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Channel 5 has pulled down the final curtain for Big Brother in the UK.

 

“It’s time for this game to end,” the channel tweeted.

 

The seminal reality TV show aired on Channel 4 from 2000 to 2010 before moving to Channel 5.

 

The first edition of the show quickly built momentum thanks to the antics of Craig Phillips and Nick Batemen (dubbed “Nasty Nick” by the tabloids) and peaked with an audience of 9.5 million during the final.

 

The 2017 series final on Channel 5 was watched by just 1.1 million people.

 

 

Big Brother

The first series was hosted by Davina McCall and saw 11 housemates stuck together for 64 days, attracting an average audience of 4.5 million.

 

The series' popularity lasted for several years, viewers slowly dropping off towards the end of the show’s run on Channel 4. Channel 5 picked up the series in 2011 but failed to bring viewers back, an average 1.6 million people tuning into the 2011 series.

 

The first series of Celebrity Big Brother aired in 2001, featuring such famous faces as Jack Dee, Chris Eubank and Vanessa Feltz, the spin-off proving as popular as the core series on Channel 4. Following the move to Channel 5, the celebrity edition proved far more popular and a new series broadcast twice every year.

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Channel 5 has pulled down the final curtain for Big Brother in the UK.

 

“It’s time for this game to end,” the channel tweeted.

 

The seminal reality TV show aired on Channel 4 from 2000 to 2010 before moving to Channel 5.

 

The first edition of the show quickly built momentum thanks to the antics of Craig Phillips and Nick Batemen (dubbed “Nasty Nick” by the tabloids) and peaked with an audience of 9.5 million during the final.

 

The 2017 series final on Channel 5 was watched by just 1.1 million people.

 

 

The CCTV caper that introduced Britain and Ireland to the highs, lows and shouty in-betweens of reality TV and fundamentally altered the nation’s perception of – and relationship with – celebrity is itself ejected from the schedules.

 

It’s never a good idea to become intimate with someone when night-vision cameras are rolling – it was that anyone could be famous, provided they wanted it badly enough and were prepared to behave outrageously. Like a contagion in the water supply, it’s a message that has entered the DNA of popular culture.

 

It’s no exaggeration to describe the original 2000 series as a light entertainment earthquake – one of the defining television moments of the decade. That is certainly how it was received in that moment.

 

The concept of sealing a dozen average members of the public in what was essentially a network of mildly luxurious sheds and watching what happened was regarded as genuinely revolutionary and 40,000 people duly applied to participate.

 

That the idea had originated with Dutch production company Endemol was, moreover, perceived as applying a veneer of continental sophistication to the endeavour. Indeed, at the time Big Brother was received as much as a social science experiment – the equivalent of lab rats fighting over cheese – as a cheap attempt by Channel 4 to grip new up market viewers to its already known seedy channel.

 

 

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And if the goal was to illustrate the tooth-and-claw reality of human nature in the wild, it more than succeeded.

 

Viewers were riveted as “Nasty” Nick slithered about setting housemates against each other. Great cheer was taken from the fact that, after 70 days in confinement, the decent Craig Phillips was voted the winner.

 

It says something for the shadow cast by that first season that, nearly two decades on, those names still chime a bell, when many pop stars and actors from the early 2000s have been reclaimed by obscurity.

 

 

Big Brother would confirm that the hype over its launch year was no one-off.

 

At a time when television was undergoing deep-rooted change, it was a phenomenon like no other and yet was not regarded in a benign light.

 

Its portrayal of housemates with mental illness was widely criticised as crass and exploitative.

 

For instance, Tourette’s sufferer Pete Bennett was sold as a lovable weirdo while Nikki Grahame, who was anorexic and had attempted suicide, found herself painted as a hysterical villainess prone to exploding over the tiniest slight.

 

 

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“I think reality TV programmes do a lot of damage,” argued Vanessa Feltz, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother.

 

“Nothing prepares you for the scrutiny and incarceration and worrying what people might think of you and trying to survive all at once. Believe me, it was extremely intense and a most unnerving thing.”

 

The remarkable power of Big Brother was personified in the rise of Jade Goody, the 2002 series contestant who became a national laughing stock because of her perceived lack of geographic expertise (believing Rio de Janeiro was a person rather than a city), "Where is East Angular, is it abroad?"; "Saddam Hussein - that's a boxer".

 

The public loved to hate her – which she parlayed into a place on the Z-list prior to her death from cancer in 2009 at the age of 27. But all the while she was loved to be hated, jade was keeping tongues wagging, but in a good light hearted spirited way.

 

Her somewhat cuddly persona was undermined with an appearance in Celebrity Big Brother 2007 when she was accused of racism towards fellow housemate Shilpa Shetty (Ofcom was inundated with a record 44,500 complaints).

 

The outcry prompted an extraordinary intervention from then chancellor Gordon Brown, who interrupted a state visit to India to attack the programme (protestors in India were burning images of the Big Brother producers in the street). “I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance,” he said. “Anything detracting from this I condemn.”

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Now that we are in an age of people getting easily offended for just being offended, it only cements big brother in the UK further into the ground.

 

The recently concluded run of Celebrity Big Brother meanwhile saw “Human Ken Doll” Rodrigo Alves ejected off camera for an unspecified racist outburst.

 

The general public never found out what really happened, the producers would rather wrap this one up in cotton wool rather than face the massive backlash from the public further driven by social media, another thing that didn't really exist to the extent that it does now when Big Brother first appeared on our screens.

 

 

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You may also remember when the big brother live feed existed. The only time you could not hear any audio play along with the images was when a housemate(s) starting singing.

 

Big Brother stopped this for 2 primary reasons. One being that any incidents that may occur will cause public outrage and only damage the Big Brother brand and another reason being maintaining the quality and editorial work of producing such a show.

 

 

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Predicting ahead of time from now, Big Brother won’t be missed. At a time when the schedules are heaving with reality fare – from The Great British Bake Off to Strictly Come Dancing via The X Factor and Love Island – it had become just one lowbrow distraction among many.

 

Big Brother has certainly left a huge legacy. It has set the tone for the shows that followed, as well as contributing to this imperial age of the social-media celebrity (a demographic that used to be called “famous for being famous” but is today better being described as “famous for being on Instagram”).

 

In terms of its influence on popular culture, it can leave with its head high and its chest out, knowing that its work is done.

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