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Celebrity Big Brother: hyper-sexualised link bait, and bloody entertaining

Big BrotherShoot me now – but I’m loving this year’s Celebrity Big Brother. The last rites have been said over the format many times, but it’s almost as good as when Galloway became a cat or when Vanessa Feltz went mental.

I caught the end of it on Tuesday, and soon found myself cackling at the sight of reality no-marks from TOWIE and Luisa from The Apprentice hob-nobbing with the light entertainment legend that is Lionel Blair. What was columnist Liz Jones doing there, nervously twisting her mane of dark hair? Or boxer Evander Holyfield, or the strangely angry Linda Nolan? Or Jim Davidson? Or the idiot savant rapper Dappy. They had some bloody good bookings.

I say this as for many years I booked celebs for ‘list shows’ on TV and remember sending numerous letters to Davidson’s management. We wanted to stitch him up and make documentaries laughing at his dinosaur like views. He wouldn’t play ball – too savvy maybe. But there he was in the corner on Celebrity Big Brother, sipping his wine and looking almost avuncular. Obviously still a sinister racist with a history of domestic violence, but if you didn’t know his history you’d think he was quite cuddly.

I couldn’t wait to tune in yesterday (Wednesday) and found it totally compelling. Sexual jealousy was rampant, with two girls who looked remarkably similar (except that one was American) fighting over former Blue singer Lee Ryan – his famous ‘What about the elephants’ at the time of 9/11 showed that he has an interesting take on life. Lee was there to put the cat amongst the pigeons and after flirting with Casey (dark hair, large breasts) and Jasmine (dark hair, American), he seemed strangely aggrieved at being called a ‘player’ by the other housemates. Casey broke down and we saw raw emotion pouring out of her in the Diary Room. It was embarrassing and cruel but made gripping TV – voyeurism turned up to eleven.

So what does this year’s Celebrity Big Brother say about our wider culture? Obviously the recycling of ‘reality’ celebrities like Sam or Luisa or Ollie is very much part of the story – we live in a culture where television spawns these creatures on an almost hourly basis. But what strikes me most is how sexualised the house has become – endless talk about orgies, bisexuality. Then Luisa plotting to win by cuddling up with Jasmine, and Lee playing Casey and Jasmine off against each other. Sex sells – gets tweeted, shared, you name it – something known only too well by Channel Five’s proprietor Richard Desmond, who famously cut his publishing teeth on ‘Asian babes’. Celebrity Big Brother is hyper-sexualised link bait – soft porn for the masses.

In 2014, sex is celebrity and one of the questions in the task (in an alien space ship of course) was asking ‘Jasmine’ how long her sex tape was. She didn’t know, much to Lee’s dismay. “You’ve never seen your own sex tape!!!!!” he cried. “It’s got to be 40 or 50 otherwise it’s just a quickie innit?”

Lee guessed the length correctly (48 minutes I think) and the housemates were rewarded with their food, while the programme can best be summed up by the comment from Lee/Jasmine/Luisa (they all blur into one): “what a twisted fuck show this is”.

In the closing minutes of the show we saw Jim and Lionel chatting about panto (a more innocent era of entertainment), Lee snogging Jasmine in a toilet and then learned that Casey and Lee were not really evicted but were holed up together in a secret cupboard. A twisted fuck show indeed, but I shall definitely be watching again tonight.

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