CBB is more famed these days for pooling together reality TV stars from various regions and TV-set islands. Throw in the odd has-been and you bi-annually have your unoriginal concoction of sex, mental breakdowns and battles for the limelight.


This year, or the ‘Year of the Woman’ as it is known, offers us something else. While it was a risk from Channel 5 to offer us a more educating format, so far the risk seems to have paid off.

I do not normally offer much time to Big Brother.

Watching a TOWIE star trying to steal airtime from a Geordie Shore wannabe who is crying for attention from an Ex on the Beach reject and a Made In Chelsea toff, doesn’t exactly float my boat.

Naturally, I was horrified when journalist Rachel Johnson was announced as the first housemate for 2018.

I have been a fan of Rachel for years, so I was dismayed when she decided to throw her hat into the ring. But then I began to think about it. As she is an immensely smart and measured woman, maybe CBB would offer us something different this year?

Indeed it has. Despite a rather gimmicky opening night in which Emma Willis seemed to think the series might change global discourse on gender equality, it has certainly offered viewers and housemates alike, an education.

Rather than the usual brain-dead bunch, the original line-up consisted of nine established women. Joining Johnson is veteran Tory right-winger Ann Widdecombe, transgender journalist India Willoughby, and Rochdale sex scandal constable Maggie Oliver.

Also cast are Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ star Malika Haqq, model Jessica Impiazzi, presenter Ashley James and 82-year-old acting veteran Amanda Barrie.

The fact that many people were asking ‘who?’ or saying the bunch looked ‘boring’ perhaps says more about the viewership of CBB than anything else. If you were willing to give it time, the series is proving eye-opening.

Particular highlights include Johnson prising out Widdecombe’s thoughts on topics like NHS gender reassignment surgery and the general state of the Tory Party. Moreover, you could witness the warming moment a wide-eyed glamour model realises she aspires to be a strong, intelligent woman like Rachel or Ann.

Age is a different factor too in this series. Half of the women are over 50, lifting a lid on differences of opinion between generations. Amanda Barrie struggles with subconsciously calling India a ‘he’, failing somewhat to grasp why this is such a big issue.

The entire premise of the series is a fascinating one.

Educated, or women open to learning, being thrown together into a pressure mixer.

On a totally trivial side note, when else will you see Khloe Kardashian’s best friend do walking lunges with the British Foreign Secretary’s sister?

Sadly, ‘The Year of the Woman’ lasted 4 days. Their interactions and discussions were entertaining enough to last far longer, but eventually eight men were added to the mix.

While this changed the dynamic, particularly with the influx of painful male chauvinism from Love Island’s Jonny Mitchell and disgraced comedian Dapper Laughs, some of the educational quirks do persist.

On Sunday night, for example, we saw a rather wonderful conversation between Ann Widdecombe and Shane Jenek — better known by the name of drag queen Courtney Act. They discussed at length Ann’s voting record in Parliament on equal marriage and homosexual age of consent.

It was a sensible, measured conversation in which both sides put their point across. Neither agreed with the other nor professed that they did. Unlike the usual heated CBB discussions however, there was no effing and blinding, no storming off, no drinks thrown. It was calm and justified; two things usually absent in the show.

CBB is providing both the housemates and viewers an education. It offers an insight into various walks of life, how they interact and how to cope with divergent opinions — with the odd slip-up from India Willoughby. Providing there are no gimmicky twists or unnecessary interventions, long may it continue.

Open dialogue is something the country could do with more these days. Particularly, educating their viewership by throwing these disparate men and women together may be one of the smartest moves thus far by Channel 5.


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