After 18 years on TV, it looked as though Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother were finished for good when rumours swirled at the weekend that both the celebrity and civilian versions were due to be axed by Channel 5.
Although various sources have since reportedly denied the claims, Channel 5 themselves are still staying tight-lipped on the future of the programme. “Channel 5 are committed to a further series of Big Brother and of Celebrity Big Brother later this year,” is all a spokesperson would tell RadioTimes.com.
But those two series are already planned and contracted between production company Endemol and Channel 5. A contract which expires after the second series of CBB airs this summer.
Undoubtedly there will be discussions to be had. Namely because Ben Frow, Channel 5’s director of programmes, said at the the Edinburgh TV Festival in August last year: “I would be much happier if the channel did not have Big Brother on it. I like the ratings but I want to create our own programmes. I don’t really want other people’s programmes. I want my own programmes that we have created.”
Leaving tabloid reports aside, it’s that statement which makes the reality TV show’s future seem wobbly. Will it be axed or won’t it?
There’s no denying that Big Brother isn’t what it once was. From the heady days of drawing over 5 million viewers on Channel 4 and creating front page headline news about the latest row or eviction in the house, the headlines and viewers have fallen away – especially after the show moved to C5 in 2011.
Summer 2017’s ‘civilian’ series went, rather unwisely, head-to-head with Love Island in the schedules – and it got a mauling. Whereas its ITV2 rival was pulling in over 2 million viewers and swiftly becoming the most-watched show in the channel’s history, Big Brother could only attract 700,000-odd per night. Even the lure of a live eviction only drew in 850,000.
The problem Channel 5’s now having with Big Brother is, ironically, overexposure. The show is suffering from the very thing that it helped to create.
Two celebrity series – one in winter and another in summer – on top of one Big Brother means that there’s a total of three separate runs of CBB and BB each year. And that is two too many.
Ditching the summer series and retaining the January run would mean that instead of spreading the celebrity talent too thin over two separate series, the willing celebs could be pooled into one and thus create a starrier line-up.
The civilian series, meanwhile, needs to be scrapped entirely. People wouldn’t miss it – not even diehard BB fans who would sit up all night watching the live feed at the height of the show in the early noughties. Most have since grown tired of the stupid twists, horrible arguments and housemates who are supposed to be everyday folk and yet have already appeared on other reality shows like Ibiza Weekender or Ex on the Beach.
Meanwhile actually winning BB used to be a fast-track to fame, but it would be hard to find someone who could name the winner of last year’s ‘normal’ show (it was Isabelle Warburton, FYI. And yes I had to look it up.)
Channel 5 need to instead prioritise quality over quantity. Big Brother ceased to be a social experiment years ago and has served its purpose – and we only need one Celebrity Big Brother a year. But we do need it.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news