominations and deny the housemates their right to take part in the only aspect of the gameplay they have any control over?
Friends and Family nominations happen rarely as it is important to keep housemates protected in the reality bubble unaware of how they are perceived in the outside world.

This summer we’ve seen Big Brother replay housemates’ private conversations in to the house – for example, during the BBTV News challenge. Are you wary that this could result in housemates becoming more guarded, to the detriment of the show?
Big Brother has always been mischievous with how we use information and conversations garnered from the house. We try to be as balanced as we can and we feel that being playful with these conversations hasn’t unduly altered HMs behaviour.

Channel 5’s editions of Celebrity Big Brother have demonstrated the value of older contestants – Paddy Doherty and Denise Welch were voted winners, and Julie Goodyear is considered one of the more entertaining housemates of her series. Why have we not seen any housemates of their ages in the normal version?
Of course we strive to fill the BB House with the most interesting characters and there is no age bar.  This year we had Victoria, who was 41, who we thought was a brilliant HM and we will continue to look for characters from different backgrounds and ages.

Who would be your dream Celebrity Big Brother housemates – both realistically and unrealistically?
Unrealistically – Madonna and realistically, don’t want to let the cat out of the bag as we may well be signing them up.

Big Brother 2012 Turf Wars - Trolley Dash
Sara and Becky compete against each other in the Turf Wars trolley dash

The task team have done a fantastic job on the recent series – one particular favourite of mine was Turf Wars. Will there be more shopping tasks in the future that are longer, or involve housemates taking part around the clock?
Yes there will continue to be tasks in the style of Turf Wars and we particularly are excited by high concept, yet slightly silly tasks like Lab Rats and 100 which can become epic and really involve the whole house comprehensively.

Big Brother recently returned in Australia for the first time in four years, having taken several cues from the UK revival. They have had overwhelmingly positive feedback, especially for their new nominations, in which housemates are given five points to split between their two nominees. Will you be looking Down Under for inspiration in the future, and would you consider tweaking the format permanently like they have?
We continue to look at and share ideas with the Big Brother Family around the world.

Finally, what were your favourite moments from this summer’s series?
We’ve loved Turf Wars, the excitement of the culmination of The White Room, the sheer comedy of Julie and Julian and the all round daftness of a particularly gripping Celebrity Big Brother.

Big Brother returns for its eleventh Celebrity series in January on Channel 5

> Click here to read our interview with task team member Natalie Jennings

N.B. This is an exclusive article – please do not copy it in whole or in part without crediting ‘bbspy.co.uk’ and linking back to this page.

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13 comments on this article

  1. lanky says:
    Sun 23 Sep Reply !

    Oh dear – you can tell their answers have been vetted. Got to LOL at how you explained Big Brother Australia’s nominations to them only to get a 15 word response.

    Love that you went so in-depth though – don’t think anyone else would have done that. Good effort!

    Can understand why they might not comment on Conor pending the Ofcom verdict, but what was the live feed question you asked?

  2. Brekkie says:
    Sun 23 Sep Reply !

    There is just no passion from them at all in their answers – you get the impression they’re giving the answers they think they should be giving rather than giving an honest insight from their perspective. It’s no wonder the show is now a shadow of it’s former self with people like that in charge.

  3. Boobs a la Layla says:
    Sun 23 Sep Reply !

    Denis O’Connor is an anagram of ‘Nonce Indoors’.

  4. lewis815 says:
    Sun 23 Sep Reply !

    Unbelieveable – How corporate can you get?? No personality at all! No honesty, no fun, and I can’t help but laugh at answers like this “Of course we strive to fill the BB House with the most interesting characters and there is no age bar. This year we had Victoria, who was 41, who we thought was a brilliant HM and we will continue to look for characters from different backgrounds and ages.”

  5. CH5BBUK says:
    Sun 23 Sep Reply !

    Putting one older housemate in the BB house isnt a mix of different ages.

    I think its unfair to only pick one housemate in their 40s and the rest of the housemates in their 20s apart from two who was in their early 30s. Thats like picking one housemate in their 20s and the rest of the housemates in their 40s and 50s to go into the BB house.

    They should of picked afew more housemates near to Victoria’s age so that she hed someone near to her age to talk to.

    I think they should have 6 younger housemates and 6 older housemates to make it fair. Also it would make the show even more interesting with a mix of different ages and people who are different from each other like the CBB version :grin:

  6. Paul John Leadbeater says:
    Mon 24 Sep Reply !

    People like Ashleigh, Arron, Becky, Connor and Luke s were delusional, one dimensional morons – yet some BBBOTS members loved them and seemed anti outsiders at times. Honestly I mean it is their perception of entertainment and to be fair evidence of what the BBBOTS members were like when they were at school/college then again some of them probably still are at school/college and probably don’t know any better. It should be axed and paved way for live feed instead then maybe the crowd wouldn’t be so moronic and trivial at times.

  7. Sam says:
    Mon 24 Sep Reply !


    LOL. Seems like they put as much effort into it as the guy who designed the Japanese flag.

  8. Sam H says:
    Mon 24 Sep Reply !

    Some good questions on your end, but the producers seem to have a “my way or the highway” attitude towards everything. I wish they’d take on board fan concerns, but it really seems like they think they’re above it all as if they’re producing the best show on earth on something. Sad really, because BB is on its way to repair and if they just gonna stick their fingers in their ears and not listen it’s gonna continue to sink.

    Listen to your fans, BB!

  9. Dodge says:
    Wed 26 Sep Reply !

    New BB Executive Producers required. Nothing less will do.

  10. Josh says:
    Thu 27 Sep Reply !


    Or the old Libyan flag, for that matter. :P

  11. Stephen says:
    Wed 03 Oct Reply !

    Automatic for the people. Trouble is the heart isnt there from the producers. There’s no attachment to what their involved with, its all about maximum viewers/money/sponsorship. Its the story, the personalities, the journey that what makes BB true. Sack the task team too !

  12. Julie thornhill says:
    Tue 24 Jun Reply !

    :wink: I think Chris is one of the producers

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