The TV show Big Brother returns to UK TV today bringing gleeful noises from some and strings of four-letter words from others. It was emphatically killed off by Channel 4 (they had a funeral and everything) but it’s been hauled back from the dead by Channel 5.
Big Brother is an extraordinary show. The regular non-celeb show has had eleven series in Britain, and anyone watching all the highlights and spin offs could have clocked up as much viewing time in a single summer as by seeing every episode of Friends.
Very popular TV shows – that is, ones where millions of people clock up viewing hours on that scale usually generate some valuable memorabilia. So is this true of Big Brother?
It certainly was initially – there was great interest in the diary room chair in particular. The diary room, for those of you pretending not to know, is where housemates could share their wisdom directly with Big Brother and the world.
So for eleven summers and now one more, housemates have plonked their bums in a great big armchair and mused on how ‘if you live by the sword, you die by the sword’, screamed about their love of cookies or claimed they “didn’t know that women poo”.
At the end of the first series, comedian Alan Davies bought the diary room chair for an impressive £35,000 – outbidding the sword-quoting housemate ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman. The chair from the second series sold for even more: in the region of £50,000.
That series even sold a fish bowl for several hundred pounds. But later series didn’t inspire such enthusiasm. The seventh series’ diary room chair sold for a four-figure sum – still more than some might expect, but a long way down from the originals.
The question is: will the items from the original series remain as valuable? Did Mr Davies make a good investment as well as getting a souvenir?
It seems unlikely. Even many of those who still love the format struggle to remember the details of individual series, and many of the housemates continue to make their presence felt long after they ceased to be interesting. It’s like the James Dean effect in reverse.
It’s a better idea than buying in their memorabilia anyway – though if Pamela Anderson is on the show as rumoured, she might be a better buy.
George Orwell, who is no doubt spinning in his grave at having inspired the thing, has his collectibles legacy secured. A signed copy of one of his earliest books brought a six-figure sum in March last year.