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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 12:30 GMT
Big Brother launch watched by 7m
Ken Russell
Ken Russell said he was a big fan of the show

The launch of Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother series proved a hit, attracting 7.1 million viewers.

The early figures were the second best for any of the five series launches, with viewing peaking at eight million and a 32% audience share.

The second episode of BBC duet talent show Just the Two of Us saw its viewers fall from 5.4 to 3.9 million.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes has former S Club singer Jo O'Meara and singer Leo Sayer as joint favourites to win Big Brother.

Former A-Team member Dirk Benedict, who predicted the experience would be a "nightmare", is joint third favourite.

Channel 4 also launched the third series of Desperate Housewives on Wednesday, screening two episodes back-to-back.

OPENING ODDS
Dirk Benedict
Jo O'Meara 5/1
Leo Sayer 5/1
Dirk Benedict 6/1
Ian "H" Watkins 6/1
Cleo Rocos 8/1
Ken Russell 12/1
Shilpa Shetty 12/1
Donny Tourette 16/1
Danielle Lloyd 20/1
Jermaine Jackson 20/1
Carol Malone 25/1
Source: Ladbrokes

The first instalment was watched by 3.6 million, which fell to 2.8 million for the second episode at 2230 GMT.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "We are delighted that both shows, scheduled together as a post-holiday treat for Channel 4 viewers, were so warmly welcomed by TV audiences to give us a fantastic start to 2007."

Film director Ken Russell made a spectacular entrance to Celebrity Big Brother, dressed in a garish waistcoat and bellowing out a rendition of Singing in the Rain.

The 79-year-old, who said he was a "huge fan" of the show, needed assistance to walk down the steps into the house.

Benedict, who also starred in Battlestar Galactica, made a dramatic entrance, arriving in a replica A-Team van, smoking a large cigar to cheers from the crowds.

Donny Tourette, of punk band The Towers of London, exchanged insults with the crowd, while model Danielle Lloyd was met with boos.

Other contestants include Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, ex-Steps star Ian "H" Watkins, Kenny Everett Show actress Cleo Rocos and newspaper columnist Carole Malone.
George Galloway with Rula Lenska
George Galloway attracted criticism for his exploits last year

Some of the press have already labelled the line-up "nobodies" and "wrinklies".

Votes from viewers will decide which stars are ejected during the series, which is expected to last a month.

Each celebrity will nominate a charity and the money raised during the voting process will be split equally between the organisations.

In last year's show, eventual winner Chantelle Houghton had been "planted" as a non-celebrity but proved the most popular contestant.




SEE ALSO
Bollywood icon woos UK audience
04 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Chantelle 'marries Ordinary Boy'
26 Aug 06 |  Entertainment
'Fake' celebrity wins Big Brother
28 Jan 06 |  Entertainment

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