A Big Brother for the lockdown

A Big Brother for the lockdown || The fifth season of Big Brother Naija premiered on DSTV’s Africa Magic last night.

If this was 2019, one of the major questions would have been if Big Brother Naija is relevant, especially for a Ugandan in one of those suburbs such as Kireka, Namuwongo and Najjera or a larger question if Africa needs a Big Brother in 2019.

But it is 2020, and Big Brother just launched a new season on one of the channels on the pay TV. The reality show first premiered on the continent 19 years ago. Then, it was called Big Brother South Africa, broadcast on M-Net and did not make so much of a splash, then.

But it was in 2003, when the show producers hatched an ambitious plan, to take the reality show to the continent, in an inclusive way — this gave birth to the first season of Big Brother Africa, the first of the franchise to bring together people from different countries.

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DSTV and the show sponsors MTN then partnered with the biggest local TV at the time, WBS, showing daily updates and of course, reminded us about nominations and voting to keep our favourite housemate in the house. It is not surprising that the premiere edition of Big Brother had a cult following.


Scenes from the 2019 edition of BBNaija. One of the concerns is how eviction nights amid a global call for social distancing. PHOTO | COURTESY


The Geatano and Abby combo was the talk of town and the eviction shows were screened and advertised by all places that screen football matches today. Gaetano became a cult hero and his welcome back parade was the epitome of that premiere edition.

But it seems that was all the love a Ugandan in a reality show can ever get — well, Big Brother Africa took a break and came back in 2007 but we were not as excited.
Represented by Maureen Namatovu, we heard she almost entangled with a Malawian singer before being evicted a few weeks to the finale.

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Of course much has changed since the first edition of Big Brother Africa, including a return of the South African edition as Mzansi and the introduction of Big Brother Nigeria which too has rebranded to Big Brother Naija.

But 17 years after many Ugandans were introduced to the reality shows, one wonders whether they still find these kind of shows as entertaining, especially at a time when many Ugandan circles are talking about creating Ugandan content for Ugandan audiences.

Yet, with many Ugandans still in a mini lockdown, the show is expected to be a major success thanks to the fact that it will be available to the continent, something like Pearl Magic, Mzansi or even that Big Brother Angola.

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The show may be that one thing that will break the monotony of predictable TV shows or news channels that have given people more than enough information than they may need about coronavirus.

While for others, the show may be a chance to see at least an entertainment production standing up to the pandemic. For instance, will the housemates social distance? How are they going to hold eviction parties on weekends, will coronavirus be the narrative anyway?

Of course, unlike the edition that introduced us to Gaetano, Mwisho, Warona and others, that were ordinary folks, what has followed has given us slay kings and queens. Will the lockdown warm up to their agemates drinking, partying, gossiping and betraying each other under the watchful eye of, you know who? Only time will tell.


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