HuffPost UK Archive

Over the course of 2018 and into 2019 I have been lucky enough to have several entertainment based articles published and promoted by HuffPost UK.

You’ll find each of those articles below.

Why Big Brother Deserves To Survive Beyond 2018

Originally published: 22nd August 2018
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/why-big-brother-deserves-to-survive-beyond-2018_uk_5b7d70d2e4b03067348d99d4

Nick Leeson enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch Night at Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire.

Channel 5 has always struggled to create an identity for itself. Its early years were dominated by cheap imports from the US and Australia, alongside entertainment of the more adult variety. In later years the channel shook off its sleazy image and began to rely heavily on the likes of CSI and NCIS in order to build an audience. That was until Northern & Shell came along with a bag full of poverty porn, cheap fly-on-the-wall documentaries and Big Brother.

Ah yes, Big Brother. The elephant in the room. A programme that Channel 5’s director of programming Ben Frow has openly stated that he would rather not have on the channel. Yet it still draws a healthy audience throughout each run. That audience equates to larger advertising revenues, and bags Channel 5 some much needed exposure in what has become a highly competitive market.

The problem is though that, under Channel 5, Big Brother had become so far removed from what made it so great in the first place that the huge audience that it once commanded have voted with their remotes and switched off. Long gone were the chickens, vegetable garden and lack of outside contact and in came a never-ending supply of booze, parties and access to viewers’ tweets – all of which almost guaranteed to cause an argument amongst the housemates. No longer were a group put into the house and left to get on with it while we observed and analysed their actions. Now each and every situation was being deliberately manipulated by the production team in order to engineer the kind of drama that they thought we all wanted.

The whole concept of Big Brother was that it was a social experiment. It is supposed to be reality. Not a scripted drama. In fact, when it’s a the top of its game and not trying to emulate its more modern counterparts, Big Brother is still must-see television and delivers the kind of viewing experience that just isn’t available elsewhere.

Channel 5 just don’t seem to realise what a missed opportunity they have on their books though. Where is the live feed for example? The ability to view the housemates’ actions 24 hours a day was one of the things that made the show so unique and exciting in the early years. I can distinctly remember watching the infamous ‘Fight Night’ of series five kicking off on the live feed back in the day and being absolutely gripped. Even the more mundane moments of the day can make for fascinating viewing – how many of us once sat and watched the housemates sunbathing or cooking or cleaning their teeth? That element of Big Brother has been sadly lost since the show moved to Channel 5 save for a few precious moments per series, usually after midnight. Yet think how the ability to view the house 24 hours a day would generate awareness and interest in the show again. Especially with the ability to share those moments via social media platforms like Twitter.

There is hope however for Big Brother’s future. Despite what some of the tabloid newspapers would have us believe the show hasn’t yet fallen under the axe. And the new production team led by series seven veteran Paul Osbourne are slowly trying to untangle the mess that has been made of the programme over the past few years. Viewers that stuck with the January ‘year of the woman’ series would have noticed that the show started to switch back towards the original social experiment concept with each episode concentrating more on the different conversations and relationships between the housemates than the endless rows and showmances of previous years. Indeed, the series won much deserved praise from viewers for focusing heavily on gender issues throughout its run, with eventual winner Courtney Act making the biggest impact, as well as one of the most memorable entrances in the shows history.

The current ‘eye of the storm’ series is building upon those foundations that were set in January with a real return to form. Despite the whole Stormy Daniels debacle, this particular run of Big Brother has (so far) been gripping viewing. It helps of course that they’ve managed to get the casting pretty much spot on with the right balance of age ranges and personalities. Each and every one of them has a colourful history and a story to tell and it’s fascinating to hear about them in their own words. Nick Leeson talking about his arrest for example or Kirstie Alley discussing her issues with her weight make for some truly interesting and unique television. Big Brother at its best challenges our way of thinking. It makes us see people in a new light. It educates us as well as entertaining us. It’s not just characters from the latest MTV show getting drunk and naked and arguing. Not any more.

Big Brother is as relevant today as it was back in 2000. But perhaps now it needs to shift its focus to a different audience. Rather than trying to chase the younger viewers that it has since its arrival on Channel 5, it needs to start trying to appeal to the audience that it had back at its inception. The audience that were young then, but have now grown up and moved on because of the tacky reputation that the show had acquired. Concentrate on those fascinating conversations. Let any drama unfold naturally without manipulation. Keep focusing on the social experiment and not the showmances.

Do all of that, promote it well and the audience will slowly but surely return to the Big Brother fold.

Big Brother Is Better Off Without Channel 5

Originally published: 6th November 2018
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/big-brother_uk_5be14f5fe4b0bff8e2865a4d

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 05: Presenter Emma Willis (L) with Cameron Cole (R) who is crowned winner of Big Brother Final 2018 at Elstree Studios on November 5, 2018 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

In what felt like one last flick of the Vs at the programme’s loyal audience, the 19th and final series of ‘Big Brother’ came to a pre-recorded and somewhat hurried conclusion last night. Unlike its previous conclusion on Channel 4 back in 2010 where the show was given a send-off worthy of its legacy, Channel 5 instead chose to push its final visit to the Borehamwood bungalow back to 10:00pm in order to prioritise yet another programme about trains. I suppose you can’t fault their consistency though; after all, every eviction show of the final series fell victim to Channel 5’s current obsession with all things train-related so why should the grand finale be any different?

