After ten series and the introduction to the public of some of the most loathsome individuals ever to pollute a television screen (I’m talking contestants and presenters of the spin off shows here), Big Brother is being laid to rest by Channel 4.
This should be cause for celebration in any right thinking individual mainly because I feel that Big Brother, the programme, was responsible more than most for helping to foist the hated “cult of the celebrity” upon us. However, at its inception it was indeed a ground breaking social experiment and many viewers tuned in to watch something previously unseen on our screens. Unfortunately, as successive series progressed, the naiveté vanished. By series four the contestants were eager to get into the house not to win the prize money at the end but merely to audition for nine weeks.
People went in wanting jobs in TV, craving fame and more than happy to parade quite stunning ignorance without the slightest feelings of shame. Stupidity became celebrated. Instead of being pilloried for their lack of brains, people like Jade Goody were practically deified and allowed to make fortunes from no discernible talent at all.
Now Jade Goody wasn’t the first person to make money without the benefit of talent but, up until that time, other than manufactured pop groups like The Spice Girls not too many had managed to do this on such a grand scale. Big Brother changed all that. It showed everyone that you needed no skill, talent or ability to make a fortune.
The extended publicity that the show offered was enough. But, I must admit to a tinge of sorrow at its demise. It was the first and best of the reality shows and has fallen by the wayside purely and simply because it has been surpassed not in quality but in banality and that, after all, is the attraction of reality TV for so many people. They want to look at something even more pathetic and worthy of contempt than their own lives. As long as they can look into the goldfish bowl and see something that makes them feel good about themselves then they’re happy. It’s television about morons that we can all feel superior to.
And, ultimately, the public gets the television it deserves.