Category Archives: Television

The sun is shining in the Big Brother house

On Wednesday night Sunshine Martyn was chosen as one of the ‘lucky’ few to enter the Big Brother house for the final series of the country’s favourite reality television show.

Sunshine on her first full day inside the Big Brother house

No sooner had her face appeared, shocked and confused on the big screens outside the house, my phone began having it’s very own nervous breakdown. Due, in part to my ludicrously varied message tones, it sounded like a fire alarm that was slowly running out of battery and crying out for help.

In an effort to calm the poor thing down, I duly opened the first of the messages, only to be met by a series of expletives so obscene that to repeat them here would be frowned upon even by those who inhabit the most liberal end of the so-called ‘blogosphere’.

All the messages followed a similar tone and they were all from people who, like me, have spent the best part of the last year studying journalism with Sunshine at Westminster University. Everyone was clearly as shocked as ‘Doc Martyn’ herself.

Needless to say, it was not long before I sent a number of similar messages, but Sunshine herself summed up exactly what we were all thinking and texting (albeit in a more conservative fashion), with her first words upon entering the house: “What just happened?!”

Sunshine is different

Three days on, I have had time to come to terms with the fact that somebody I know is actually on Big Brother. But there is still one question playing on my mind: why would anyone want to go on Big Brother in the first place?

A common belief is that you have to be ‘stupid’ to apply for Big Brother. However, throughout this year I have been acutely aware that Sunshine has consistently achieved some of the highest grades in the class. All the while sprinkling gentle reminders that she is actually studying to be a doctor and that she might not want to be a journalist at all.

So, far from being ‘stupid’, Sunshine is one of the brightest people I know (no pun intended). But the question remains, why is she going on the show? I think a better analogy is that you actually have to be ‘different’ to want to go on Big Brother. And Sunshine is certainly different.

She was often seen trooping into the newsroom, on an overcast day wearing blue sunglasses and matching blue lipstick (or various other combinations of unconventional, yet, i’m told ‘fashionable’ accessories), looking like she had just walked off the set of a Lady Gaga video. Before she even took a seat, Sunshine would invariably address the class with a story beginning: “you’ll never guess what happened to me…”.

At this point, I would usually turn back to my computer and ‘finish off my emails’ or continue ‘checking my facebook’, but not in such a way to ignore her tales. Instead, because they sometimes lasted a while, I would casually tune into Sunshine’s surreal ramblings as if it were a background radio, knowing that they would rarely fail to bring a little humour into my morning.

Sunshine ready for a day in the newsroom

My conclusion from nine months of being regaled with her colourful stories is that these ‘things’ that happen to Sunshine are a million miles away from the sorts of experiences we ‘normal’ people encounter in our day-to-day lives. I am amazed that so many exciting and random things could happen to one person, but it is no coincidence.

At times I would glance around the room and see other people raising a smile too, safe in the knowledge that they were enjoying the day’s story just as much as myself.

Mixture of intelligence and comic appeal

The fact that Sunshine has now succeeded in being chosen for Big Brother is the beginning of another interesting, and exciting chapter in her life. I look forward to the inevitably witty and creative tabloid headlines and weather-related puns, although not so much to reading the no doubt manipulative and slightly exaggerated stories they introduce.

Whilst she is understandably yet to venture out of her shell in the house, I think she will grow into a very entertaining housemate who offers a rare mixture of intelligence and comic appeal that has been absent in previous housemates. In this sense, Sunshine is truly unique, and I am backing her all the way.

Previous winner’s of the show have risen to fame, but more often they fade back into the relative obscurity of everyday life. However, for Sunshine, everyday life is already vastly different from yours or mine. If she wins the final series of Big Brother, I have no doubts that she is capable of determining the direction in which she wants to go, whether it be a career in presenting, modelling, journalism or medicine, when you look past the slightly eccentric exterior, Sunshine has the personal qualities to succeed in any one of these fields.

As for the financial reward, I would like to think she would use her £100,000 winnings to pay off some student loan debts and go on holiday, before giving us, her poor journo classmates a chance to fight each other for whatever is left, simultaneously allowing us to play a very minor part in the extraordinary puzzle of her life. I’m starting boxing lessons tomorrow. Please join me in voting for Sunshine to win.

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EastEnders goes live but ‘whodunnit’?

EastEnders is one of Britain’s most popular soaps. It has graced our television screens almost every weeknight since 1985 and now, after nearly 4000 shows, the crew and cast are preparing to broadcast live for the very first time.

