Magazine article The Spectator

Repulsive but Compulsive

Magazine article The Spectator

Repulsive but Compulsive

Article excerpt

Meanwhile, in the Big Brother house, life proceeds as normal. Two inmates play table-tennis without a table. A Welsh woman leafs through a magazine she has leafed through 673 times before. Out in the garden, a gay man with prominent pectorals 'works' on his tan. Who will cook the porridge today? Bear in mind that these people don't yet know the election result.

Compulsive or repulsive? Once again the nation divides cleanly into two. In the red corner, the millions who would not dream of watching Big Brother (Channel 4). In the blue corner, the millions who seem to think and talk of little else. The two groups eye each other warily, for there is no middle ground in this debate, no possibility of consensus. If you don't watch it, you will never be able to understand how cruelly, fatuously gripping it can be. If you do watch it, you are too busy watching it to argue. What's remarkable is that only three weeks ago everyone who makes or watches or writes about television was seriously wondering whether a second series could ever work. No such doubts now. In future it will just be part of summer, the television equivalent of the hosepipe ban. They will still be making these shows after we are all dead.

Last week, of course, was more than averagely momentous. Penny, the teacher, who had looked on the verge of being carted away by men in white coats, was voted out by a sympathetic (or possibly horrified) public - only to be replaced by Josh, the gay man with the pecs, who we later learned from all newspapers was really called Paul. (Penny was really called Lisa. What's the matter with these people?) The nine surviving inmates had not known that Josh was coming, and their reactions were priceless. Welsh Helen and the tiny firecracker that is Narinder simpered and drooled and wondered aloud whether he really was gay after all. The straight men glowered in the background. Poor Brian, the tubby flight attendant, who had settled into his role as Token Homosexual, was more put out than anyone. Two weeks of perfecting his Graham Norton impersonation had come to naught. It is well known that last year's winner, chirpy Scouse builder Craig, was supported by a huge and leery gay vote - and here was someone who looked as though he had been grown in a laboratory to appeal to that electorate. …

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