It's bloody cold outside and Britain is shrugging off its seasonal hangover. That can mean only one thing: it's time for a new series of Celebrity Big Brother. Let's face it though, the Big Brother brand has got very stale. Not only do audiences know what to expect, so do the contestants. If you're smart and you want the hundred grand, you act like the slightly dumb kid next door and do nothing to offend the good folks at home. A bit of faux romance, preferably unconsummated, won't harm your chances either. Alternatively you could play the super bitch and guarantee yourself front page of The Star everyday. You might get spat at in public but hanging out with celebs and getting heaps of cash for flashing your baps has got to beat working for a living.
Endemol and Channel Four are caught on the horns of a dilemma. They know Big Brother needs to avoid treading the same insipid path as the last formulaic outing. It needs to be exciting and compulsive viewing. But neither can C4 risk another scandal of Emily or Jade Goody proportions. So what to do? You can almost see the bright young things at Endemol towers, lounging about on left over BB4 furniture, running out of barrels to scrape. And then, the killer idea!
"I know, why don't we hand pick the contestants?" exclaimed Tarquin.
"Yes" chimed in Jemima, "we can make sure they're all gifted and clever like us! There's no way mummy or daddy down The Telegraph can think we're dumbing down if we fill the house with young entrepreneurs, politicians, intellectuals, sportsmen, artists, and acrobats!"
"Hey you guys, sorry to rain on your parade" sighed Darius, "but this is Celebrity BB - where are we going to find Z-listers with talent?"
"Good point, hmmm, I know. How about dropping the idea of celeb housemates, and have them running the house as Big Brother instead? They can set the tasks, enforce the rules, make contestants do crazy things ... it will be hilarious!"
There we have it. 12 contestants. One celebrity Big Brother. Would you like to meet the housemates?
1) John is the chair of the Scottish youth parliament. He's a LibDem in case you were wondering. Not to worry, he'll grow out of it.
2) Calista, a singer/song writer who's "taking over the house scene". Apparently.
3) Anthony (with a th) is a boxer.
4)+5) Emilia and Victor, a brother and sister acrobatic roller skate act. Victor's added talent is his knack of "making my sister bleed from her eyes".
6) Jeremy races cars.
7) Amy is a 'conceptual installation artist' who likes to clean things, such as rocks. And used condoms.
8) Nathan's a MOBO nominated singer/song writer (another one). He's sold 28,000 albums in Japan.
9) Liam runs a consultancy/web design/web hosting/branding company. He claims not to be a geek, wants to inspire other youngsters, and employs a life coach.
10) Latoya dances for a living. She seems pretty sorted actually.
11) Jay is a fashion designer whose ambition is to dress every woman in the world all the time. He believes you can "change lives through fashion". The revolution WILL be stylised.
12) No CBB would be complete without a Jade. But this Jade is a beauty queen and has been a member of Mensa since she was four, and claims an IQ of 178. How very refreshing to have a housemate who doesn't display their stupidity like a badge of honour.
In what must be the worst kept entertainment secret of recent months, Matt Lucas has assumed the Big Brother mantle for the week. Future hijackers include Joan Rivers, Brian Sewell(!), and professional wastrel, Kelly Osbourne.
How did the first episode survive the "radical" makeover? Any sign of a significant departure from previous series? Of course not. Matt Lucas first BB act was to call John into the diary room, whereupon he revealed a secret task. He was to wear a discreet earpiece to receive instructions when the other housemates arrived. If John is serious about a career in bourgeois politics, this is useful practice for when he has his implant fitted.
And so began one of the most toe-curlingly awful BB moments ever to have been transmitted. As new people entered the house, Lucas commanded John to boast about writing The Sound of Music score, to whisper 'Cake!' into housemates' ears, give massages, do the Riverdance, claim to be shit-hot with a kazoo and make like he was a boxer. True, John may be the only politician in history who had to be told to lie, but the "japery" was clearly humiliating and had a nasty, exploitative undercurrent. As an Urban 75 regular noted, it had to be the fat ginger bloke who got singled out.
I have a sneaking suspicion, just a hunch, that BB: Celebrity Hijack probably won't set new standards for reality TV, but it could well take it to new lows. Start as you mean to go on eh, C4?