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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Could Big Brother be in big bother?
Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Sam, Amanda, Shabnam, Chanelle and Charley
On average, around 3.8m people have tuned per episode this year
After 24 contestants, 13 weeks and 12 evictions, Big Brother 8 has drawn to a close.

But this year the Channel 4 reality show has failed to generate huge excitement among the tabloids or fans.

Even Tim Hincks, chief creative officer at Endemol UK, which produces the show, has admitted the current series has lacked a certain something.

"It's not been the year where Big Brother has set the world alight, in terms of the summer," he said.

Twists and turns

"What's important is that we have made a really entertaining show."

Some viewers may disagree.

Ratings are down on last year, with an average audience of 3.8 million so far compared to 4.5 million in the same period in 2006.

What's important is that we have made a really entertaining show
Tim Hincks, Endemol

Despite introducing innumerable twists and turns, in the last three weeks more people have tuned in to watch re-runs of the ITV1 series Midsomer Murders than the Friday night eviction show.

"They've had to frantically fill it up with lots of gimmicks, lots of extra ideas and a lot of housemates - and I did feel at times that there was too much going on," said Boyd Hilton, TV editor of Heat magazine.

Craig Phillips won the first UK Big Brother series in 2000, after exposing "Nasty" Nick Bateman as a cheat.

Both Phillips and Bateman went on to have relatively successful careers in the media with various television appearances and book deals.

Davina McCall and Craig Phillips
None of us expected to have any magazine deals or work on TV afterwards. I don't think even Channel 4 expected it to be as big as it was
Craig Phillips, Big Brother 1 winner

The pair set a precedent which has helped turn the show into a platform for aspiring TV stars.

"None of us expected to have any magazine deals or work on TV afterwards. I don't think even Channel 4 expected it to be as big as it was," Phillips told the BBC News website.

'Clever public'

Narinder Kaur, who appeared in Big Brother in 2001, thinks the contestants' media awareness has ruined the show's format.

"All they talk about is the fame, the money. They know the game, they know the tricks they are going to play.

"The public are too clever for it now. They don't buy it anymore," she said.

Kaur has written a book, dubbed The Inside Story, based on the past experiences of fellow Big Brother contestants.

During her research she discovered people from the earlier shows had different intentions to more recent contestants.

Narinder Kaur
Budding author Narinder Kaur was the third evictee in 2001

"When I did my interview with Sam (Heuston) and Makosi (Musambasi), both from BB6, it was all about magazine deals and what money they could get," she told the BBC.

But Melanie Hill, from the original series in 2000, signed up to be part of what she called a "social experiment".

Alex Fletcher works for the entertainment website Digital Spy, and it is part of his job to watch the live streaming coverage from inside this year's house.

"They are constantly talking about public perception; they are constantly aware of things and how they relate," he said.

"It adds a weird element to the show. It's like people are going in there, gritting their teeth to get through it - just so they can get what they want out of it in the end."

'Bad press'

However Mr Fletcher believes it adds a new dimension to the series.

"It has got quite a lot of bad press, but I think it has been quite an interesting series in a lot of ways, because it has been a bit less dramatic.

"I think it has tried to almost go back to its roots and make it more naturalistic, which means it doesn't have mass appeal," he added.

Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty
The row between Goody and Shetty row may have put viewers off

Mr Fletcher also believes the Shilpa Shetty and Jade Goody race row in January may have damaged the show's core fanbase.

"I think there may have been a negative feeling from the start of the series, possibly because people are weary of Celebrity Big Brother," he said.

Channel 4 recently announced that the celebrity version of the show would not be returning next year.

'Difficult January'

Mr Hincks concedes bringing the summer show back after the earlier controversy, which led to international condemnation of Jade Goody, was hard.

"It was a difficult January and the big challenge for this summer was whether we could keep the wheels on.

"Could we keep Big Brother entertaining, keep that very big young audience, and could we make a great show? And I think on all of those we've hit our targets," he said.

A Big Brother spokesman said: "Like any long running series, its audience varies each run. It consistently beats its slot average and attracts a huge number of young, upmarket viewers."

So for the moment it seems Big Brother has escaped joining the discarded shows and forgotten wannabees on the reality TV scrapheap...for now.

Big Brother graph

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