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EDITIONS
Friday, 26 July, 2002, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Time to rethink Big Brother?
Jade - Big Brother
Jade may lose her smile when she sees her press

Love it, hate it - or ignore it - there is no denying the success of this year's series of Big Brother, which has attracted more viewers and newspaper headlines than ever before.

For the first couple of weeks, it looked as though this year's housemates would never manage to be as unpleasant as nasty Nick, loved-up as Paul and Helen or even as entertaining as last year's champion Brian Dowling.

But 2002's bunch have turned out to be as unpredictable as ever.

Alex Sibley's eccentricities and frequently hilarious chats to the Diary Room, Adele Roberts' cattiness, Spencer Smith's dubious hygiene and Jade Goody's sometimes erratic behaviour have made for some enjoyable television for fans.
Big Brother's Alex
Alex will be remembered for his eccentricities

Then there were the housemates that walked out - Sunita Sharma, lasting just six days in the house, and Sandy Cumming, whose rooftop escape was one of the highlights of the series.

The boos that greeted Lynne Moncrieff, Adele and Tim Culley on their respective eviction nights proved that this year's contestants have been less popular than usual.

And if Jade's clearly doting mother has been collecting her daughter's press cuttings, then she will be in for a horrible shock when she gets home to Bermondsey.

But Big Brother 3's main flaws have been more down to the show's producers, rather than any of its participants.

The tabloid press derision of Jade, the chubby working class girl with poor general knowledge, has been discussed at large by the broadsheets.

Big Brother's Sandy
Cheerio: Sandy cuts a dash
The questions over her ability to cope with becoming one of the most hated women in the UK - for no reason - will be answered on Friday.

But her "failings" must have been clear to the producers during the lengthy interview process before they chose her for the show - and if she cannot handle her new notoriety, they must be called to account.

The producers also clearly convinced themselves that the show's new "tougher" innovations would make for compulsive viewing.

To a certain degree, they were right.

But the novelty of the rich-poor divide, while initially fascinating, soon wore off - while the quality of this year's tasks did little to improve matters, either inside or outside of the house.

In previous years housemates had been given some genuinely challenging tasks - BB2's attempts at getting in the Guinness Book Of Records, for example.

Big Brother house
The rich-poor divide soon became tedious
But this year's challenges - typified by the darts tournament and the following week's game of musical chairs - have bordered on the infantile.

If this was embarrassing for viewers to watch, imagine the effect it must have had on the housemates.

It is hardly surprising that most of them had second thoughts about staying in the house at one time or another.

It would also go some way to explaining some of the more outrageous goings-on in the house.

Immature

Could Jade and PJ Ellis's infamous bedtime frolics, or the excessive quantities of drinking - culminating in Kate Lawler being spectacularly sick in one of the bedrooms - really be attributed to anything other than boredom?

It seems highly unlikely.

Critics have complained that this been the bitchiest Big Brother yet, with more than its fair share of immature behaviour.

But why should the housemates be expected to behave like grown-ups when the producers insist on treating them like children?

Plying a group of young people with booze and expecting them to pair off together looked like a cynical grab for headlines and ratings - which, admittedly, worked.

Those ratings may assure Big Brother of a place on next year's schedule, but it needs a serious rethink if it is to retain its standing as a TV phenomenon.

BBC News Online's coverage of Big Brother 2002


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