‘Celebrity Big Brother’ plays a very dangerous game with ‘punch’ row

Reality TV: Roxanne Pallett’s false claims led to the strangest hour of television in history

Roxanne Pallett on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’

Roxanne Pallett on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’

 

It seems like a decade ago that the only subjects on the minds of Celebrity Big Brother viewers were would footballer Jermaine Pennant finally remember that he had a wife and would human hormone imbalance Ben Jardine end up professing his undying love for a passing bluebottle.

“It’s all panto!” the Married at First Sight imbecile slurred at Jermaine, the two would-be cheaters drunkenly attempting to justify their actions to each other, desperately trying to inform viewers that reality telly is created in the edit and that Big Brother’s unblinking eyes only see what they want to see. As with all reality television, Celebrity Big Brother is sculpted to fit a certain sensationalist narrative, but this exploitation turned out to be nothing compared to the drama invented by Roxanne Pallett.

“I’ve been 100 per cent myself in here,” the ex-Emmerdale actor blithely uttered just days after her arrival in the Big Brother house. Little did she know that the act of “being herself” would end up transforming her into the self-described “Most Hated Woman in Britain”.

The footage of Corrie’s Ryan Thomas playfully punching and weaving around Pallett in the house’s kitchen has become an important artifact, the reality Zapruder film embedded in the Daily Mail site. Viewers will never be able to truly ascertain what Pallett’s emotional reaction to the incident was or why she inflated it into something akin to assault.

The actor herself could not justify her behaviour as she tearfully told presenter Emma Willis that she “manufactured a different version of events” in her mind. Pallett’s dramatic delusion is unsettling and throws up countless moral questions, not least the responsibility that the Big Brother producers have in protecting their housemates.  

Big Brother has a chequered past when it comes to dealing with issues created by the show, from Jade Goody’s Oxo cube row causing an international incident to the infamous fight night where violent punches were thrown at several women. Channel 4 decided to jettison the Endemol problematic fave only for Channel 5 to rescue it and try to breathe new life into the format. They may have salvaged the series but there is also the distinct impression that the station views its subsequent Ofcom complaints record as a dubious achievement to be improved upon.

The day after the event, the show turned into a parody of a Pinter play, with Pallett, the unreliable narrator, involving erstwhile paramour Ben and the two pillars of masculinity within the house, Dan and Jermaine, into blindly defending her honour. She manipulated them into swearing against Ryan and agreeing not to believe his version of events, with Dan Osborne (a man who has his own history of unsavoury behaviour towards women) vowing that he “would never do whatever Ryan did”, a promise as hollow as the contents of his head.

It then devolved into the strangest hour of television, becoming more like reality Rashomon or a frustrating true crime documentary about a blatant miscarriage of justice.

Viewers howled on social media that the footage should have been played to the housemates, but Big Brother allowed the dangerous game to continue, failing to step in to protect Ryan from ignominy and choosing not to save Roxanne from the damage she was doing to herself and her own reputation.

After all, being implicit in the torture is a vital component of Big Brother’s success, a show that never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

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