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Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Low-key Brother tries hard
Penny, Dean, Brian, Paul, Bubble, Amma, Narinder, Stuart, Elizabeth and Helen
The Big Brother ten - will they transfix the nation?
By BBC News Online's Jackie Finlay

If one is going to follow any reality TV show, it has to be Big Brother.

Forget Survivor, forget Temptation Island, forget Castaway.

Pre-recorded, non-vote shows do not get the adrenalin going in the same way.

Channel 4 has to get the mix right though, for its second Brother, if it is to stay ahead in the reality TV ratings - and beat the World Cup qualifiers (the General Election is less of a threat).

Paul, Brian, Penny and Elizabeth
Paul, Brian, Penny and Elizabeth enter Big Brother house
It also has to cope with a sophisticated audience - and contestants - who think they know exactly what is going to happen after last year.

The first nude shower shot, yawn, came fairly late into the show - but it was there (and a lot of people would have felt let down if it had not been).

Glamour

But "expect the unexpected" was the mantra from the tannoy in the first show - and the first novelty is the chance to vote a new housemate into the house after two weeks.

The house has also been glamorously refurbished with posh sofas, a garden, den, a designer kitchen console, an en-suite bedroom - and is that tongue-and-groove on the walls?

Nice touches, but it does feel as if they're trying just a little too hard.

Whatever extra items they throw into the format, the show will sink or swim because of its contestants.

Is there a Nasty Nick this year, or a crazy Caggy? Well, there could well be - although on first viewing this lot leave a little to be desired.

We have, for our delectation, Penny the Christian teacher, Dean the down-to-earth Brummie, Helen the Welsh hairdresser, Brian the gay air steward, Amma the table dancer, Paul the flirt and Bubble the idiot. And some others.

On the basis of their first day and night in the house, they are astonishingly dull, and are just as giggly as students in Freshers' Week.

Inevitable topics of conversation - table dancing and sexuality.

Bubble
Bubble: is he an 'idiot'?
Amma revealed she had not told her religious family that she was a table dancer.

Bimbos and himbos

"Ooh, I'm a dancer too," squeaked Helen, talking of the lessons she gives to kids in cowboy outfits. Right.

But they have been chosen with care. There is an unfortunately high ratio of bimbos and himbos, but a satisfyingly equal number of boringly responsible people - and the clashes are already brewing.

Penny is in early competition for squarest bossy-boots award (viz adopting the chickens, organising dinner), while Paul and Bubble are battling it out for the title of most annoying housemate (bad jokes and chasing the women).

Bubble revealed he wanted to be in Big Brother so he could be locked in a house with five women for nine weeks.

It seems he is unaware that he is highly likely to be first for the chop.

All young (ish), several silly - two of them married - all thinking they can control the experience.

Stuart, family man and boss of his own company, clearly has no doubts he will win this more easily than a squash match with the post boy.

Lambs to the slaughter. And I have a sad feeling of inevitability that for the second year running, that will include me. Pass the phone.

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