I’ve been inside the TV! I have actually stood on the lawn (fake grass, it turns out) by the pool and in the living room of the Big Brother house. In a very real sense, I am now a celebrity.
And I’ll tell you what, the second thing that occurred to me (after “OMG! I’m in the Big Brother house” repeated several times) was “You know, I could live here.”
The house is not huge, but it is perfectly formed. The bedroom, in particular, is a celebration of kitsch opulence, all gold picture frames, day-glo clouds and candy-striped hair-coiffing equipment (which should be put to good use by one or two of the new housemates).
Out in the garden is the pool, this year spanned by a modernist bridge and filled with chilly water sure to engender tabloid-friendly nipplyness.
The celebs who enter the house on Thursday also get a fully-equipped gym (which will, of course, be dismantled when the norms arrive for the series proper in September).
The overall vibe is a combination of luxury and fun that makes it easy to understand why housemates often gambol from room to room squealing with excitement when they first enter. It’s lucky I have a will of iron.
I reckon living in the Big Brother house would feel a lot like renting out a holiday cottage with your mates – or with a bunch of people you have come to despise. And I can see how, from time to time, even the most image-obsessed housemate could forget about the cameras.
Probably not while taking a bath, though. The bathroom – complete with totally transparent shower cubicle – looks onto the garden through floor-to-ceiling glass.
There’s a lot of glass this year. “There’s nowhere to hide!” one insider told me. “There are cameras everywhere, even in the toilet” (although those will only be put to use if housemates decide they want some company in the loo).
The sauna in the garden is clearly not just to make their stay more comfortable, either – it’s for our steamy viewing pleasure, and to help provide sufficient titillation to satisfy the various outlets of the Richard Desmond media empire.
Mr Desmond himself was at the launch, made of mahogany and smoking a fat cigar – indoors! (No one was going to ask him to put it out, were they? Not on RD Publishing territory, where different laws apply.)
He has high hopes for the show. “20 million [viewers] is what we’re looking for… Anything less and, you know, we beat people up.”
He was almost certainly joking. Channel 5 regularly fails to notch up a tenth of that in its primetime slots, so while two million viewers per episode proved not enough for Channel 4, it couldn’t hurt 5. The ambition is greater, though, and it seems likely the reality will be, too – at least to begin with, as viewers tune in to see how 5 do it, and who they do it with.
That brings us to the one room I haven’t yet mentioned. It contains a solitary chair that Big Brother fans will be seeing a lot of over the coming months. Described by my insider as “a space age Chesterfield” and “really quite uncomfortable”, it’s a red studded-leather number with a fluorescent yellow border.
But which celebrity backsides will it be embracing for three weeks of triumphs, tears and tantrums? The official line is they’re “some of the biggest, most colourful and interesting names around” and that they’ll only be confirmed when they slide out of their limos to high-five their way through the pantomime crowd on Thursday night.
But I’m told this has been the leakiest year for a while, and that most of the names currently being bandied about – those not already denied – can pretty much be relied upon, along with one or two that perhaps haven’t been mentioned.
Some special celebrity guests will also be entering the house from time to time. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is rumoured to be among them – and although I’ve not been contacted yet, it’s surely only a matter of time…