MEDIA: BIG BROTHER FINAL - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. The conclusion of Channel 4's Big Brother lived up to the hype and hopes, Rebecca Beer says

It was predicted to be the biggest night of the year for Channel 4

and the climax of reality TV. The Big Brother final, which was broadcast

live on Friday evening, saw the last three contenders battling it out

for the £70,000 prize. With approximately 8.5 million viewers at

its peak and hundreds of screaming fans outside the studios, it was

BIG!



This was the second Big Brother and, just as the first one did, it had

the nation gripped. Over the period of nine weeks we sat and watched the

11 housemates, with the late addition Josh, live in the specially

designed house in Bow, East London. Fuelled by extensive and

over-excited press coverage, this year's Big Brother proved to be

unmissable viewing for its legions of enthusiasts.



Despite the fact that the series kicked off a week after ITV's Survivor

had started, viewing figures did not seem to be affected and in the

first week the Big Brother house had an average of three million

viewers. This figure rose quite significantly during the final weeks -

again buoyed by the tabloids - with an average of 5.3 million viewers.

Almost continuous coverage was available on E4 and gave those obsessed

enough the chance to view the housemates with no sound or a blurred

picture.



So the voting began. Following Penny, the first evictee out of the door,

were housemates Stuart, Narinda, Bubble and Amma, all of whom were up

against Paul Clarke. Elizabeth's eviction last Thursday helped build

momentum for the Friday night winner-takes-all. And when it came to it,

the all-time favourite was the one to walk out of the house with the

money and the fame, however short-lived they prove to be. The camp Irish

air steward, Brian, was loved by millions, and everyone in the house it

seems.



As Davina McCall finished her interviews with Brummy Dean and Welsh

Helen, the crowd erupted. What followed was a very confusing but

electric 15 minutes. It was compelling viewing as an overwhelmed Brian

soaked up all the attention from his adoring fans. He was asked about

his best and worst moments in the house and suddenly this TV character

seemed to be a real person, with his family and friends in the crowd

cheering him on. This finale certainly seemed to be bigger and better

than last year's; who can be bothered to remember Craig and Anna

now?



Regardless of the criticism from viewers who prefer a little more

intellectual meat, reality TV had the nation hooked. Hooked on watching

normal people eating, sleeping and making fools of themselves.



Broadcaster: Channel 4

Final programme: 27 July

Audience: Overnight audience peaked at 8.5 million

Advertisers included: BT Cellnet (idents), Heineken, Citroen, Nokia,

Kronenbourg