Chapman brothers join 'Big Brother' spin-off

James Macintyre
Saturday 22 December 2007 01:00 GMT

A year after Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother caused an international row over racist comments by its contestants, the show is set to return with a new format in which the celebrities will take over the house.

The Chapman Brothers, the Little Britain star Matt Lucas and the BBC Match of the Day presenter and former Arsenal striker Ian Wright will take part in the spin-off for E4, alongside the American comedian Joan Rivers, and funnyman Jimmy Carr. Under the new name of Celebrity Hijack, the celebrities will play Big Brother, listening to housemates in the "diary room" and controlling rations of food and drinks.

Jake and Dinos Chapman renowned for their off-the-wall artworks including sexually mutated child mannequins and Hell, a depiction of more than 5,000 tiny Nazis are among the most eye-catching bookings. Keith Lemon of Bo' Selecta will also feature, along with the former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren, who recently pulled out of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here after branding it "fake" and declaring: "I don't have the time."

Channel 4 bosses have been racking their brains over how to relaunch the brand after the glamour model Danielle Lloyd and television personality Jade Goody infuriated viewers with a string of racist slurs against a fellow contestant, the Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.

Lloyd said of Shetty: "I think she should fuck off home." And Goody said: "I couldn't think of [Shetty's] surname ... What is it? Shilpa Cookamada, Shilpa whatever Rockamada, Shilpa Poppadom." She added: "You need a day in the slums. Go in your community and go to all those people who look up to you and be real."

The comments caused riots in Shetty's home country of India and were condemned in the House of Commons. Ofcom found that Channel 4 made "serious editorial misjudgements" over the programme, amid speculation it would be scrapped. But executives will be hoping that the list of names associated with the new show to be screened in January along with an imaginative new format, will do enough to regain its credibility.

Instead of contestants whose only claim to fame is for being the girlfriend of a footballer as in the case of Lloyd Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack will feature young scientists, athletes and members of the high-IQ group Mensa. Channel 4 said that some of the most gifted people in the country will be competing for the 50,000 prize.

They will be set tasks and given punishments by the celebrities under the format for the new series.

The "house" itself has been dramatically redesigned, with bedroom walls decorated by sketched graffiti in the style of Banksy, "British cityscape" bedroom walls, a gym and the return of the hot-tub instead of last year's pool.

Dermot O'Leary, who announced last month that he was leaving the Big Brother franchise, will present the show which runs for a month from 3 January for the last time. Davina McCall, the programme's main presenter, will return for the summer's longer version.

A Big Brother spokeswoman said of the celebrities: "Just what they will be getting up to as they take control of the house and who else will join them as celebrity hijackers remains a closely guarded secret."

The programme's website said: "A new Big Brother series is coming, and this time with an E4 twist ... The celebrities are going to team up with Big Brother to set House tasks, talk to the housemates in the Diary Room and get up to lots of cheeky mischief. And they could be cooking up some very unconventional punishments ..."

Peter Bazalgette, credited with creating Big Brother, announced this year that he was leaving Endemol, the show's independent production company. Big Brother is contracted to Channel 4 until 2010.

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