Big Brother, the television show rather than the social metaphor has finished and I am dancing on its grave.
Like Marmite, it is was a programme that engenders only two emotions – love or hate. To be specific though, I don’t hate the programme itself – it was everything else that comes with it that I hated.
I did try watching a bit of the show when it first launched, and frankly found it a bit dull and uninteresting. Other people obviously found it fascinating and fair enough. We all have different tastes in what appeals and I am quite sure that my taste in television would bore other people into an early grave.
However, and especially when it first launched, it was the huge media hype that surrounded the programme and the way that it was almost impossible to escape it in modern culture that really got under my skin.
Like football, which again I am not particularly keen on, but don’t dislike either, people seemed to become almost irrationally obsessed with the most minute of issues and displayed alarming levels of passion about what seemed to me to be quite trivial matters.
To go into work the morning after each episode would be to endure a trial by water cooler as heated debates over the events the night before would split an entire office into pro and anti camps over individuals in the House.
To announce that you not only didn’t watch the show, but don’t read about it, care about it, or even really know who is competing in it, resulted in looks of astonishment from co-workers who would struggle to understand what else a person could be doing each evening.
If only other issues could muster that level of activism!
So, I am pleased it is over – not because the show is over, but because the obsessive hype is over. Or more accurately, the hype will now move sideways to a new target and that will slowly drive me nuts instead.
There is however, a slightly unusual aspect to my relationship with the programme.
I actually worked on the show – as a contractor for one series.
Back in 2003, for the fourth series, I worked for a company that bid for and won the contract to manage some of the mobile services.
Those scrolling text messages that ran at the bottom of the screen – that was us (sorry if you hated them).
The multimedia messages – we were the first to do them (using an MMS server that outperformed one of the mobile networks!) and all the wap and mobile web services came from us.
As a lesson in dealing with a collection of large companies though, the contract was an eye opener. Despite the usual stereotype, the media creative people over at Ch4 and Endemol were fine to work with – it was a layer of middle management at the mobile network sponsoring the event that had many of us ripping our hair out in frustration.
Visiting the studios involved more security than I have to put up with in visiting most secure buildings, and the level of secrecy about what we were doing was almost oppressive at times. I had a flatmate at the time and couldn’t tell him what it was that was causing me to work such long hours and get so stressed – until the Thursday before the programme went out.
Despite the bureaucratic stresses, it was a fun project to work on as we were pushing mobile content into areas it hadn’t been used before, especially with the live text streaming, and the MMS was probably the first major deployment of the format in the UK.
Ironic, a TV show I couldn’t bear to watch paid my wages for the best part of six months.