Well, it took me about six months, but I just finished Big Brother Australia. The miracle was, I avoided the result until today, too. Avoiding the result of the winner of BBAU might sound like a breeze to you, but as an active member of the 'Big Brother community', it was a fucking arseache. I had to cover my eyes, turn podcasts down, avoid Twitter at certain times. Still, I'm so glad I did. I saved the final episode until tonight because I knew it was going to be a Friday night on my own, and I was absolutely thrilled with the result.
I couldn't get into the show AT ALL at first, and nearly gave up a few times. My boyfriend gave up after two episodes. The accents drove me mad. The host was annoying. Everyone seemed about ten years behind the UK. The 'secrets' secret task went on way too long and the protracted entering of housemates got on my nerves. In fact, I think it was just how cool the house looked that kept me interested for a week. I wanted that house to be the BBUK house. I also liked the wildlife - the weird birds in the garden.
But then something happened. Nothing in particular, I just wanted to watch the next episode, and the next. I didn't even particularly like ANYONE for at least a month. They were all so inoffensive they blended into one, and I felt like they had nothing interesting to say. But I'm so glad I stuck with it.
And what kept me with it was the production. Yes, the production! This show is lovingly made. The tasks were imaginative. The nominations were creative. They fiddled with them, in the form of a 'nominations superpower' and you still didn't object, because they did it in a smart way. The had the 'naughty corner' where you got sent for not wearing your microphone and they'd make you do ironing for a few hours. Big Brother didn't take no shit. I liked his style.
Some of the tasks were absolutely brilliant and they should definitely steal them for our show. The David Attenborough task (WAS it David Attenborough? Sure sounded like him) where the housemates had to dress up as different animals and the voiceover said things like 'Angie is a monkey who likes to smear honey on her face. And through her hair. And then she sits and waits.' and 'Josh has cooked a delicious meal, but George the naughty monkey comes along and steals it' the housemate had to do whatever he said. It was hilarious! The 'unwelcome guests' task was also imspired, where housemates had to ignore people coming into the house, including the narrator of the show who sat on the bed and narrated what happened around him. I'd like to see Marcus Bentley do that. They also had to ignore their own parents and friends. Obviously it breaks the 'no contact with the outside world' rule but that drum broke long ago, didn't it, Rylan?
There was also an amazing 'Tree of Temptation' character (he even spoke like him on a cockney accent) in Surly the puffa fish who set the housemates secret tasks and got insanely jealous of the pet dog (more on her later). He was really funny. What happened to Surly after the show!? The host made a joke about battering him!
The nominations were inspired; housemates stood in a glass nominations booth with the other housemates sitting directly behind them, and had five points to nominate, and they could give one housemate 4 and another 5, or 3 and 2, and so on. It added a great Eurovision feel to the show. Also, Big Brother was really sarky to them when they were nominating, strict on their reasons for nominating, and threatened to throw one housemate out merely for saying 'hello Australia'. They also told them how many points they got, so it was very clear how unpopular you were.
The other weird part was the strangely positive feel to the show. BBAU is a family show, which sounds off-putting, but it meant they weren't constantly trying to make them kick off. They weren't even allowed to swear. There was slightly too much emphasis on the showmances, but there was enough bitching in the house to put our housemates to shame.
Where to start with the actual housemates? Luckily, some of the annoying housemates got kicked out first; the sanctimonious Sarah and the thicker-than-two-short-planks Ryan (supposedly good looking, but he looked cross-eyed to me).Layla was the thick-but-pretty Brit, who I was CERTAIN was going to win. Estelle 'I'm mad, me' was in turns annoying and sympathetic, especially when the others turned slagging her off into a sport. Michael was another one I was thought had a good shot of winning, but he ended up sidelined and flailing. Then there was Josh, the supposed 'hunk of the house' who I didn't find remotely attractive (are the standards different in Australia?). I didn't like his personality and I found his 'ladies man' schtick quite annoying. He seemed popular within the house until he hooked up with a new housemate, who sucked the life out of him. He spent two weeks snogging her in a corner, which was excruciatingly boring to watch. She was a complete wet fish. I can't even remember what the girl was called and I just watched the final. I've never known a housemate come in and suck more out of a house, except maybe Rex's girlfriend in our series. The other 'intruder' Sam, was also a boring bastard. Housemates who come in late are never welcome. Sam well outstayed his.
There was one more intruder, Delilah the dog. She was absolutely beautiful. Can you imagine them being given a dog in the UK show? They'd accidentally kill it within a week. Delilah stayed for the whole show, and was rehomed in the final week, at which point I cried as if a dear friend had died. She was sooooo lovely.
