Big Brother: Best Shows Ever is an interesting concept. Take two of the series’ best-known presenters, get them together on a video call and ask them to pick their ten favourite episodes of the original behemoth.
A simple, yet ultimately rather clever idea. It’s capable of being turned around quickly, costs peanuts to produce and helps the network execs gauge audience reaction to the franchise.
Only, it doesn’t.
It only gauges audience reaction to the programmes early years and completely disregards the more recent Channel 5 era. Many will see this as a good thing. After all, Big Brother was rubbish on Channel 5 wasn’t it?
Well no, actually. It wasn’t. Not all of it. The celebrity version of the show was arguably better on Channel 5, with most series’ rating well for them. The civilian version not so much, but it still had its moments.
When Big Brother first hit UK screens back in 2000 it was considered a social experiment. Throw a bunch of strangers into a house and leave them to get on with it. No producer interference, no pre-meditated twists. Just a smattering of cameras recording their every move, allowing any drama or conflict to develop organically.
And develop it did, with Craig and Darren’s rumbling of Nick’s nomination plot becoming that summer’s talking point, and one of the simplest but fondly remembered moments of the 18-year run.
The thing is though, the pedestrian nature of early Big Brother UK – for arguments sake let’s say series 1-4 – isn’t the show that E4’s target audience are expecting to see.
By the time it moved into its later years on Channel 4 the whole idea of it being a social experiment were a distant memory, with Big Brother being firmly positioned as an entertainment show. This continued when the show made the move to Channel 5, with new host Brian Dowling commenting that the exterior of the house reflected the change in format.
The barbed wire and security guards were gone, replaced with flashing lights and smoke machines.
For those of us who watched the series from its inception, the opportunity to enjoy the early episodes are a welcome nostalgia trip. But let’s face it. Most contemporary Big Brother fans are expecting to tune in and see the likes of Gemma Collins or Stephen Bear wreaking havoc in the Borehamwood bungalow. Not Craig Phillips holding court over a piece of paper or, ludicrously, Ulrika Jonsson and the late Verne Troyer singing Endless Love to the bemusement of Terry Christian and Coolio.
This has been reflected in the viewing figures.
Despite a strong start for episode one, most likely born out of curiosity from those who remember the episode from the first time around, the first week of the series has averaged out at around 441k. That’s acceptable enough for E4 but it’s hardly setting the world alight. Not in a way that’s likely to result in the instant commission of a Big Brother revival, no matter what The Daily Star claim.
For a revival series of Celebrity Big brother to succeed – and I do mean Celebrity Big Brother, not the civilian version – it needs to focus on what made the show so popular on Channel 5.
Despite what many on social media and the likes of Digital Spy might insist, bringing Davina back as lead presenter isn’t going to magically make everything better. Let’s not forget that Big Brother during its final few years on Channel 4 was becoming increasingly tired, resulting in a sharp drop in ratings despite Davina still being at the helm.
The younger more recent audience of C5 era Big Brother are used to seeing Emma and Rylan fronting the reality action and will strongly associate them with the Big Brother brand of today. Getting Davina involved with this cheap-as-chips anniversary series was a nice nod to the show’s history but it’s not where it’s future lies.
Given that Emma is heavily involved with The Circle – a celebrity version of which has been commissioned that I fully expect it to occupy the early January period of the schedule to tap into the former CBB audience – as well as her commitments to The Voice and her successful series on W, I think it far more likely that any revival of Celebrity Big Brother will be fronted solely by Rylan. Hence the emphasis on Rylan leading the discussion segments of the Best Shows Ever and Davina taking more of a back seat.
That may very well happen, eventually. I’m fairly confident that Celebrity Big Brother will return in a much more stripped back way either in the summer of 2021 or early 2022.
However, those expecting a full-on revival complete with flashy new house, live evictions, spin-off shows and 24/7 live feed need to reign in their expectations.
In these cash-strapped and uncertain times, it’s just not going to happen.
One final thought. If the current Best Shows Ever had included shows from the Channel 5 era such as the often-requested David’s Dead episode, would the ratings be significantly higher?
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of it’s author and do not necessarily represent the views of Big Blagger.