LONDON — As “Big Brother” struggles to catch fire in the U.S., the U.K. version of the reality TV show ignited a blaze of viewer and media interest that became an inferno Wednesday when the most notorious contestant was expelled for cheating.
Dubbed “Nasty Nick” by the tabloids, stockbroker Nick Bateman, 33, has been described as the most hated man on British TV after his unscrupulous, back-stabbing tactics, unnoticed by the other contestants, became obvious to the viewing nation.
In his determination to win the £70,000 ($105,000) prize by outlasting all of the other contestants in the house, Nick broke many of the show’s rules.
Night after night he initiated secret discussions about tactical voting, and he is known to have smuggled a pen and paper into the house to plot out his strategy. Rumors that he had also brought in a cell phone to hear about public response to the show remain unsubstantiated.
He was finally caught in the early hours of Thursday when other contestants realized that he had been deceiving them and ganged up on him.
Those viewing on the live 24-hour Webcams, which have given the show its most notable conceptual hook, were shocked by the ensuing confrontation, but could not watch it continue when one of the show’s online producers pressed a panic button.
All images and sound were suddenly turned off, and the Webcams remained offline for two hours.
After a prolonged group discussion the following afternoon, it was decided that Nick should leave immediately.
The format has been phenomenally successful in the U.K., regularly receiving 3.5 million viewers in its evening slots. Many put this largely down to Nick, whose villainy provoked exactly the kind of “water cooler” discussions for which producer Endemol had been hoping.
It also sparked a national campaign, headed by the Sun newspaper, to have him evicted in the conventional way.
But in spite of the public outcry, his tactics worked so well inside the house that he had not received a single nomination to be thrown out by fellow contestants in the five weeks the show has been running.