EastEnders is set in Albert Square in the fictional London borough of Walford - photo http://www.longpier.com

In celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary, Friday’s live episode will be the culmination of the most talked about storyline of the year. After weeks of speculation, the identity of Archie Mitchell’s murderer will finally be revealed.

The live episode will require intense preparation and organisation. Five camera crews equipped with 20 cameras will film both outdoors in Albert Square, and indoors at the BBC’s Elstree studios.

Viewers have been reassured that a rehearsal has been recorded and will be aired if there are any last-minute technical hitches. However, if the cast have trouble remembering their lines, they will be responsible for improvising their way out of a tricky situation.

Acting live will be a challenge for some of the EastEnders cast. Whilst many of the older cast members have considerable experience in theatre, for some of the younger members this will be the first experience of a live performance.

Bill Lyons is one of the original writers on EastEnders and now writes for rival soap Emmerdale. He said:

“Live television is very different, it’s absolutely terrifying. The cast are used to being able to put things right but that is simply not an option when you are going live.”

‘Genius stroke’

A live broadcast is not without precedent. In 1997 the American drama series ER was filmed live in a real hospital ward. Whilst in 2000, Eastenders most fierce rival, Coronation Street aired a one-off live episode to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary.

Despite this, the integration of a live broadcast with a big reveal and a ‘who dunnit’ storyline has never been attempted before. EastEnders’ ambition has been described as a ‘genius stroke’ by the editor of ‘All About Soap’ magazine, Jonathon Hughes. He said:

“When Corrie [Coronation Street] did it’s live episode there was no big reveal. EastEnders has always been more rebellious and this Friday will undoubtably be the biggest moment of the year for soaps. In this sense it is breaking new ground and that is something which is incredibly hard to do in this field.”

The plot

The storyline for the 25th anniversary special was masterminded by executive producer Diederick Santer last spring. Since then only he, and a select group of executives have known the identity of Archie’s killer, which has been kept top secret to avoid a leak to the press.

Archie Mitchell was murdered in the Queen Vic on Christmas Day - photo http://www.longpier.com

Mr Hughes said: “They have played this very well. It’s a great way of pulling characters together before an anniversary episode and the decision to film live means the secret is kept until the very last minute.”

he went on: “I am very excited because usually I know everything that is going to happen weeks in advance. This week I am just as in-the-dark as everyone else.”

Mystery

In the dark is exactly what viewers and cast members have been since Archie’s murder on Christmas Day. In a poll on the EastEnders website asking ‘who dunnit?’, there are no less than 23 characters to choose from including, the rank outsider – Archie himself.

Meanwhile reports have suggested that anywhere between six and nine separate endings have been scripted for the live episode, and distributed only to those who are real suspects. The actor or actress who plays the killer will only find out a short time before the live episode begins filming.

In an interview for the show’s website, Diederick Santer revealed there have been ‘three big clues’ as to the identity of the killer, but goes on to confirm that there have been many red herrings designed to throw viewers off the scent.

The amount of speculation since Archie’s death has left viewers in a daze. With half the square being linked to the murder, the guesswork is set to continue as the week drags on.

At this point the only thing that is certain is that the climax to Friday’s anniversary episode is going to be gripping and more than likely, very explosive.

By Nick Higgins

The live episode of EastEnders can be seen on BBC One this Friday at 20:00 GMT

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Good riddance Big Brother

The current series of Celebrity Big Brother has two contestants with links to Harrow and the surrounding area. UK grime artist Lady Sovereign was born down the road in Wembley, whilst ex-footballer, turned film-star and all round hard man, Vinnie Jones began his footballing career at Wealdstone in 1984.

Vinnie and ‘Sov’ will be the last celebrities to live in the house as the programme is set to be scrapped by channel 4 after it’s eleventh regular series this summer. The question is, will anybody actually miss the show when the doors close behind the winning contestant for the last time?

When it first aired in the UK in 2000, it was immediately apparent that Big Brother would become the Marmite of British television. You would either love it or hate it. However, as the series’ have dragged on and the ratings have fallen, one gets the impression that most people would sooner eat a whole pot of Marmite in one go, than take an active interest in the show.

A common excuse for being a fan of Big Brother is that you can watch it once and become addicted. On that premise it should be regarded as dangerous as heroin. People wind up watching it religiously every night hiding behind the simple excuse: ‘I’m just addicted’. Strangely, these people never seem to want to be addicted and never have withdrawal symptoms after the series finishes.

‘Random and pointless’

The most striking evidence that nobody will miss Big Brother is the fact that the winner of the show, the public’s favourite out of all the contestants, fades into immediate obscurity once the doors close and the cameras are turned off.

The only time you might actually hear or see ex-housemates is when they appear on one of Big Brother’s countless ‘sister shows’ which seem to be on constant repeat on E4. One of these shows is Big Brother’s Little Brother. It consists of pointless games and quizzes which are only vaguely related to happenings in the house.

An example of just how random and pointless this program can get was seen on Wednesday when presenter George Lamb conducted an investigation into the size of celebrity housemate Ivana Trump’s earlobes. In essence these shows take up valuable air time and serve a very small audience.

It is not just Big Brother’s sister shows which are a waste of airtime. If you want more than your scheduled daily dose of ‘reality’, rest assured you can always watch your favourite housemates sleeping on live coverage throughout the night. Most would agree that watching people sleep is not only unnecessary, but, more importantly, just about as boring as television can get. On that premise, this particular aspect of the show will certainly not be missed when Big Brother finishes for good later this year.

‘Mind-numbing nonsense’

Some of the happenings in the house are just completely maniacal. Just this week viewers were made to endure footage of two naked ‘celebrities’ childishly giggling whilst kicking snow at each other in the Big Brother garden. ‘Great TV’ you might say, but it is never long before you stop and realise that this is, in fact, just mind-numbing nonsense. At that point you are filled with a feeling of disturbing guilt as you realise you will never get those ten minutes of your life back.

The ‘noughties’ was the decade of reality television but it seems the ‘glory days’ of Big Brother have all but disappeared. Reality television is still a successful concept, but the continued success of programmes such as the X factor and Strictly Come Dancing shows that people are now more interested in watching something which requires, at the very least, a little talent.

When a programme has been running for ten years you might expect it to live long in the memory of the viewing public. However, I do not think anyone will be surprised when Big Brother quickly fades into a distant memory of a time that once was.

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Revealing celebrity desperation is a useful purpose for reality TV

Boy George (courtesy of Usuário Idril)

It has been revealed today that the High Court has refused Boy George permission to appear on the final series of celebrity Big Brother which is set to start on 3rd January.

In May, the former Culture Club singer was tagged and sentenced to a 15 month curfew after assaulting a male escort in his East London flat. This is the reason why the Judge has denied Boy George the opportunity to appear on the reality show from which he was set to earn a reported £200,000.

The circumstances surrounding this case should not be surprising. After all, as I mentioned in my last post, many have come to know reality television as humiliating and degrading. For this reason and the fact that, in my opinion, Big Brother typifies this particular view of reality television, it is in no way surprising that Channel 4 has attempted to lure a man in such a position as Boy George onto the show.

What is surprising however is that Boy George is so keen to take them up on their offer. Although he would be the top earner on the show and one could argue he has got nothing to lose, it cannot be denied that participants rarely escape the confines of the Big Brother house with dignity intact.

In many ways Boy George’s enthusiasm to appear on the show typifies the sad reality that many celebrities face as their career’s wind down and work stops coming in. It is worth noting though, that the only reason we know this sad reality exists is through the production of such programmes as Celebrity Big Brother. Without these programmes we would not be able to watch these ‘has beens’ 24 hours a day for a whole month and we subsequently wouldn’t know how desperate ageing celebrities can actually get.

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This decade’s best reality TV moment

This decade has seen the continual rise of reality television and so it seems fitting to pick out the greatest reality TV moment of the last ten years.

When Susan Boyle walked onto the stage on Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009 and proclaimed to ‘want to be like Elaine Paige’ there was an audible groan inside the theatre. The audience turned to one another and sniggered at the 47 year-old, unemployed scot as she stumbled over her words.

I have to admit, I was one of these people. I thought it was simply going to be another instance of a member of the public being humiliated by a reality TV show and laughed off the stage.

Susan Boyle’s first audition

However, Susan had barely finished singing the first line of ‘I dreamed a dream’ from the popular musical Les Miserables when the entire crowd rose to their feet in recognition of how incredibly moving it was.

It was an inspirational moment and the beginning of a cindarella story which has seen Susan Boyle break the all time record for pre-release sales on the retail website Amazon for her album, ‘I dreamed a dream’. It is therefore no surprise that Susan tops the album charts in both the UK and America this Christmas.

Given that reality television is often described as corporate rubbish designed solely to humiliate people and put money in the pockets of a few, Susan Boyle’s story shows that this may not always be the case. Her incredible story since that magical first audition shows that reality TV should not always be regarded as  ‘tat’.

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