Then there was Stacey, who we were constantly told was hilarious, and was about as funny as slamming your fingers in a door. I was thrilled with her 'shock' eviction. Bradley was the 'Ian from BBUS' of the show, socially inept and stuttering. I wish he'd gone further. Ray and George were both evicted too early, in my opinion. Ray was a Tom Cruise-esque vet who threw a strop about chocolate milk on his first night and had a hilarious arrogance. George was a nice-but-dim millionaire who said the word 'AY' at the end of every sentence. I almost switched off for all the 'ay's in the first two weeks. Then I got used to it. Angie was from the 'Gold Coast' which the others seemed to insinuate made her a bit of a chav. Zoe was the 'country girl' who the others all said was beautiful in their leaving speeches, because she wasn't. She threw her gameplan out the window by becoming Glen Close in the last two weeks.
About halfway through the show, Josh was called to the Diary Room to be told his brother had died. I thought the way the show handled this was absolutely brilliant. Obviously Josh wanted to leave to be with his family, so they switched off the cameras and let the others say goodbye to him. They showed a little bit of him waving goodbye (which he consented to) but it was very respectful. Can you IMAGINE them turning the cameras off in our show? I mean, seriously? They would milk it for all it was worth. They did milk it a few days later when they brought Josh back and interviewed him and generally fawned over him, but you couldn't really resent them (or him) for it. It was interesting to see how the housemates dealt with that, too.
The weird part with the bitching was, I didn't really take sides. I could kind of see everyone's point. Estelle was annoying at times. Sam was dull. Zoe went mental and started stalking Michael and blew her chances of winning. Ben went on too much and was moody. Michael was flaky. They all bed-hopped. It just seemed like a different sort of culture to ours, more free and easy. Layla had two boyfriends in the house and no one called her a slut. There felt like there was more of a dating culture, more fluidity between friends and romances and allegiances changed often. I think the showmance with Estelle and Michael at the end hurt his chances, and was just cabin fever on his part.
The final was a joy to watch. They are generally just more respectful of their housemates than we are and it was all geared towards a feel-good experience. Can you imagine the UK housemates doing a song and dance routine and singing along to Gangnam Style? Can you see Conor and Deana doing the conga? Me either. They'd be too busy giving each other daggers to be singing 'protein shake ala Luke S'.
The final three were self-styled 'gangsta' Estelle, who I'd flip-flopped over liking and not liking, and ended up in the 'not like' camp. She WAS desperate to win and her constantly going on about being 'weird' turned out to be a bit of a 'drainer'. I'm glad she went a long way though, because it drove the others mad. Layla, stupid, lovely Layla had chosen the most unflattering eviction outfit since Josie Gibson; she looked like a giant pink emu. Fair play to Layla and her woman's body, but it's that age old Big Brother problem that you go in and put on two stone (remember Jade busting out of that sugar pink dress?). Was Layla a princess (ie. a Prima Donna?) A bit. But I'm glad she came second. When Zoe moaned that Layla is just one of those girls who gets things, it's because Layla went out and got them, whilst Zoe sat there moaning.
And finally there was Ben. I'd wanted Ben to win for about six weeks now. Gay, bitchy, hilariously funny; he's everything you want in a Big Brother contestant. I don't think you could have been as big a shitstirrer as he was and won it over here. Some of the things he said were genuinely poisonous, but he always said it in such a funny way, and it was normally what I was thinking. I loved it when Estelle went out third and he threw this stupid toy horse she'd been hoarding since a task over the wall after her. Ben got away with murder. He was sanctimonious at times and he definitely didn't practice what he preached. But I loved him for it. I loved his flaws and his one liners, and his need to be loved. He was vulnerable. I also thought he was really cute, especially in his Jurassic Park t-shirt.
It was wonderful to see his face when he won, and Layla was a really gracious runner up. I liked the fact they just showed him wandering dazed around the garden for ages; I always miss that bit of live feed where you see the winner freaking out on their own. I liked the fact he couldn't stop talking to Sonia. They sent his mum into the garden and he stood there gibbering, clutching the suitcase full of cash and went 'I need a Valium.' I could be friends with Benjamin. I even ended up liking the dopey host, and the So Good KFC Feel Good Moments, lol.
The best part was when Benjamin's boyfriend came on stage and Benjamin proposed to him and said 'I was going to do this even if I was chucked out first.' It was really like a fairytale, like when Danielle and Evil Dick made it to the final two; like I never thought Ben could win it. I always thought he'd come third. I'm so glad he had that moment - just when those pieces come together it's so rare but so nice.
So that's it. And I've realised what it is that Big Brother Australia has that our show doesn't, and it's charm. That's the ingedient we're missing, and it's not something that can be manufactured, and it's not something that the producers of our show even want. They want war. But that charm can be really powerful. That heartwarming feeling, and camaraderie, and positivity.
The Australian producers understand their own show. They understand the fanbase, whereas here we're completely disregarded. They have a long old season, too, 90 days! At the end of the show there was a good ten-minute trip down memory lane. It wasn't just 'thanks for your money, fuck off and see you next time.' When Benjamin won, there wasn't a boo in sight.
Congrats Benjamin, you deserve it. Even six months later. Next stop: Canada.