It’s official: Israel’s Big Brother is kosher, after all. The news follows the censorship of a housemate’s account of a bet he once made on his chances of persuading a woman to participate in group sex.
Ha’Ach Ha’Gadol, Israel’s version of the international reality TV show, has provoked wide public debate about the dumbing-down of broadcasting standards here. Whilst undeniable drivel, aimed at the lowest common denominator, it can – without care – become strangely addictive (a telly-addict friend of mine, Liat, was staying with me on the inaugural evening, back in September . . . so it is her fault!) One (first) date even insisted that we sit opposite the bar’s television so that she wouldn’t miss anything.
The original 16 housemates were obviously hand-picked with some care. One admitted to being very homophobic and racist (but knew that women couldn’t resist him), whilst another boasted about being an evil bitch. Thankfully, both were promptly evicted. With most of the interesting (however contemptible) characters gone, though, the show’s producers were recently forced to draft in four new faces, much to the consternation of many hardcore followers, who (rightly) felt cheated.
Yossi Bublil, the 54-year old at the centre of the current group sex controversy – and who many believe to be the evolutionary ‘Missing Link’ – has become something of a trash-cultural icon in Israel. He is in the house with his daughter, Einav, who sometimes makes former UK Big Brother ‘star’ Jade Goody – she of the famous “They were trying to use me as an escape goat” line (forcing her former school to declare that she was not a typical pupil) – appear refined.
To my mind, the only real reason to watch Ha’Ach Ha’Gadol is Ranin Boulos, the only Arab housemate (she is Christian), who gives the lie to the belief that all Arab women look like Hanan Ashrawi. If only they had stapled her lips together before letting her in. She cried and complained to Big Brother about the recital of Friday evening Kiddush in the house – this must have come as a genuine shock to her . . . after volunteering to share a dwelling with 15 Jews. She then clearly fell for an(other) arrogant tosser in the house – sobbing uncontrollably when he was promptly tossed out – which should add interest to her eventual reunion with her Arab boyfriend (she might be well-advised to have her brothers present).
Apart from there being nothing illegal about asking a woman to participate in group sex (she apparently declined), the banning of the offending clip from Channel 2’s highlights package and YouTube – it had been posted by a viewer of the live, round-the-clock broadcast (on Channel 20) – smacks of gross hypocrisy, when the raison d’être of Ha’Ach Ha’Gadol is titillation. The feigned moral outrage doesn’t fool anyone, when the show’s producers must be rubbing their hands with glee at the increased publicity and revenues Bublil’s revelations will no doubt earn them.