Big Brother: The 10 best ‘civilian’ series, ranked
Amidst news that Big Brother has been axed – again! – and with the 19th and final series set to begin tonight, now’s as good a time as any to look back at the best ever series of the original reality juggernaut, before it gets ~rescued by MTV or something.
10. Big Brother 11, won by Josie Gibson (2010)
At the time of broadcast, this was the “final ever!!!!” series – complete with elaborate funeral-themed marketing from Channel 4 and an Ultimate all-star series that began straight afterwards. It was a decent if unspectacular cycle, with Josie Gibson the clear favourite and rightful winner. Sidebar: Remember when Sam Pepper was in this one?
9. Big Brother 13, won by Luke Anderson (2012)
Luke Anderson became the show’s first trans male champion on this season, which was the second (and first summer) civilian edition to air on Channel 5. This series was dominated by a huge house divide involving the likes of Luke A and Adam, with the treatment of Deana also becoming a huge talking point.
8. Big Brother 10, won by Sophie Reade (2009)
I remember this series getting panned at the time and performing at record lows in the ratings, but it was a back-to-basics style run with a great cast: the ascension of Sophie (then referred to as Dogface – long story) from perceived airhead stereotype to clear winner was a really heartening story, and the other big characters – such as the much lusted-after Noirin and self-proclaimed “dark horse” Marcus – gave viewers plenty to talk about.
7. Big Brother 14, won by Sam Evans (2013)
Gina Rio stole the show in this season, but had to settle for a third-place finish – her journey from incredibly unpopular newcomer to the most entertaining woman on TV was just brilliant. This was also the year that housemate Daley was ejected due to threatening behaviour towards Hazel, opening up an important discussion about male aggression, and it was also the year Rylan met his husband when Dan Neal became a housemate.
6. Big Brother 6, won by Anthony Hutton (2005)
This was a year, I remember, when the crowd reactions outside became big factors. In an early eviction in which many housemates were nominated, the likes of Saskia and Maxwell heard huge cheers for themselves – and proceeded to become the trademark villains over subsequent weeks when it all seemed to go their heads. This was also the year of Makosi, of Anthony and Craig, and of Kinga and the wine bottle.
5. Big Brother 2, won by Brian Dowling (2001)
Things were still fairly innocent back in 2001, with Helen and Paul’s romance providing us with the big storyline of the year. The fact that out, camp, gay man Brian Dowling was proclaimed the champion was a hugely important pop culture moment at this point in time.
4. Big Brother 15, won by Helen Wood (2014)
No offence to Helen Wood but it’s the final result of this series – in which she triumphed over long-time nemesis Ashleigh – that stops it from finishing higher in this list. But this was the best cycle on Channel 5, no question: we had the love/hate friendship between Christopher and Mark, the involvement of Pop Idol’s Zoe Birkett, the fascinating dynamics around Jale, and the insufferable romance between Steven and Kimberly. A well-cast, excellent series of reality TV.
3. Big Brother 5, won by Nadia Almada (2004)
Fight Night! Michelle and Stu! NADIA! This was the year Big Brother recovered from its first real snoozefest, shook off the last remnants of innocence, and decided to just become outright outrageous. What a magnificent year it was.
2. Big Brother 3, won by Kate Lawler (2002)
Jade Goody is obviously the headliner from this cycle (can you believe she only finished fourth?) but there was much more to it: the Rich House/Poor House divide, the biggest instances yet of crowd booing, Tim saying “comprendez?”, Sandy doing a runner over the wall, Alex buttoning up his shirt behind a door, ALISON FUCKING HAMMOND, Adele Roberts having no idea she would go on to become a hugely successful radio DJ… this is very, very nearly the best of the lot…
1. Big Brother 7, won by Pete Bennett (2006)
… but there’s nothing quite like Big Brother 7, in which almost every single housemate is iconic. Grace? An outstanding villain. Nikki? A LEGEND. Lea? A gay icon in waiting. Pete? One of the most popular winners ever. This was packed with amazing moments; from Grace showering Susie with water to Nikki’s notorious Diary Room moments. The end-of-season montage here is – I’m not being hyperbolic (clearly I am) – among the best pieces of film I have ever seen.
Will the final ever Channel 5 run squeeze itself onto this list over the coming weeks? I mean it’s unlikely, isn’t it, but good luck to it.