Wednesday, 6 April 2011

'Big Brother' returns, on Channel 5

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

After almost a year of speculation, Channel 5 have confirmed that they're reviving Big Brother, which aired its final series on Channel 4 last summer. C5 have thrashed out a £200m two-year deal with Endemol, after months of negotiations, allowing Big Brother to return with a celebrity special in August, ahead of a regular 13-week run from September. The traditional schedule of a January celebrity special, followed by the regular show in summer will come into effect next year.

It's undoubtedly great news for Channel 5, provided the entirety of Channel 4's dwindled audience accept this new version. It will also help get people to sample 5*, if that's where the Big Brother sister shows like Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Big Mouth will find themselves. Although it's not known if those formats are part of the deal.

Jeff Ford, Channel 5's Director Of Programmes:

We're hugely excited to have secured the return of Big Brother for Channel 5 which will form a key part of this year's schedule. The series has previously captivated a decade of television viewers and we aim to bring Channel 5's energy, optimism and vibrancy to the series."
Tim Hincks, Endemol Chief Executive:

Big Brother has a passionate and loyal fanbase in the UK and I'm delighted it has found a new home on Channel 5. Ten years on it's as potent and cutting-edge as ever and it's still one of the only truly multi-platform entertainment brands.
But will there be any concessions regarding the quality and content of the show? Can Channel 5 attract the same caliber of famous faces for their celebrity specials? You may scoff at that phrasing, but Channel 4 regularly paid around £250,000 to get a few big names involved. Will C5's pockets be as deep, or should we expect a budget line-up across the board? Whatever happens, surely there won't be a problem finding the usual bunch of crazy, extroverted, fame-hungry wannabes for the regular show.

But there are already a few problems with Channel 5's impatient decision to get the show on-air this year. By launching Big Brother in August with a celebrity special, they'll attract a lot of attention, but will audiences be bored once the celebs are all evicted after a month and the "normal" show begins? Remember how jarring it was last year, when Channel 4 ended Big Brother 11 and went straight into a two-week Ultimate Big Brother send-off with some celebs? It just didn't work. Even for diehard fans, it was overkill. So why are Channel 5 repeating that mistake? It would make more sense to leave the celebrity special for January 2012, a few months after the regular show ends.

Also, if Big Brother 12 starts in September for 13-weeks, that means the series will be airing throughout autumn and into winter. Cold temperatures tend to dictate the kind of outdoor tasks the housemates are given and, to be frank, Channel 4 used to delight in being able to show nubile young men and women sunbathing all day. It sold tabloids and provided something for casual viewers to ogle on the live-stream. There's no chance of much sunscreen being applied from September to November!

Plus, the autumn is a much busier time of the year for TV. Big Brother doesn't have much to compete with much during the summer and post-Christmas, but an autumn broadcast will mean a lot more competition for the show. There's ITV's X Factor, for example, which is bound to steal whatever column inches Big Brother could normally rely on in Heat magazine. Although it helps that Channel 5's new boss Richard Desmond owns a selection of publications, who'll no doubt give Big Brother the kind of coverage it hasn't enjoyed since its early-'00s heyday.

Big Brother will also be returning to its home at Elstree Studios, but Davina McCall is very unlikely to reprise her role as presenter.

What is your reaction to this news? Even if you hate Big Brother, is it great to see a TV show being rescued in this way?