Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tested by Inhumanity

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tested by Inhumanity

Article excerpt


Celebrity Big Brother

Channel 4

I WILL never forget the week, some four-and ahalf years ago, when Channel 4 launched the very first series of Big Brother. Not because I had the least interest in watching the antics of 10 media wannabees without a single idea in their heads, but because Channel 4 had just commissioned me to produce a topical play (to be written and performed live within a five-day period), and Endemol's "reality show" provided me with a useful peg.

That same week, a Polish survivor of a Nazi death camp had just successfully sued the German government, and the pitiful amount he was paid as compensation for his two-year incarceration in a living hell ( amounting to about [pounds sterling]5 per day) contrasted obscenely with the prize of almost [pounds sterling]100,000 that the Big Brother winner would receive for voluntarily staying in a luxury house for a few weeks.

That parallel formed the central theme of the play, enabling me to put the lowbrowmeets-no-brow reality show into its proper insignificant perspective, while simultaneously allowing me to bite the Horseferry Road hand that was feeding me, right up to the armpit.

With Holocaust Memorial Day fast approaching ( commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz), that parallel came back to me with some force at the weekend, as I watched Celebrity Big Brother.

Although the participants are officially there to raise money for charity, their appearance fees for staying in this living death camp reportedly total a cool halfmillion, with Caprice apparently receiving [pounds sterling]110,000 and Brigitte Nielsen a staggering [pounds sterling]160,000.

Even so, that's cheap at the price, because in return they've agreed to submit to the worst humiliation that can befall any D-list microstars who consider themselves to be even slightly famous.

No, not being imprisoned in a house with people they can't stand, nor being encouraged to argue, fight, get drunk, strip, and generally make themselves as ugly as possible, but to debase themselves by temporarily becoming what (to TV people) is the lowest possible form of televisual life: a "punter".

If you've ever wondered what "tested on humans" humans looked like, there they all were on Saturday night's edition, with Caprice being asked to use her intellectual powers to the full by solving an enigmatic riddle (an unnecessary subterfuge, because simply asking her to find her arse with both hands would surely have kept her cerebellum fully occupied for hours).

As she did so, Jackie Stallone (whose over-inf lated lips should have PSI tyre marks on them) was telling nobody in particular about her remarkable powers as a clairvoyant ("I've been accepted by my peers as the world's most top astrologer"), although she clearly couldn't read the runes well enough to realise that her ex-daughter-in-law Brigitte didn't love and respect her (as Jackie insisted she did), but actually hated her guts. …

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