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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Big Brother drifts off

by Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

As Big Brother 4 reaches its climax, BBC News Online asks whether the series has run out of steam, or is it still cutting-edge TV?

The fourth series of Big Brother has been the televisual equivalent of a hot mug of Horlick's.

Every week night for the past two months, the half-hour programme featuring the latest antics from the Big Brother house has been the perfect way to send me to sleep.

Was Gaetano too interesting?
The Channel 4 series may once have been the undisputed king of reality TV but now it has wilted like celery left too long in the sun.

From the outset, the producers made a fundamental mistake in losing sight of the one clear attraction of all the previous series - the contestants.

In Big Brothers one to three we have had characters like Nick Bateman, Nicola Holt, Anna Nolan, Brian Dowling, Helen Adams and Kate Lawler.

Chronically inhibited

But aside from Jon Tickle, whose cult status derives from the peculiarly British trait of liking a loser, Big Brother 4's line-up has been a bland, identikit selection of cut-out-and-keep characters from the back of a cereal packet.

Justine and Sissy
Justine and Sissy: Who?
Alarmingly for a show about exposing oneself to the all-seeing eyes of 24-hour surveillance, producers managed to pick contestants Herjender "Gos" Gosal and Cameron Stout who both seemed chronically inhibited.

The series started badly when Anoushka Golebiewski, seemingly selected entirely on her ability to excite the editors of tabloid newspapers, was evicted after the first week.

The programme was not helped by the fact the group lost their first challenges.

Deprived of money for food, they were not able to buy much in the way of alcohol and Big Brother without booze is like comedy without laughs.

While Big Brother 3 was like one long drinking session, Big Brother 4 has been one long doze in the sun.

If they were not in bed sleeping until midday, the housemates spent most of their time napping on the sofas, grabbing 40 winks on the veranda or lolling like sleeping dogs in the midday sun in the garden.

Sleeping contestants

As an entertainment programme it failed on virtually every count but as an analysis of narcoleptic housemates without an interesting anecdote between them it has been an unmitigated triumph.

Lisa found herself isolated quickly
To be fair to the producers they tried everything they could to wake the sleeping contestants.

They flew one contestant, Cameron Stout, thousands of miles away to Big Brother Africa and replaced him with a Ugandan contestant.

For a moment things were looking up but then the two contestants were returned to their respective Big Brothers and the programme continued on its soporific way.

They introduced a replacement contestant, Lisa Jeynes, but the close-knit group turned their backs on someone who showed a flicker of fun.

In a last, flailingly desperate attempt to inject some life they plied them with alcohol, dressed them as leprechauns and let the magic do its work.

But one kiss does not a Big Brother make.

Perhaps Big Brother 5 will go one stage further and simply keep the housemates in a darkened room 24 hours of a day and let them compete for sleeping pills.

I can hardly zzz...zzz...zzz...

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