Seven Days: Big Brother’s Tedious Little Brother
The demise of Big Brother left a great chasm in the Channel 4 schedule and a gaping hole in the hearts of many reality TV fans. The answer? Seven Days, according to C4 bosses. The premise is simple; a bunch of people are followed around their local area (Notting Hill) going about their business and then when viewers have finished watching the programme, they can go online and tell them “what to do next”, which roughly translates as “have a cosy Twitter-style chat to them, but not actually influence their behaviour in any way”.
The trouble is, watching ordinary people doing ordinary things will never be extraordinary. Some will argue that the residents of Notting Hill can hardly be considered ordinary, but actually Seven Days bosses have done a pretty good job of assembling a decent mix of participants vaguely reflective of the mishmash of social groups one finds in the capital.
Indeed, most of the contestants come across well and many viewers have really warmed to them, but since so many of us have been raised on a diet of televisual extremes, watching a dozen or so people just like us do nothing in particular really isn’t that interesting. TV should either inform or entertain and unfortunately, Seven Days doesn’t do either.
I want to say it was a good idea badly executed, but it wasn’t even a winning concept to begin with. It’s like a documentary without the focus, or a soap opera without the drama. Some will argue that Seven Days heralds a new era of reality TV: a more subtle and perhaps more “real” version of what we’ve seen before, but these contestants are still, for the most part, fame-hungry and attention-seeking.
They’re all acting up. It’s not their fault; we all do it. Hell, some people put on a show when they think a CCTV camera is pointing in their direction. Viewers tuning in to see the second episode may have noticed model Laura Z stare openly at the camera several times before remembering that it was supposed to be “real life” and she had to answer a question posed by best friend Sam.
Laura and Sam are the least adept at making it all look natural on camera. Staging a conversation they’ve clearly had before just for the benefit of the cameras, Laura announces, “I’ve got to go to the clinic.” “Yeah…what have you got again?” asks Sam. “I’ve got abnormal cells in my cervix, haven’t I?” replies Laura. “Oh yeah,” says Sam, “remembering” the facts that they’ve probably discussed numerous times before. Never have two people been more self-conscious and less self-aware than this sorry pair.
Since Seven Days doesn’t even present us with the hyper-reality it clearly seeks to achieve, one would have hoped that the tell-them-what-to-do-next concept would be an engaging additon to the format. The Seven Days website is visited by a fair number of fans, but the interactions between them and the programme’s “stars” are largely either sycophantic or unneccesarily critical and rarely offer constructive advice.
It’s only really fun to watch completely normal people on TV if they’re singing, dancing or falling over (or ideally, when they’re doing all of these things simultaneously). Watching this lot shop and chat and fawn over their kids doesn’t justify an hour of airtime. Maybe if producers set Sam, Laura and Co. a task of some description, it might spice things up a bit. Perhaps a few of them could be given electric shocks when they do something bad, or made to eat something revolting, or…sound familiar? Come back Big Brother, all is forgiven.