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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Big Brother takes a twist too far
By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Nikki and Lea
Returning ex-housemates, including Nikki and Lea, prompted complaints

The seventh series of reality TV juggernaut Big Brother has finally drawn to a close after a run of 13 weeks.

This year's show has featured an extended cast of 22 larger-than-life personalities, manipulated by a more complicated series of comings and goings than ever before.

The days of contestants being picked off one by one each Friday night seem to have disappeared for good in a show that has sometimes proved hard to keep up with.

Proceedings got off to a rocky start when Shahbaz and the aristocratically-connected George voluntarily left the compound.

Dawn - ejected for allegedly making contact with the outside world - was another early loser.

Smudged make-up

Eventual finalist Aisleyne and Sam were drafted in to fill the breach - but the dizzying changes in personnel had only just begun.

With clever editing BB quickly brainwashed the viewers into making Pete a winner
Sue, Nottingham

The producers' master plan was putting a secret extension on the house and filling it with some brand new contestants and Aisleyne, who was duped into thinking that her Big Brother moment was up.

The Londoner was then subjected to the rigours of throwing out newcomers from the "house next-door", which prompted tears and smudged make-up, but no lasting damage.

The new housemates joined the main action, making the programme seem ridiculously crowded.

This year the show's makers sailed close to the wind, even angering some of their viewers on one occasion.

They denied claims of fixing a public lottery which saw tea-drinking Susie finally slip into the Big Brother compound after three failed auditions.

But the move which seemed to fly in the face of the programme's very ethos was bringing back evictees for a second dose of fame.

Extra housemates Spiral, Jennie, Jonathan, Jayne and Michael
Five new housemates gave Big Brother two houses in one

Viewers complained in their thousands, riled that ousted housemates were back in the public voting frame - and leaving an inquiry hanging over Channel 4's head.

Natural historian Desmond Morris branded this series the cruellest yet, while others have commentated that housemates grow more extreme every year.

Sam, a man who dresses as and refers to himself as a woman, was swiftly evicted.

And there was more than one pair of enhanced breasts, with 35-year-old Lea taking the honour for the most mind-boggling.

Pete, the runaway favourite to win the show from an early stage, initially astonished with his involuntary Tourette's outbursts - but soon this was less head-turning than Lea's assets.


After the disturbing brawl of the fifth series, the best this year's outing could muster was a glass of water hurled by Grace into Susie's face as she was evicted to a chorus of boos.

To keep the romantics glued, a love story blossomed between Pete and Nikki, thanks to her controversial second chance on the show.

Susie Verrico
Makers denied draw-fixing to admit Susie Verrico into the house

Subtitled Welsh language exchanges between Glyn and Imogen added a touch of delight to the proceedings.

But this series has stood out for the makers' increasingly convoluted efforts to keep the format punchy and viewers hooked to the saturation coverage on Channel 4 and its sister channels.

At times it looked as though the producers were hurriedly coming up with ideas to grab the tabloid headlines with a large group of contestants which never seemed to diminish.

This series has excelled in being complicated and a little rushed when the winner seemed obvious from the earliest days.

Maybe next year's outing should go back to basics, and allow its characters rather than the convoluted plot to take centre-stage.

Pete Bennett's reaction to winning

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