Who really won Big Brother?
ARE YOU SUFFERING the seven-year itch? Channel 4 and Endemol certainly hope not, as tonight the seventh batch of guinea pigs enter the Big Brother house. Rumoured contestants have had whole pages devoted to them in tabloid newspapers, and the internet has been awash with gossip over the identity of the chosen few. A few hours from now, Britain will have as many as 18 new celebrities jostling for our attention.
Fame, as many of Big Brother's previous participants have found, can be a fickle mistress, and not every Big Brother contestant has lived happily ever after. While many have disappeared back into obscurity, some have fallen foul of the press, or into debt, or struggled merely to cope with being in the spotlight. Cameron Stout, who won Big Brother 4, says many of the show's contestants don't realise what they're letting themselves in for: "Even though I've got my head screwed on, and no matter how many times I was warned before I went into the house, you just cannot imagine what it will be like."
Nick Bateman, the legendary antihero of the first series, agrees: "People become very short-sighted about fame. They can only see what's in front of them and don't realise how destructive it can be. Channel 4 don't owe you a living. A lot of contestants seem to forget that."
And, as the contestants have become more media savvy, the nature of the programme has changed. "The whole process is more contrived now," says Bateman. "People know that if they wash their hair ten times a day, they might get a shampoo advert."
Not that this will stop people watching or indeed auditioning to get on the show. "I'd still wholeheartedly recommend it," says Stout. "But the one thing I'd say to every contestant is: don't go in with any expectations. That way, you won't get let down."
Here, we look at some of those who have profited from, and those who have fallen foul of, Britain's biggest reality TV show.
WHERE to start? Well, if you're really curious, there's always her autobiography, published earlier this year at the mighty age of 24, which charts how young Goody, below, rose from a pot-smoking five-year-old to a household name. Known in the Big Brother house for her dim-wittedness she received a rough ride in the tabloids. Yet, upon her eviction, the nation warmed to her, while a relationship with fellow reality TV star Jeff Brazier kept the tabloids happy. Now running her own beauty salon, Uglys, and still a magazine and newspaper darling, she is estimated to have made more cash than any other housemate and her fame remains undiminished, although celebrity has also bought its perils. Jade was the target of a fraud sting - a supposed friend is thought to have stolen up to £500,000 from her after taking cheques from her chequebook.
Paul Clark and Helen Adams
AH, the innocence of that long, hot summer of 2001. Before the tawdry, fumbles of last year's Saskia and Maxwell, we had the slow-burn unfolding of Paul and Helen - sweet, sugary, and, in the BB house at least, utterly sexless. He reduced us all to guffaws with his proclamation that he lived his life "like an international rockstar", while she incurred jaw-dropping incredulity with her statement "I love blinking I do".
They had the nation entranced. Rarely had we seen a real-life couple genuinely fall in love on television, and, when Paul was booted out of the house leaving his beloved behind, legions of girls across the country felt Helen's misery. For once, it was a Big Brother love story that deserved a happy ending. Both returned to everyday life - Paul to his job as a car designer, Helen to hers as a hairdresser and dance teacher. They are due to marry later this year. Preston and Chantelle: please take note.
LAST year voted the nation's favourite ever Big Brother contestant, series two's Dowling was an instant ratings winner when he minced into the BB house and proceeded to camp things up with his chicken obsession, over-dramatic strops and cutting humour. Having won the series, Dowling became the first evictee from the house to land a bona-fide TV job as a presenter - on the popular Saturday morning TV show SMTV, a job he held for almost two years. Since then he's had his own ITV series, acted on Footballers' Wives, and has his own slot on Vernon Kay's Radio 1 show. He remains one of the few Big Brother contestants to have (almost) shrugged off his reality TV beginnings for genuine stardom.
BOOTED out in the second week of series three, Hammond was best known inside the house for chumming up to eventual winner Kate Lawler, standing on a table, and promptly breaking it. Hammond has, however, had the last laugh, snaffling up one of the most coveted jobs in celebrity journalism as This Morning's show business reporter. She also married and has a son, Aiden, and her pregnancy and birth were both chronicled for This Morning, where she remains one of their most popular roving reporters. Hammond has shown that despite - or perhaps because of - such an early eviction, she's been able to carve out a successful post-BB career.