Perhaps I’m just being paranoid. But as a long-time fan of the original reality television behemoth it’s felt like Channel 5 were determined to make this series fail no matter what. Right from the un-gracious way that the programmes axing was announced on launch day, to the disappointing lack of live feed and frankly ludicrous scheduling, to the shortest and most undignified final in ‘Big Brother’ UK history. Channel 5’s Director of Programming Ben Frow has made no secret in the past of his dislike of the franchise but as a long-time viewer and fan of the show,’ this final series has genuinely felt like 53 days of Mr Frow sticking the boot in where it hurts. As if determined to make the final series fail, and fail hard in order to somehow justify his controversial decision to bring down the axe.

That was the problem with ‘Big Brother’ during its run on Channel 5. They just didn’t know how to treat the beast that they had acquired with the respect that it deserved. Rather than sticking to the original raw reality format that the programme had enjoyed so much success with and thrived on during the early years, Channel 5 instead tried to steer the good ship BB towards the course of other, more contemporary reality shows such as ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ in order to try and attract a new younger audience. Out went the lengthy shopping tasks, interesting discussions and live feeds and in came buckets of fish guts, viewer’s tweets and a steady supply of booze in order to generate arguments and controversy. ‘Big Brother’ was no longer the king of reality television, merely a drunken pawn that had gone off the rails. It wasn’t a social experiment anymore but simply a stage for Viacom to showcase their latest reality TV stars to an influential teenage audience, all hungry for the next batch of ‘Geordie Shore’ wannabes.

That wasn’t what ‘Big Brother’ was originally meant to be about though. The original premise of the show was to put a number of everyday people into a house, film them 24 hours a day and observe how they behave and interact with each other. It was never about the booze-fuelled arguments and controversy that the Channel 5 era has delivered. At some point during the seven-year journey the show simply lost its way. And despite the best efforts of current producer Paul Osbourne and his team it never really stood a chance of recovering with Channel 5 calling the shots.

At this point in time the future is looking somewhat uncertain for ‘Big Brother’. Despite the rumours flying around about Netflix possibly acquiring the show, nothing has been confirmed. Personally I feel the show needs resting for a couple of years now before making a comeback with a broadcaster that is prepared to treat the show with the love and respect that it deserves. One thing that is for sure though is that ‘Big Brother’ is best off as far away from Channel 5 as possible.

‘Big Brother’ WILL get back to you.

Gemma Collins’ ‘Dancing On Ice’ Fall Is No Excuse For Body-Shaming

Originally published: 28th January 2019
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/gemma-collins-fall-dancing-on-ice_uk_5c4eefb7e4b013f47a6bf79e

Gemma Collins’ time on ITV’s hit celebrity ice-skating contest has been well documented by both the tabloid press and by social media. Over the past few weeks we’ve heard tales of laziness, lack of commitment and diva-like strops from behind the scenes. This all came to a head last week when, following a somewhat safe performance of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friendthe GC called out judge Jason Gardiner for allegedly selling stories about her to the press, something that Jason himself has since denied.

This weekend however, Gemma managed to go one better and fell over spectacularly during her routine. Twitter immediately exploded in a way that only Twitter could – memes were made, gifs were created and lots of people rushed to rewind their recording devices in order to share the moment for all to see via some badly-filmed phone footage.

Of course someone falling over is going to raise a few laughs. If it didn’t, You’ve Been Framed wouldn’t still be a thing after all. But when you’re laughing at somebody suffering an unfortunate fall in such circumstances, chances are you’re laughing because of what they’ve just done and not because of who they are and what they look like. Remember Total Wipeout? Watching the contestants trying to cross the big red balls all in one go and ultimately failing was hilarious. We didn’t watch because we wanted people to succeed. We watched because we wanted to see people fall flat on their face.

So how is Gemma Collins’ fall on Dancing on Ice any different to that? Well in many ways it’s no different at all. Watching anybody fall flat on their face, especially someone who’s in the public eye is always going to raise a few guilty smiles.

But the reaction on Twitter was about as far away from a bit of gentle piss-taking as you could imagine. Checking into Twitter on Sunday-evening on felt like stumbling into a meet-up group for the crème de la crème of keyboard warriors. Every single one of them eager to stick the boot into the GC for anything other than her ability to ice-skate. Most went down the obvious route of targeting Gemma for her size. I saw one particular tweet that claimed the reason she had fallen over is because she was a “fat mess”. Another suggested that her fall had “caused an earthquake”, while a third proclaimed that “her fall had resulted in the ice cracking.”

These comments, and thousands more like it are wholly unfair and un-necessary. Gemma’s fall had absolutely nothing to do with her body weight and everything to do with a lack of ability and sheer bad luck. I wonder, would the Twitter trolls be so quick to target any of the other skaters in such a way if the same incident had happened to them? Would people be laughing or jeering at the likes of Jane Danson or Saara Alto in the same way if they fell, calling them out for their appearance and mocking them for their size? I doubt it.

Body-shaming is not funny, no matter who it is. Whether you’re mocking someone in the office for being as thin as a rake or you’re taking to social media to laugh at a celebrity for falling over during a TV show. Laugh at them for their lack of ability. Pull them up for their poor attitude and egotistical nature. But don’t laugh at them for their size or their appearance just to make you feel better about your own lack of decent credentials.

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