One more unto the breach, dear friends, as a new series of Celebrity Big Brother kicks off tonight on Channel 5. And while we don’t yet know the identities of the 12 time-rich/work-poor “stars” who’ve agreed to spend three weeks sealed in the televisual equivalent of a goldfish bowl for our amusement, we can be sure of their motive for being there: to give their careers a rocket up the jacksie.
Doing CBB, like any of the big reality shows out there (no, not you, Coach Trip), is a means for fading celebrities and up-and-coming wannabes alike to enjoy a brief period of public interest and media coverage of a level normally reserved for Hollywood A-listers. Or at least, y’know, soap stars and the like. And if they play their cards right, CBB’s housemates can hope to emerge from Elstree with their reputations rejuvenated and, more importantly, full(er) diaries.
Take Amy Childs, for instance, who’s done so well post-CBB that she’s now the veritable face of Channel 5. When she entered the house she was just the vajazzling beautician who’d recently quit TOWIE on ITV2. But after she displayed her bubbly personality and physical assets in the house, she landed her own TV series, a column with New! magazine and became the face of a range of bras at Tesco, all of which were well worth enduring a couple of weeks in the company of Jedward.
And her erstwhile housemate Sally Bercow, despite crashing out first last time round, bounced back to land a column in the Daily Star Sunday and is set to appear alongside the show’s winner, Paddy Doherty, in a new documentary series to be screened later in the year.
Looking back at the show’s previous incarnation on Channel 4, CBB did wonders for Chantelle Houghton, who’s managed to maintain a public profile ever since she was shuttled into the house as an experimental non-celebrity, having scored a publishing deal and endless guest TV appearances off the back of her stint.
Her soon-to-be husband, Alex Reid, also did very nicely out of CBB, endearing himself to the public with his goofy personality to the point of winning the show, and marrying one-woman publicity machine Katie Price the month after leaving the house, sealing his fate as a bona fide modern-day celebrity.
Less comfortably, Shilpa Shetty managed to rejuvenate her career after a spell in the Big Brother house, despite having to endure a lot of racist taunting from three ladies who Charlie Brooker called “the world’s thickest coven”. After the row about her treatment started making international headlines, she received a deluge of lucrative commercial offers and a brand-new gig hosting the Indian version of Big Brother.
But of course, along with winners there inevitably have to be losers. So while Shetty’s career went from strength to strength post-Big Brother, the careers of her tormentors floundered. Jo O’Meara, for instance, ended up touring the windswept provinces of Blighty as part of a reheated and depleted S Club 3 after getting the boot.
And she’s not the only celebrity to forfeit their dignity after stepping over the threshold. The politician George Galloway, for instance, despite having achieved quite a lot in his life, will now for ever be remembered for crawling around on all fours and lapping milk from Rula Lenska’s hands.
Paparazzo Darryn Lyons ended up a laughing stock during the last series after revealing the expensive six-pack abs he’d had grafted onto his beer belly, Donny Tourette vanished into oblivion after acting like a three-year-old Johnny Rotten in the house during 2007 and Leo Sayer appeared to be in the grip of a breakdown during his time on the show.
Though at least those participants linger in the memory. Who remembers Tommy Sheridan’s blander-than-beige appearance on BB, for example? Or Ben Adams? Or Faria Alam? Does anyone even remember who they are?
So it’ll be fascinating to see who breaks through and makes a name for themselves this series.
But with Paul Ashford, editorial director of Northern & Shell, Channel 5’s parent company, saying: “We are creating our own celebrities through Celebrity Big Brother” and “The newspapers, magazines and television, everything is co-ordinated…there is a lot of room for synergies”, it seems that this year’s CBB could boast the most breakout stars yet. Watch this space. Or, rather, watch the show and let’s find out…