[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 12:39 GMT
Big Brother launch seen by 6.5m
Michael Barrymore
Michael Barrymore received a warm welcome from the audience
Ex-gameshow host Michael Barrymore's entrance into the Big Brother house was seen by an average of 6.5 million people, according to overnight ratings.

The launch of Celebrity Big Brother series was seen by one in four UK TV viewers. Last year's series opener was seen by 5.2 million people.

Ratings peaked at 7.6 million viewers - 31.2% of the audience - towards the end of the live broadcast.

Barrymore is the favourite to win the series, at 3/1 with Ladbrokes.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "We are delighted that last night's launch show has proved such a rating success and a fantastic start to 2006."

Before his entrance last night, Ladbrokes said it had not received a single bet on Barrymore, whose inclusion in the show has caused controversy.

Rula Lenska
But the presenter - whose TV career has been in ruins since a man was found dead in his swimming pool in 2001 - was given a warm reception by the audience outside the programme's camera-filled house at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

'Damaged goods'

Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams said: "We feared he might be damaged goods but the phones started ringing as soon as the show was over.

"The punters have started to make their move for the troubled funnyman."

Barrymore is one of 10 public figures - and one unknown contestant planted by Channel 4 producers - who will spend 23 days in a house with their every move followed by TV cameras.

Other contestants include singer Preston Samuel, of rock band The Ordinary Boys, and rapper Maggot from hip-hop act Goldie Lookin' Chain. Both are rated 4/1 to win.

George Galloway, the first MP to take part in the show, follows at 10/1.

Unknown contestant

The Respect party leader, who represents the east London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, has been criticised for his decision to appear in the programme.

George Galloway
George Galloway is the first MP to enter the surveillance gameshow
Actress Helen Mirren, who campaigned for his Labour rival Oona King in the 2005 general election, told Radio Five Live: "I think that's very weird. Where does this guy's ambition go, that's very peculiar. Personally, I feel his interest is a self-interest."

Other contestants include Faria Alam, who had an affair with England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, US basketball star Dennis Rodman and model Jodie Marsh.

Actress Rula Lenska, ex-Baywatch star Traci Bingham and 1980s pop star Pete Burns also feature, along with an unknown contestant, Chantelle, who must convince the others she is famous.

Big Brother's ratings success will come under pressure on Friday when it goes head-to-head with ITV1's Soapstar Superstar, a talent show featuring stars from the likes of Coronation Street and Emmerdale in an X Factor-style contest.




SEE ALSO:
Meet the Big Brother celebrities
06 Jan 06 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Celebrity Big Brother
06 Jan 06 |  In Pictures
Big Brother Galloway criticised
06 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Galloway joins Big Brother house
06 Jan 06 |  Entertainment
Should MPs be on Big Brother?
06 Jan 06 |  Have Your Say
Celebrity Big Brother won by Bez
23 Jan 05 |  Entertainment


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific