AJ Odudu and Will Best outside the Big Brother house on eviction night
After five years off air, Big Brother made a triumphant return to our screens back in October, as ITV breathed new life into the original reality show.
And while fans perhaps didn’t know quite what to expect going into the reboot, its fair to say it’s proved to be a hit, both in the ratings and on social media.
But while viewers only see an hour or so a night – accompanied by late night live streams – there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
Here are 15 facts you didn’t know about Big Brother 2023...
1. 30,000 people applied for the reboot
To do the maths, if you applied, you had a 0.06% chance of strutting into the hallowed halls of the Big Brother house. The casting process also included a thousand individual Zoom calls, according to The Guardian.
2. Previous contestants – and their families – also applied
On the same note, casting executive Jay Khagram told The Guardian that there were “real surprises among the prospective housemates” – including some applications from previous contestants and their children.
3. The Queen’s death inspired the return of the Big Brother live stream
Walk with us on this one; in the same Guardian interview, exec producer Natalka Znak said that she wasn’t sure people would watch a live stream, until after the Queen died, and she noticed “people’s obsession” with footage of the lying-in-state and “watching the queue for hours”.
Fans now get to see four hours of action live from the house each night on ITVX, after the live stream was previously scrapped by Big Brother bosses during its Channel 5 incarnation.
4. The production team called a global summit of Big Brother producers
The meeting – called to give the ITV2 team an opportunity to learn what works in a Big Brother house – involved 33 producers from global iterations of the show.
5. The house is located on an industrial estate
While you might think the house is situated in a glamorous location, the reality is much different – the Garden Studios are actually on an industrial estate in Harlesden, north-west London, just down the road from a McVities factory.
The studios, which opened in February 2020, are also located next to the Grand Union canal.
— Big Brother UK (@bbuk) October 6, 2023
6. And the new house is built on a sound stage
This year’s Big Brother house sits inside (and outside) a soundstage, rather than being purpose built, like the previous house at Elstree Studios, which was demolished after the show was axed in 2018.
The actual ‘house’ is little more than pre-fab walls and a few metal beams, which is situated within a larger structure.
— Big Brother UK (@bbuk) October 7, 2023
Here’s what the studio looked like before it was transformed into the Big Brother house:
7. The housemates were originally going to enter via.. boat?
As reported by The Sun, the housemates were set to enter the house via a ‘James Bond-esque’ entrance; namely, a speedboat blasting down the river, before they climbed up the bank and through the large neon eye into the house.
This ideas was reportedly scrapped after bosses realised that the river – which is actually a canal – has a 5 mile-per-hour speed limit. Less James Bond, more Countryfile.
8. The garden was constructed with sustainability in mind – and no smoking area
The Big Brother garden
Gone are the days of iconic ciggie-chats. The smoking area is off camera, and housemates have to go by themselves.
Hot-tub wise, the bubbling bathtub is topped up from a special rainfall collector, and the mirrors in the outdoor relaxing area are all one way, featuring cameras to capture the housemates’ every move.
9. Late & Live is filmed directly across from the house
The Big Brother: Late & Live studio
The spin-off show, which airs directly Big Brother each night, is filmed right across from the live eviction set (which is actually a car park), in the appropriately named Iris 2 soundstage at the Garden Studios.
10. The house was designed with accessibility in mind
The house was designed so people from all walks of life could live in it easily; the entrance to the set did away with the iconic staircase and the mezzanine level has a lift to ensure the house is “fully accessible to all housemates”.
11. Big Brother 2023 has the most cameras of any series ever
On companion show Big Brother: Late & Live, Will Best – one half of the show’s hosting powerhouse duo – revealed that there are 84 cameras in the house. That’s the most ever!
12. There was never going to be a twist in the theme of the series
Although the Australian Big Brother focuses on love, and Portugal has a couples iteration, Lucas Green, the chief executive of the show’s production company Banijay Entertainment emphasised that love was not the point of the reboot.
“It’s good Big Brother isn’t just about love and romance, betrayal and what you look like; it’s really healthy to have a big show that’s … about societal relationships rather than love and sex.
“It’s good to have Big Brother back as a counterpoint to being judged on what you look like.”
13. The reboot offers an improved duty of care for its housemates
All housemates participated in respect and inclusion training – including the use of language and acceptable behaviour – but that’s not all.
Welfare has been extended to social media; housemates had to deactivate their accounts before appearing on the show, and friends and family were forbidden from managing their accounts during the show.
14. It’s the shortest series in history
Big Brother 2023 is small but mighty; it is the shortest civilian series in the show’s history – 42 days over 36 episodes.
15. AJ Odudu and Will Best don’t meet the contestants beforehand
Big Brother hosts AJ Odudu and Will Best
Prior to the show’s launch, AJ previously revealed to Gay Times that: “I will be meeting the housemates at exactly the same time the viewer meets them. As soon as they pull up I’m like, ‘Hello, person I’ve never met before.’”