Grace Dent: I foolishly thought I could just watch ten minutes of Big Brother – now I’m back in the habit


Like most recovering addicts I’m pious but easily swayed. I quit watching Big Brother some years ago, cold turkey, just after the C4 Big Brother “Funeral”.

Davina in mourning garb, full New Orleans death-pomp, mega-montages, tearful ex-housemates and “end of an era” weeping. Wonderful TV, but a complete farce as Big Brother was already en route to Channel 5, where a trashier, cheap-as-chips-looking version appeared.

Where once BB tasks would involve hidden houses and ornate themes, last week’s Celebrity Big Brother high-jinx came from a little-known tabloid girl, Rhian Sugden, being made to stand on a box then guess whether her housemates had voted her “most glamorous”. (They hadn’t. Rhian was sad. Rhian was gunged using one of those “cheap chairs beneath a large clear tube of neon green gunk” arrangements which the studio designers on Noel’s House Party found a bit passé in 1986).

Whereas once I’d argue with cab drivers that Big Brother was an interesting anthropological experiment, at Channel 5 the show is the televisual equivalent of sipping a glass of Lambrini sat in a cloudy primordial-stew post-party jacuzzi eating a kebab and Levonelle breakfast. People who watch a lot of Channel 5 dream one day of understanding those lofty ITV1 Dramas like Wild at Heart where Stephen Tompkinson “catch um lion gud”.

So yes, I don’t watch Big Brother anymore (except sometimes I do, secretly) and will flutter my jowls into a dismissive sneer at viewers who do in 2012 as I’m a bigger person (which I’m not, I’ve been watching Celebrity BB for the last fortnight).

My downfall was the cast-list including Julian Clary, whom I’ve adored since his Friday Night Live appearances in the mid-1980s with Fanny The Wonder Dog and C4’s Sticky Moments with Hugh Jelly. Clary is an achingly British entity, he’s warm yet guarded, twinkly while dry and prickly and all in the space of one flowing sentence spilling from a lightly lipsticked gob with a puckered eyebrow to mark the full stop.

His autobiography, A Young Man’s Passage, which covers his childhood up to “the Norman Lamont incident” is excellent. Alongside Clary, Julie Goodyear, Bet Lynch from Corrie, a formidable fortress of a woman who, in character, taught a million northern women in the 1970s and 1980s how to exist, channelling gnarly strength, the beauty in being a battleaxe. Goodyear, now installed in the compound house as matriarch, is pure joy.

Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet I’ve been infatuated with since I was nine, dream-cheating on him with John Taylor from Duran Duran occasionally and sometimes Adam Ant. A task this week asked the house if he was alpha male. He is. They voted “no”, which left Harvey from So Solid (yes, he still exists) flexing his abs. I didn’t say this was Question Time. You’re probably screaming, “oh these pointless people!”, but you’ve not even met “The Situation” yet. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from MTV reality show Jersey Shore, whose nickname refers to his rock-hard abs which are ‘The Situation’.

Mike’s pointlessness is so profound and mighty it is virtually performance art. He has been shorthand for a punch line in TV land for two years. Since arriving in the house he’s fallen in deep love with Danica.

Danica isn’t famous at all, she was a story line in a C4 documentary called Sex, Lies & Rinsing Guys, about women manipulating people on the internet to buy them things. Danica is very angry about the title of the show as it misrepresented her as some type of person who manipulates people to buy her things. Danica is  a bit like a Vileda Supermop with credit card terminals for hands. By now you’re possibly getting  furious at this column and saying, “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?”, but their tenuous claims, their egos and utter lack of self-awareness will keep you coming back for more.

The trick is to never switch Big Brother on. I did for 10 minutes a fortnight ago. I don’t watch it you see. It’s completely beneath me. So I idly wander to Channel 5 and “The Situation”, who is camper than Clary and sprayed so orange he sometimes resembles the devil, is comforting Danica who is outraged that people could believe that asking people to buy her things with the unsaid but implicated (and unfulfilled) promise of sex would make her a hooker.

The stages of re-addiction are this. “Oh who are these idiots?” And then, “I pity viewers who still like this”. And then, “how can Danica and ‘The Situation’ BE so deluded?” And then, more thoughtfully: “No she really thinks this. Hang on, she’s flirting with him now, isn’t she supposed to like Prince Lorenzo? Oh good, there’s another 15 minutes left. Gosh I wonder what Martin Kemp has got to say about this.” And bam! You’re back. May as well watch to the end now.

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in again.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living