Belfast Telegraph

Celebrity Big Brother is my guilty pleasure

BY FRANCES BURSCOUGH

IT'S not cool, it's not clever and it certainly isn't politically correct to admit this, but I still love Celebrity Big Brother and I don't care who knows it. As usual, as the new series got underway, criticisms of the programme have been flowing freely in the press but I won't be joining in. Quite frankly, I'm finding it riveting.

Although the series and its bizarre format have now been going for years, I still consider the concept of throwing strangers together in a cramped environment for an extended period of time under incessant and close scrutiny as a fascinating experiment which gives us a deep insight into human behaviour in extreme conditions. Add to that the inflated egos and narcissism of the celebrity psyche plus the ogle-factor which we all possess and it makes for brilliantly entertaining viewing.

Meanwhile, the timing -- just after Christmas when a huge void appears in all our social lives -- couldn't be better. So as I munch on stale mince pies washed down with the dregs from the very last bottle of Warninks, there's something to focus on other than the huge void that's also appeared in my bank balance.

This season's flawless line-up includes some true stalwarts of stage, screen and celebrity in general -- Lionel Blair, Linda Nolan, Jim Davidson, Evander Holyfield and Lee Ryan -- and not just the usual boob-job B-Listers from Essex, so there's someone for every age group to obsess over ... as well as the usual boob-job B listers from Essex that we rely on to give reality TV its bad name.

Now, of course it's too early to make any predictions as to who might do what with whom and for what reasons -- but at the time of writing this I'm particularly enjoying the Lee/Casey/Jasmine ménage a trois love triangle and seeing how manipulative/shallow/transparent/vain each of them actually is.

Another revelation has been seeing the newspaper columnist Liz Jones in the flesh and actually hearing her voice, after years of reading her opinions. Incredibly, she comes across as sensible, sensitive and insecure yet genuine and likeable at the same time. I know she won't win the show, but I'd certainly vote for her above any of the titillating triumvirate.

Here are a few of my own personal observations so far, one for each housemate:

Dappy: This guy is supposed to be the very epitome of cool but to me he's about as street-cred as a garden gnome. A garden gnome who wears ridiculous pantomime costume-style clothes and keeps his ubiquitous baseball cap on, even in the bath.

Jasmine: How can anyone look so like Megan Foxx without actually being Megan Foxx? And how can someone look so naturally charming but be so unnaturally charmless?

Jim: How can anyone who's made such a career out of being funny, be so ... err ... well not one bit funny. Or even slightly amusing? In fact, he just comes across as a bitter spoilsport.

Linda: Are the Nolan sisters all actual clones of each other?

Lee: Wouldn't it be great if one woman, just once, would reject his advances? He seems like a nice guy in some ways but he clearly thinks he can have the pick of the bunch, because they all seem to allow him to walk all over them. How much more entertaining would it be if one of these bimbos made him work at it? And then rejected him at the end?

Liz: The look of sheer delight when Linda Nolan told her she was a beautiful person is something I will remember most about this series.

LUisa: Feisty and fearless is a good combination and makes for great telly, especially when that person is also utterly shameless too.

Evander: The Bible-bashing boxer is just a big softy at heart. Ok, he's a bit backward in some of his views but there's no malice in there either. I think Linda fancies him. Watch this space!

Casey: Brunette, boobs, bubbly, brassy and therefore interchangeable with Sam, apart from the hair colour.

Sam: I've never watched TOWIE (I do have some standards you know ...) but I did know all about this woman from the tabloids which paint her as a real party animal. So far in real life reality TV though, she's been more of a wilting wallflower.

Ollie: Ditto Made in Chelsea. But this guy is so sweet and naïve it's funny to watch. The best comedy moment so far of CBB14 was when Ollie cried tears of joy over his love for Lionel. Bless.

LIONEL: What can I say? He's got everything -- charm, sense of humour, comic timing, vulnerability, wisdom, respect ... If Lionel doesn't win I'll eat my hat. Or demand that Dappy eats his.

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