Davina McCall and Dermot O'Leary
THE most famous faces of Britain's most successful reality television show were relative unknowns back in those misty-eyed first days of Big Brother. McCall, a presenter on MTV who went on to minor success with dating show Streetmate, was an instant success as the show's female anchor. O'Leary meanwhile, who cut his teeth on the weekend "yoof" television programme T4, joined a year later as the host of Big Brother's Little Brother.
McCall's career since has been well documented, with stints on a number of ITV shows such as The Vault and, most recently, her own BBC 1 chatshow, Davina, which flopped spectacularly. O'Leary has also fronted a range of programmes for Channel 4 and the BBC, including Shattered and SAS: Are You Tough Enough?, and become a national pin-up.
FORGET the contestants, the presenters and the viewers. By far the biggest winner of the Big Brother franchise is Endemol, the Dutch TV company that came up with the idea in the first place. Founded in 1994 by Joop van den Ende and John de Mol, the firm pioneered the first Big Brother on Dutch television in September 1999. It was an instant hit at home, and captured the imagination of TV companies around the world. The programme has now been sold to over 70 countries and in 2000 the company was sold to the Spanish telecom and media corporation Telefónica for £3.5 billion. Last year, the firm's turnover was £612 million, while it raked in profits of £50 million. In Britain, Endemol is spearheaded by the charismatic Peter Bazalgette who saw the potential in Big Brother and brought the concept to the UK.
CRITICS might point out that repeatedly referring to yourself in the third person, inventing a phantom pregnancy, consistently lying to the extent that even Davina McCall thinks you're a production mole, and throwing a hissy fit worthy of Klytemnestra over a bottle of Cherry Coke is asking for trouble, but even by her standards poor old Makosi's had a rough ride since her stint in last year's Big Brother.
Faced with death threats and branded a "lowlife lesbian" in her home country of Zimbabwe, her appearance on the show was subsequently brought to the attention of the Home Office, who realised that as she had given up her nurse's job to appear on the show, she had breached the terms of her asylum. She had her working visa curtailed and faced deportation, but in November an asylum tribunal ruled she could stay in the country as a refugee, on the grounds that she might face "violent confrontation" if deported. However, things scarcely improved for the supposed African princess, who spoke to one tabloid about contemplating suicide, becoming isolated from her family, and allegedly receiving money for sex with a TV presenter.
POOR Tim. If only he hadn't tried to cover up the fact that he was a natural redhead by dying his mop and shaving his chest hair, perhaps the British public might have taken to him. Instead, when this Big Brother Three contestant's red-shaded roots started to sprout, spin-off show Big Brother's Little Brother retaliated with the launch of Gingerwatch, a ruthless segment that monitored the progress of the offending hairs with forensic intensity. Tim was also posh, a rarity within Big Brother and something that did him few favours - although neither, it could be argued, did the racist jokes and rampant Tory stance. Upon his departure from the house he was booed, pilloried in the press and shouted at in the street. Unable to take any more, he fled to South Africa, and now works as a banker.
LESLEY was dubbed the Big Brother Six bully, thanks to her poor treatment of fellow housemate Sam. A former performing arts student, she was one of the most fame-hungry of the batch, and was devastated to be thrown out of the house in the second week. A series of "falling-out-of-nightclubs" shots and a (failed) stab at a pop single, however, proved she was still determined to make her name. But, post-Big Brother, Sanderson fell into a drink-and-drugs-fuelled funk. She opened her heart to a tabloid, admitting to downing 25 shots of vodka in one hour and spending huge amounts of money on cocaine. She has been at the centre of an alleged rape, and has threatened suicide.
FOR Nadia, the Portuguese winner of Big Brother Five, appearing on the show wasn't so much about fame as acceptance. As a post-op transsexual who chose to keep quiet about it to her fellow housemates, the fact that the British public took her to their hearts regardless of her gender was of huge importance to her. Sadly, the dream was not to last. Following her exit, stories emerged that before the show she had worked as an escort. Then her weight plummeted, and a Latin dance-inspired fitness DVD flopped. She has since been treated for depression.
Your social life
YOU know how it goes. You think you'll just watch it once, so you know what everyone at the office is wittering about, and before you know it you're hooked, cancelling evenings with friends and missing dinner with the family, all to feed your growing and increasingly unmanageable addiction.
Combine that with the other reality TV shows fighting for attention this summer such as Celebrity Love Island and Celebrity X-Factor, and it'll be a miracle if the nation doesn't grind to a complete halt. Either that, or we'll all turn off the TV and do something more interesting instead.