Yet it was worth it when the show was at its peak and we enjoyed gripping drama such as Jade's journey from public pariah to success story (and then back again). The tension of Nadia Almada keeping her transgender status a secret from her housemates--while viewers already knew, and grew to love her--was juicier than any soap opera. Launch night house parties, finale house parties, witty banners in the eviction crowds. It was just great fun that we could gossip about at work.
But something happened along the way. We don't buy the consensus that the contestants have become freakier, but there's no doubt that BB's innocence was lost some time ago. Anyone entering the house after season two knew the score and the roles expected of them. While there have still been genuine and unexpected moments, it has felt a little too knowing for a while now.
In the early Noughties the show had an addictive freshness and energy. The celeb version was a nice three-week January diversion, but as the summer run expanded from nine weeks to thirteen weeks it began to feel like a chore. Add in newer shows such as The Apprentice, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing, and the crowded TV marketplace gave reality junkies plenty more ways to get their fix. Familiarity with the BB machine began to breed contempt.
The news last year that Channel 4 was axing the show was greeted with joy across the press. Dwindling ratings and a lack of media coverage (even Heat is no longer interested) means that many people believed it'd already ended. But as the Big Brother eye (in funereal flowers--nice touch) peers at us from promotional billboards, is it worth getting excited about BB11, for old time's sake?
Advance rumours that launch night will feature "80 to 90 hopefuls who will discover live whether they are housemates" don't fill us with hope. Launch night twists invariably prove to be a damp squib. From immediate nominations, to an all-female house, to housemates having to fake an engagement; they're usually dire events that lead to premature evictions. Fans have cried out for years for the show to go "back to basics", to no avail.
One factor in this year's Big Brother favour is that its main rival over summer is the World Cup. It may come as a surprise to broadcasters, but not everyone's a football fan. So if there are some truly interesting (or even just hot) housemates this year, it could be an alternative. But as soon as one of them says "I just tell it like it is," we're switching off…
Are you excited about the last-ever British Big Brother? Launch night starts at 9pm on Wednesday, June 9, on Channel 4.