Katy Guest: A follow-up to 'Big Brother'? Here's an idea

Related Topics

Farewell, then, Big Brother – daring social experiment turned ruthlessly efficient famous-making machine turned public flogging of mental defectives for an ostensibly 21st-century audience. Last week, Channel 4 confirmed that it will not be screening the show after next year's series comes to an end. The programme's 10-year, downhill rollercoaster ride has seen ratings drop from 10 million to two million, during which time the Elstree studios have begun to echo with the teeth-grinding screech of barrels being scraped and even Davina McCall has struggled to act enthusiastic about the visibly withering format.

Farewell, too, to thelondonpaper, a sort of print version of Big Brother that feeds off the new celebrity culture in the same way that certain types of beetle feed off animal faeces. It would be premature to announce (again) the death of the cult of fame; but would it be too optimistic to wonder whether readers have finally had enough of this peculiar brand of entertainment? Is the public growing weary of pictures of the drunk one from Girls Aloud with one or other of her eyes half shut at various intervals during a very long evening? Are newspaper readers ready to try again with some, well, news? And will the first person to notice the uneasy hypocrisy of all of the above and note it furiously on The Independent on Sunday's website please award himself 10 points on me?

What is sad about Big Brother and its inevitable demise is that it was, to begin with, a remarkably clever and beguiling social experiment. To put 10 curious strangers into a big empty house and see how they interact was initially quite fascinating to watch.

It was also a relatively brutal form of scientific research; and it was unfortunately the brutality, rather than the anthropology, that took off. The programme's producers still swear that contestants are rigorously vetted to make sure they can handle the experience. If this is true, then how do they now end up with so many clearly fragile personalities whose paranoid insecurities, rampant eating disorders and blatant mental health issues can be diagnosed by any viewer with more than a passing interest in human behaviour?

Big Brother, unlike some of its imitators, started off with good intentions. And it has turned out much for which we should be grateful. OK, so the programme gave us mental Nikki, the Jade Goody racism row and too many unwelcome insights into the contents of its contestants' knickers. But it also gave us proof that clever is cool, in the form of the legendary Jon Tickle; it showed us that racists never prosper, when Shilpa Shetty convincingly trounced the bullies in 2007; and it gave us repeated cause to celebrate this country's open minds. Winner after winner emerged from traditionally Loserville territories. As a nation, we voted for the gay man, the transsexual, the Tourette's sufferer, the Welsh...

Perhaps the writing was on the wall for the programme when the young cutie Rachel Rice won last year's series. She was the antithesis of everything the show had become: quiet, introverted, thoughtful, nice. The more that she and the other contestants were manipulated in an effort to cause friction, the more accommodating she became. It was boring; but it worked. Viewers voted according to the format, but then they voted with their feet. Once you've seen about 200 bafflingly eccentric wannabes, you've pretty much seen 'em all.

It's hard to imagine how Channel 4 will replace Big Brother, but here's a suggestion. Why not try another groundbreakingly bold social experiment? Why not start from the assumption that TV viewers are intelligent, and see what happens if you try and work with that?

Kiss and text: The re-remodelling of Katie Price

Katie Price has found out the hard way how modern communications technology can lead to embarrassment in love. We've all been there: you meet someone new; you take him back to your mansion in Surrey; you perform lewd sex acts upon his naked Brazilian person... and then it seems a good idea to send him a series of explicit text messages in a quirky and tender code that's personal just to the two of you. And don't you just hate it when it ends up in The Sun?

Last week, the paper published details of Price's brief relationship with Andre Pinto, whom she met in a nightclub in Ibiza and then used, to his horror, "just for sex". It also published the shocking text messages she sent him, edited to save the blushes of its readers. "I am going to *** ** **** **** ** ** until you beg me to stop," she wrote. "Then *** ** **** **** **... *** ** *** ****...." It's bad enough when the world discovers that your bosoms are "hard but also soft at the same time", I'd have thought. But having everyone know that you plan to "do your ironing until you look neat and tidy and then send you off to work with a sandwich" must be absolutely mortifying for poor Katie P.

Things you never thought about

A couple of million years ago, when early humans were happily sitting around on piles of dry sticks eating raw meat with their hands, did a prototypical Palaeolithic Steve Jobs scratch his chin and invent fire? And did they all say he was nuts? There is something almost sinister about the way Apple comes up with technology that nobody knew they needed until they can't live without it. Once, I read maps; now that I have seen an iPod with Google Mapping and built-in compass function I don't think I'll be capable of navigating my living room without one again. Technophobes last week reacted with scorn to rumours about Apple's new, touchscreen computer, but just wait: in a year's time, typing will seem about as sensible as chewing a raw mammoth.

Barack: a few holiday tips

Just like Barack Obama (in so many ways), I, too, set off on vacation recently with high hopes for my holiday reading. Packing into suitcases the entire Booker long list, factor 30 and a small bikini, I set out for an improving week away. Unfortunately the first day involved a paella contest, a shopping trolley full of free Sambuca and nine hot dog costumes. It was downhill from there. I'm sure that the President will do better with his weighty novels, climate change polemics and presidential biographies, but I can give him several tips: try to resist a lunchtime sangria; never read ebooks while swimming; and be careful when holding a book lying down, it doesn't half lead to funny-looking tan lines.

Janet Street-Porter is away

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Primary Supply teaching jobs in Stowmarket

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Year 1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: The Job An inner city Birmingham sc...

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Ed Miliband is so scared of becoming Tony Blair he has forgotten how to communicate

Lance Price
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments