Until this week, the latest series of Big Brother was attracting headlines because of its low ratings, but the latest drama in the UK's most iconic reality TV show has returned the format to its previous, more controversial territory.
After a fight broke out in the house, there are now calls for Ofcom to take the show off air completely.
For those who don't watch, a muscle-bound moron called Lotan got wound up by a girl called Isabelle, who accused him of being a bad role model to his kid. He then threw his drink at her, drenching two other girls. He had previously been warned by Big Brother for what it calls "isolating and intimidating" behaviour towards women.
Now there's a petition to cancel the show on Change.org. It's interesting that Big Brother should be accused of depicting "unacceptable" behaviour, when MTV's Geordie Shore shows a near-constant stream of fighting, screaming, foul language, promiscuous sex, misogyny, hair-pulling, punching, drunkenness, smashed furniture and threatening behaviour.
Meanwhile Big Brother's main rival, Love Island, is a TV programme based on the premise that young people should have sex in front of cameras to win favour and money. These shows make Big Brother seem tame in comparison, which might explain why younger viewers are leaving the grand dame of British reality TV for her filthier neighbours.
One thing I want to make clear as a former Big Brother housemate is that the producers do not supply you with "copious amounts of alcohol". This is a myth that comes up time and time again. In fact when BB fans approach me wanting to find out what life in the house is really like, their first question is often, 'How much booze do they give you to make everyone so drunk?'
So here's the truth: each person gets two or three 'rounds' a night from Big Brother, via the storeroom. At around 8pm the storeroom door is locked and some 20 minutes later it's opened. Cue a stampede as everyone tries to get as much booze as they can carry. The reason for the stampede is that you are actually given very little. Last year, we were generally pretty good at sharing it out evenly, though some tried to hide and stash cans in their tops and behind beds to get an unfair share.
On the whole, each person gets maybe a glass of wine and a can of vodka mixer to last the next hour and a half. At around half past nine, the storeroom light goes red again and in another 20 minutes another stash of drinks will appear, usually though not always offering the same amount of alcohol. Another 90 minutes later the same may happen again but this time with only enough for around one glass of wine or one can of booze each.
So, that's the equivalent of around three glasses of wine each and two vodka mixers. It's enough to make the average person tipsy, sure, but not completely drunk. And bear in mind that the drinking is controlled so that it lasts over a period of hours, it's hard to see how that could be described as "copious amounts". If there's one regular gripe from housemates, it's that you want more drink.
Moreover, if people are creating too much noise in the garden (there are people living nearby), or if they are singing songs (you are forbidden from singing any song the producers have to pay to broadcast), or if housemates are becoming angry or if Big Brother wants you to be fresh-faced for a particularly horrible challenge the next morning, the alcohol supplies will be cut drastically, sometimes to two rounds, sometimes to just one.
As with my year, certain housemates pretend to be more drunk than they are because they're looking for camera-time
It leads to the obvious question: how do housemates become so raucous? There isn't a clear answer. Sometimes, as with my year, certain housemates pretend to be more drunk than they are because they're looking for camera-time. Sometimes, housemates haven't eaten much or are very tired, and that can make you go crazy on a thimbleful of drink. The point is that it's very difficult indeed to get p****d in Big Brother. Those of my housemates who tried to stash drink and stockpile 'tinnies' were too thick to realise there are 50 cameras filming their every move and, sure enough, the bedroom was locked off while crew came in and removed the contraband.
Alcohol isn't the reason why fights break out. Producers don't need to do anything at all to make people come to blows, verbally or otherwise. If you put a load of egocentric foghorns into a tiny space (and the house is tiny) for weeks on end with no escape from the paranoia and forced animosity then there can only be a few outcomes.
There will be screaming arguments, unfortunately there might be physical threats, and there will be horrible language. That, of course, is partly why people watch the show. Just like kids crowding round a playground fight or people craning their necks to watch a bar brawl, viewers will tune in to see housemates at each other's throats.
But the Big Brother team are clever. The voices in the diary room are like counsellors, trained to take the heat out of the angriest character while making sure the best soundbites are recorded for the following night's show. And the security on the other side of those hidden doors is tight.
It was always a shock to see how quickly they could appear when something went wrong. Always calm, always firm and often – by the way – female, the security guards are at the doors like a flash and situations are instantly controlled.
There are strict rules and the mere mention of bullying or threatening behaviour is monitored very closely. When I was subjected to a bunch of brainless banshies screaming nonsense in my face I had the self-control and maturity to sit quietly and wait for them to run out of gas, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't intimidating. I was called to the diary room at the end of the night. My hands were shaking and I felt tearful and scared to go back into the bedroom where my tormentors were busily picking over their failure to make me scream.
The voice behind the camera was calm and sympathetic. He said "Andy, remember you are on a TV show and this is not a normal situation. Many housemates have felt as you feel now but you have kept calm and that's not easy. Go back into the bedroom, walk straight to your bed, put your head under the covers and go to sleep. Tomorrow there will be something else. Just remember that, just outside those high walls, is a Tesco supermarket and a barbers and a pub and people are living their normal lives and none of this really matters." He was right and I survived. My mates in the house gave me a cuddle and stuck by my side and viewers watched and sympathised.
That is the true value of Big Brother. Yes it shows the worst of human nature but it also shows the best and that's what it's done since the very first series back in 2000. I don't think that's a claim 'Geordie Bore' or 'Wrecks on The Beach' can make.
This change.org petition says producers are looking for "what they think is good TV." Not what they think... it's what they know makes good TV. EastEnders likes a good fight and last time I checked, there are quite a few movies in the cinemas based around violence of some kind or other.
Ah, but that's fiction. Some would accuse Big Brother of being the same. I'm often told – told, mind you, not asked – that Big Brother is scripted. Believe me, it isn't. Not at all. Meanwhile, many other shows, such as Made in Chelsea and The Only Way Is Essex, are directed by the producers who have particular storylines in mind.
Big Brother winds you up when you're in the house and plays with your mind, but you are never told to be something or do something unless you're in a specific task.
That, as far as I'm concerned, is why there should be a petition to keep the show on TV. Unlike most reality TV...it is actually real. That includes the romance, the laughter, the loyalty and, yes, the fighting.
Andy West is a TV, radio, print and online journalist and children's author. Follow : @andywesttv