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Review: Celebrity Big Brother 2012
Summary: Reception to Channel 5's 2011 comeback series of Celebrity Big Brother was mixed, to say the least. Die-hard devotees bemoaned the lack of 24-hour streaming live footage, considered by many to be central to the appeal of the format.
Fans and critics alike joined in a chorus of complaint about the pitiful calibre of 'celebrity'. Bobby Sabel anyone?
But the figures spoke for themselves. And it's fair to say that, with an average of 2.8 million viewers across the series, the revived Celebrity Big Brother proved an unprecedented success by Channel 5 standards.
Highlights: EastEnder Natalie Cassidy inviting Hollywood star Michael Madsen to high-five her with the words: "Hey Free Willy, gimme a high-five!" Priceless.
Lowlights: Identical twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon have the screen presence of a job lot of factory-damaged Barbie dolls. Even Frankie Cocozza looked unimpressed.
As is now par for the course, rumours were rife ahead of this series of Celebrity Big Brother. At one point, the bookies would have had us believe that Lindsay Lohan, Freddie Starr and the entire cast of The Only Way is Essex were going in.
"rumours were rife ahead of this series of Celebrity Big Brother"
As it turned out, there was no Lohan, no Starr and - thankfully - just one TOWIE alumnus, in the shape of Kirk Norcross.
It's a sad reflection of our times that - with the possible exception of X Factor reject Frankie Cocozza - Norcross is, perhaps, one of the most recognisable faces in there.
Raise your trumpets in tone-deaf admiration then for Sonia from EastEnders - played here by Natalie Cassidy. Natalie lifted the live launch out of the mire with a sterling performance in the face of one of Celebrity Big Brother's wickedest tasks.
Sonia's ear trumpet
This one's tried and tested; the old earpiece trick in which Big Brother feeds a contestant ludicrous one-liners. Remember 2008 flop, Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack? Who can forget Scotsman John Loughton bellowing the word "cake" at his new housemates? No? Just me then.
Suffice it to say John's bravura performance at the hands of a giggling Matt Lucas endeared him to the British public immediately, and he went on to win the competition.
In taking on the same task with equal gusto, Natalie may have already secured her very own Celebrity Big Brother victory. Calling gravel-voiced legend Michael Madsen "Free Willy" to his face once was brave, but doing it a second time was positively suicidal.
Snogging Frankie Cocozza and his ridiculous hair-cloud was pretty courageous too, though Natalie seemed more concerned about the age gap than anything she might catch from the miniature Lothario.
Who's in the house?
Natalie's competition in the house is hardly Premier League. Unless, that is, you count WAG Nicola McLean and sort-of-WAG Natasha Giggs, the latter of whom is famous - among other things - for being Ryan Giggs' brother's ex-wife.
Then there's Georgia Salpa, "world-famous" lingerie model and alleged Kim Kardashian look-alike. And Andrew Stone, a dancer from London. Whaddya mean you've never heard of them?
They're joined by Welsh rugby international Gareth Thomas (nope, me neither), Romeo from So Solid Crew (presumably Tinchy Stryder was unavailable), and Loose Women's Denise Welch, who revealed that she snorted cocaine while filming Coronation Street. That's a starting point for conversation with Frankie Cocozza...
"Channel 5 must have thought all its Christmases had come at once"
Channel 5 must have thought all its Christmases had come at once when Frankie Cocozza "walked away" from The X Factor amid a blaze of paparazzi flashbulbs.
Though no real competition for Natalie, he may well prove a threat to the other women in the house.
"I'd definitely sh*g in there," he bragged to appalled host Brian Dowling, before dragging his massive teenage libido up the stairs and into the house. This was hardly news to anyone who's even glimpsed a tabloid in the last three months.
Indeed, one gets the impression that Cocozza would sh*g just about anywhere given half a chance. Against the side of a Croydon bus stop, for example.
Host Brian Dowling didn't have the best of nights, failing to find more than an unconvincing "I like it!" in response to just about every question he asked. What's more, the crowd seemed rather subdued - springing to life only to boo Frankie Cocozza.
And so that was the Celebrity Big Brother launch night - heralding a return with a conspicuous dearth of actual celebrities. And, once again, without the live feed.
Indeed, the only thing that appears to have changed is the décor; a Lynchian nightmare of cowhide-clad log-cabin-chic. And yet, thanks to the revival of a tried-and-tested Big Brother twist, there's still magic to be found here.
- Despite the conspicuous absence of a live feed yet again, it's a strong start for Celebrity Big Brother 2012. Four stars out of five.
TV quotes of the week
"I'm most famous for being a glamour girl." - Nope, I've still never heard of you, Nicola McLean.
"That's quite a hairdo you got there." - Cocozza misses Michael Madsen's heavy sarcasm and takes his words as a compliment.
"I get compared to Kim Kardashian a lot, which is good." Georgia Salpa: the product of thousands of years of
"I loved you in Free Willy." - Natalie Cassidy endears herself to the nation, but probably not to Michael Madsen.
"Cream rises to the top." - Dial-a-cliché Andrew Stone sounds like he's fresh from a stint on The Apprentice.
"We basically done anything and everything; you name it, we did it." - Some pretty grandiose claims from So Solid Crew's Romeo (real name Marvin Dawkins).
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