Big Brother return during lockdown ruled out by Channel 4 boss

We’re all watching a lot more telly during lockdown, and the nostalgic among us have been calling for the glory days of old Big Brother to return to our screens.

But unfortunately, we’re fresh out of luck. (Please, do not swear.)

Channel 4 will not be bringing back Big Brother during lockdown, although the channel is looking at ‘fast-turnaround reality shows’.

Director of programmes Ian Katz ruled out a return for the iconic reality series during the controller session of the Edinburgh Television Festival, saying there are ‘no plans’ to bring the series back.

However, Katz said the channel is ‘definitely interested in the idea of fast-turnaround reality shows and there are a few interesting ideas that have been pitched to us that we are looking at for E4 and Channel 4’.

He singled out The Circle as a ‘huge success’ for the broadcaster and said bosses were ‘talking to Studio Lambert about how we develop that next’.

Big Brother began on Channel 4 in 2000 with the infamous Nasty Nick series, and continued for 11 series on the station until 2010, when it was picked up by Channel 5.

However, in 2018, it was confirmed that the 19th series of Big Brother would be its last, with Celebrity Big Brother also ending.

Despite ratings falling and controversy arising over much of the content, telly lovers, including Alison Hammond, have been calling for classic series of Big Brother to air while the UK is under lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus.

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At the festival, Katz discussed how viewing patterns had changed during the pandemic, saying: ‘We have seen different phases of the story. The first few weeks there was insatiable appetite for news and information that people felt would help them negotiate the challenge in front of them.

‘As the period has gone on and people have got tired of the relentless grim news, there has clearly been an appetite for escapism and a move towards familiar brands and familiar shows.’

And one of the big successes has been Gogglebox, which has managed to proceed pretty much without a hitch in the age of social distancing – bar viewers complaining that sisters Izzy and Ellie watching telly together despite not living together. 

Katz said: ‘Obviously the first things to go were the productions abroad in particular in places where the coronavirus epidemic had moved on a few weeks from us… then some of the bigger productions where you had a couple of hundred people on productions… scripted was hit very early on… it quite quickly became a battle to keep key productions up and running.

‘And one of the things I’m so proud of is the way we were able to identify key productions for us and keep them on air. One of the real miracles has been the way Gogglebox has stayed on air.’

He explained that producers have had to install rigs in the stars’ homes and that crews sit in vans outside of homes to operate cameras. 

Toilet facilities have also had to be installed outside of every Gogglebox-er’s home.

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