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Big Brother for one more season

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Friday, May 19, 2006

London (Reuters): Big Brother returns for a seventh series with the reality TV show's makers promising the ''longest and most twisted'' programme yet. A beauty queen, a topless model and a schoolfriend of Prince Harry are among those reported to have beaten 25,000 other hopefuls to win a place in the camera-filled house. Channel 4 said yesterday, the small set with glass walls was designed to disorientate the housemates during the show's 13-week run. Housemates who avoid eviction in weekly public votes will miss the football World Cup and Wimbledon tennis tournament as contact with the outside world is banned. ''More than ever before, the Big Brother house will be a difficult place to live in,'' Channel 4 said.

The show has proved as divisive as ever: millions are expected to watch, while critics have been queuing up to dismiss it as a ''nasty psychological circus''. Mediawatch-UK, a group which campaigns for better standards on television, said the format had grown tired and its producers were scraping the barrel for new ways to provoke the housemates. ''It has all got so boring,'' the group's director John Beyer said. ''It is likely to be abrasive, with a whole lot of obscene language. I think it has had its day.'' Columnist Deborah Orr went further, branding its audience a ''leering, sneering bunch of pitiless, shameless voyeurs''.''It is a nasty, petty, psychological circus that in its popularity exposes the nation as a bunch of superannuated schoolchildren,'' she wrote in the Independent yesterday.

Channel 4 is unlikely to be moved by attacks on a programme, which at its peak has attracted more than nine million viewers. Many more will pay 50 pence to vote by telephone to decide who will be evicted. Some may even buy a pair of Big Brother underpants from the show's Web site. Its producers say they have dreamed up a raft of secret ideas to freshen up the show, to be presented by Davina McCall. The set, at the Elstree Studios, north of London, has an ''inside out'' theme: concrete floors and topiary sheep inside, a sofa and silver dining table in the garden. Celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who has seen the house, described it as the work of ''an evil genius''. ''This, filled with 12 vacuous wannabes, I think is absolutely the seventh circle of Hell,'' he told the Guardian.

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