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Big Brother set for final curtain call

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 September 2010

Love it or hate it Big Brother's lasting legacy is undeniable, writes Krishnan Guru-Murthy, as fans prepare to wave a final goodbye to the heavyweight of reality TV.

Big Brother set for final curtain call

Big Brother is dead, long live Big Brother.

The curtain is finally coming down on the Godfather of reality shows at Channel 4. And while no end of MPs, critics and TV executives chime "good riddance!" the influence of Big Brother on television and popular culture is undeniable.

Its techniques have been copied and developed countless times, it has provided endless opportunities to debate human behaviour and it helped create a whole new breed of celebrity from extraordinary people who would almost certainly never have found fame or fortune otherwise.

These days the conventional wisdom is that Big Brother has served its purpose, and has gone from something that reinforced Channel 4's reputation for bold, innovative programming in tune with young people to something that felt clapped out and bad for the Channel 4 brand.

And there's no doubt the freeing up of tens of millions of pounds spent on Big Brother every year has been a big creative opportunity for Channel 4, which is putting new money into areas such as drama and comedy.

Yet Big Brother's brand is still enormous and loved by millions who have continued to watch it and the programme is widely expected to begin a new chapter on Channel Five.

Richard Desmond, who will largely be spending his own money trying to turn the channel around, has good reasons for wanting it.

Despite the bad press and "walking dead" commentaries audiences for the last series of Big Brother have held up well. It will be an important part of Channel 4's average audience share for the year. And in cold business terms that is what Mr Desmond cares about.

Big Brother, and its hardcore of loyal followers, could be the thing he tries to excite the advertisers with, as he lures them into spending money on his re-launched station.

The danger will be that Big Brother exclusively becomes a money making machine, that the creatives behind it run out of things to do with the show.

Audiences will see through that, eventually. But that is the challenge of every long running, returning television format.

Big Brother caused such excitement a decade ago in part because of its simplicity: a house, a bunch of people and everything caught on camera. It is hard to see that basic idea not living on in some way on television or the internet for many years to come.

Follow Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Twitter.

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