Saturday, 5 January 2008

Big Brother Celebrity Derailment - new breed of dogs, lapping up the same old shit

So after last year's continued degeneration into irredeemable repugnant farce, the Big Brother brand is trying to claw back some of the clever-clever integrity it embodied at the start. This time the kids are skilled and the celebrities are being given a chance to show off without showing themselves up - the sheer ugliness of humanity on both sides kept neatly hidden away. It's supposed to be a self-aware and a bit ironic, passing judgement on previous failings via reinvention. Obviously the whole thing massively undermined itself within minutes, and sent the whole mess shrieking further into cultural oblivion.

The key problem with Big Brother Celebrity Hijack isn't that it's boring, or that it's messed with the formula too much. It's that it blatantly tries to subvert the problem of both celeb and regular BB formats in one, and yet reinforces those very problems with such shambolic glee it's obvious they're just taking the piss.

First they deliberately send in mega-talented housemates as an antithesis to the regular fame-hungry march of the otherwise dammed. This is probably so that cultural theorists can see what it'd be like if reality TV didn't trade off the exploitation of deluded bottom rung dreamers. Shame, because this bunch of glossy, obnoxious prodigies prove even the upper echelons of achievement these days are Hollyoaks formatted. Unfeasibly hot and showbiz-friendly (Miss England! A racing car driver! A dancer! A singer! A boxer!) they are the first concession to the baseline BB audience. Not only do they underwrite the show's frightening insight into the future of the species but if this is what achievement looks like, it's really not giving this summer's Chanelles a taste of a higher-minded societal duty.

What have we learnt so far then? Well, it's nice to be clever, but only when you look good and do things that are faintly glamorous - don't worry, Big Brother won't ever accord value to anything else, even when it looks like it's trying to. 20-year-old John, the chubby, unfortunate looking Scottish Youth Parliament chairman, is the foil for proving this entire premise of the show; his introduction to the house and symbolic ousting to periphery looks like an incredibly deliberate meta play of the whole idea. Celeb Hijacker Matt Lucas (who no doubt identified John as his nearest stunt double match) picks him to be the foil for the first 'hilarious' exercise in manipulation, with a task that sees a stoop to levels of comedic laziness that's inane even by Lucas' standards. It destroys the potential for John to make any positive first impression amongst the clever hotties via a malevolent 'Simon says' routine, where Lucas dishes out idiotic instructions through a hidden ear piece. This gormless, uncomfortable ordeal not only regurgitates the whole Galloway affair (and John should've noted long ago, making a prat of yourself on BB does surprisingly little for one's political credence), but ensures the bar for what passes as entertainment is kept comfortably low. Yep, you're not going to be wishing Fonejacker was on instead - there'll certainly be no talk of Cartesian dualism here folks.

For anyone that was ever worried, it's reassuring. The life lessons Big Brother taught our generation aren't being undermined by Celebrity Hijack, and there's no need to re-write the rule book. It's just here to answer the nagging questions about Britain's celeb-fixated youth and reign all the variables back into the official myth. By the end of the first show everything's resolved and business as usual can be resumed. John naturally took his role as the anti-housemate in good humour, a merry pawn in this cruel cultural satire. A more socially conscious version of the moronic uglies from previous series he proves that if you can't be hot, be clever - and if you want to be popular, you'd better bring the funny too. I mean, just look at Matt Lucas, kids. Meanwhile, those who are burdened with a massive IQ can still be beauty queens. For the rest of you, there's still the summer version.