Media Lifeline: Celebrity Big Brother
campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 January 2009 12:00AM
No matter how offensive or tedious it becomes, the Channel 4 programme refuses to die.
January 2006: Celebrity Big Brother had been a rather tame brand extension until the fourth series, sponsored by The Carphone Warehouse. It all kicks off when Pete Burns reveals to fellow contestants that his coat is made from gorilla skin. Police, responding to viewer complains to Ofcom, have the coat removed for tests ... but it turns out that it's actually been run-up from colobus monkey pelts. So that's alright then. No prosecution. Chantelle wins.
January 2007: Jade Goody causes a furore with her racist and bullying behaviour towards fellow housemate, the Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, during Celebrity Big Brother 5. Ofcom forces Channel 4 to apologise. Shetty is the winner - of the show, at least.
August 2007: The Carphone Warehouse had terminated its sponsorship agreement in the wake of the racism row - now Channel 4 announces that it has decided, against its better judgment, to mothball the Celebrity Big Brother format. It acknowledges the move will leave a big hole in its January schedules and hints that the show may return when the time is right.
December 2008: Which indeed proves to be the case. And despite all odds, Channel 4 is also able to announce that it has secured a sponsor for Celebrity Big Brother 6 - Dreams, the bed specialist. The agreement covers shows on the main channel and spin-offs across Channel 4's digital and online properties as well as a licensing agreement allowing Dreams to use the Big Brother eye logo for in-store and media promotions.
January 2009: And Channel 4 is able to prove the sceptics wrong - partially, at least - when the show, featuring luminaries including Mutya Buena, Ben Adams, Ulrika Jonsson, Verne Troyer and Coolio, attracts a peak of nearly six million viewers for its launch show.
Fast forward ...
April 2009: Yet it had all seemingly ended in tears when Ulrika contrived to set fire to her bed - and the diminutive but ever-resourceful Verne had leaped to the rescue by pissing on it (from a distance of eight feet) to put it out. The sponsor was not amused; but Channel 4 bosses have the last laugh when they're subsequently able to announce a new sponsor for the next series - the Neasden branch of Futons Direct.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk