Big Brother: killed by Topless Models

August 28, 2009

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- John Bowker is Reuters’ UK transport and defence correspondent. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Big Brother’s demise can be blamed on naked women.

You can see why the show’s creators thought it would be a good idea. A well selected crop of wannabe reality TV stars clearly must include a couple of attractive men and women. The fondly remembered first series back in 2000 was won by Craig, a regularly topless muscle-bound DIY hunk, while Tom and Mel were also easy on the eye.

But there was no proper nudity.

What was so striking about that first season was how innocent they all were. Whether good looking, smart or even conniving in the case of Nasty Nick – they were all just playing a game. The fleeting fame that followed afterwards was an unexpected bonus, and this lack of cynicism continued for a number of years — in my opinion until the sixth series in 2005.

That was the series that featured Orlaith McAllister.

You may not remember her — she featured for approximately five of the eleven weeks that the show ran. The blonde former Miss Belfast was a late entrant to the house as part of a surprise for the existing occupants. She arrived, had a topless romp in the jacuzzi with diminutive Geordie Anthony, and left. Of her own accord. Less than a fortnight before the climax of the show.

Why did Orlaith walk? Now this theory has not been verified by the lady herself, but I believe it was because her job was done. She knew that her looks and nudity would have been noted by the tabloids and that her brief spell in the limelight would elevate her above the hordes of other women also willing to get ‘em out. She knew she would be quids in without enduring a final public vote. And sure enough — no sooner was she back at large when there were naked pictures of her everywhere, before the others got out. She was even on Page 3 of The Sun.

If Orlaith played Big Brother to become a glamour model then good for her — it’s only TV after all. But had the makers of Big Brother picked up on this they might have realised that their show had been destroyed. It had lost its innocence.

No longer would people go in the house looking for fun, or to find out more about themselves, or even to win. They would go in knowing how they could exploit the show, and its viewers, into making a pot of cash and (briefly) get invited to celebrity parties. An ex-producer tells me some contestants would avoid going topless in the house in case it devalued the sight of their breasts after the show. This kind of attitude robbed Big Brother of all its charm.

I don’t blame the glamour model industry alone for the end of Big Brother. Personally I haven’t even seen the show since that fateful 2005 series. But it must shoulder some of the blame.

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