Big Brother, Uncoordinated

July 31, 2007 12:01 AM

I watched precisely four episodes of Australian Big Brother this year, including tonight's finale.

The general plan for the finale of Big Brother is as follows: with two people left in the house, they run a long recap of the entire season, while host Gretel Killeen stands in front of a live audience and exhorts viewers to keep dialing those numbers, sending in those votes and donating some proportion of their phone bill to Southen Star Endemol.

After the recap they close the voting lines, throw to an advertisement break, play one more video package, throw to another ad break, then announce the final evictee (runner-up), leaving only the winner in the house.

The runner-up does half an hour or so of post-eviction interview, after which they pull out the winner into some big procession between the house and the stage, interview the winner, give out the cash prize, and usually finish the show about half an hour over-time.

This year it didn't go to plan.

The official line was that the final vote was so close (a few hundred votes out of hundreds of thousands of entries) that they had to take extra-long to make the final tally. Given that last year the show embarrassingly evicted the wrong person and had to send them back in, I can't see any reason to doubt they needed to take time to be sure. I certainly don't think it was deliberate.

It was too funny to be deliberate.

You know how the English version of The Office was funny, the way it made you cringe so much that it was stomach-churningly painful even while you were laughing your ass off? That's how it felt watching Gretel more and more desperately trying to find ways to vamp out that last hour, her already artificial smile getting thinner and thinner as she played for time interviewing whoever stood closest to her, as they successively showed all the video packages they had prepared for the night, while the show fell apart around her.

It was frustrating. It was comical. It was an exercise in just how wrong live TV can go if you're performing without a net. The least-watched series in the show's history was capped by an unwatchable finale. Bravo.

Next year, I say, take another hour. Take two. Have the DJ do a whole set. Interview all the housemates again, plus every past-season housemate you can get on a last-minute hospital pass satellite hook-up. Replay every single highlight you can find in the archives. Announce who won UK Big Brother, and see if anyone notices the difference. Make the audience form conga-lines to spell out their favourite housemates. Hold an impromptu game of charades. Interview everyone again but make the entire cast and crew do a tequila shot every time someone says it was "just a great experience", or that it "changed their life". Show a montage of Gretel's less fortunate wardrobe choices over Green Day's Time of your life. Bus strippers up from the Gold Coast. Dancing bears. Contortionists. Elephants.

Bring on the farce!

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