Entertainment & Arts

Former air steward Brian Dowling wins last Big Brother

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Media captionBrian Dowling won Big Brother 2 in 2001 (Clip from Big Brother, Channel 4)

Ex-air steward Brian Dowling has been voted winner of Ultimate Big Brother, which featured top housemates from the past 10 years.

Mr Dowling, who took the programme's crown in 2001, yelled "Oh my God!" when he won the Channel 4 show's final vote.

Nikki Grahame, who first entered the house in 2006, came second, while the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2006, Chantelle Houghton, took third place.

The long-running reality game show has been a summer staple on C4 since 2000.

On hearing of his win, Mr Dowling, who was dressed in a suit and tie, burst into tears and shouted "Thank you so much".

He then joked: "I'm sure you've got it wrong."

Speaking about the impact of the show, he told host Davina McCall: "It's one of the best things I could have ever done. It allowed me to be myself and allowed other people to accept you for who you are.

"The show is also about hope, in the sense that it gives people the opportunity to make their life that little bit better," he said.

"I owe everything to the show, everything, and people have voted again. You say thank you, but sometimes thank you is never enough."

Ms Grahame, who entered the house in 2006 dressed as a Playboy bunny, said Mr Dowling was "the most deserving winner" but taking part in the final Channel 4 Big Brother had "meant the absolute world" to her.

In her exit interview, third place Essex glamour girl Ms Houghton said her head had been a "complete mess" in the house, where she had been reunited with ex-husband and Ordinary Boys singer Preston, whom she first met during the 2006 celebrity show.

Big Brother has been a huge ratings hit for the channel, with peak viewing of around 8 million in 2002, but audience interest has waned in recent years.

Ending the show, Ms McCall said: "I hate to say goodbye so I'm going to say night night."

Earlier, she told the BBC's 5 live Breakfast programme: "Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would go for 10 years."

Tearful staff

"I've loved this show and I've been a fan. If you're going to work on this programme you have to be a huge fan… you have to know and love and live and breathe it."

Some production staff at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire were reported to be tearful as they turned up for work on the final show.

Channel 4 announced last summer it would not be renewing its deal with programme-maker Endemol. At the time it said the show "had reached a natural end point on Channel 4 and it's time to move on".

The show - and its celebrity spin-off - has been an important source of advertising revenue for the broadcaster. C4 has said it is allocating funds which would have been spent on Big Brother into new drama.

The channel's autumn season for 2010 includes docu-soap Seven Days in which viewers will be able to follow the lives of people in London's Notting Hill as they actually happen.

Commenting on Big Brother's cultural impact, TV writer Andrew Billen, of The Times, said: "I think everybody feels now they're entitled to an audience and Big Brother has done that.

"Therefore you have a culture where your nearest thought, the tiniest aspect of your day is recorded on Facebook, on Twitter... I think you can trace all of that back to Big Brother which has made non-entities interesting to all of us."

Sam Dowler, features writer for Now magazine, told the BBC: "Big Brother has changed the way that celebrity is seen in this country."

He said that when the show first started in 2000, it was the first time people on TV had been seen all day long.

"As the years have gone by, the people have become more fame-hungry - they know what they are in there for and it's not the same show."

However, Big Brother may not be gone for good. Five TV's new owner Richard Desmond is reported to be interested in reviving the show.

Race row

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Media captionBig Brother winner Brian Belo on the significance of the Channel 4 reality show

Big Brother thrust previous unknowns like the late Jade Goody, "Nasty" Nick Bateman and Kate Lawler into the media spotlight.

It has also courted controversy, including in 2007 when Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty won Celebrity Big Brother following a series of rows with Goody, who was accused of bullying and racism.

The 11th and final series of Big Brother began in June and ran for 76 days until 24 August.

This winning housemate, Josie Gibson, from Bristol, immediately joined the Ultimate Big Brother show after her victory, but quit after just two days.

Brian Dowling beat competition from other former contestants who included Ulrika Jonsson, Preston, Victor Ebuwa and Nick Bateman.

Bookies Paddy Power and William Hill had both made Dowling the favourite to win, with odds of 2/9.

Housemates held a "funeral service" for the show on Thursday, and a group of 18 former housemates - including first series winner Craig Phillips - recorded a video miming to Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman's Time To Say Goodbye.

The show also included a tribute to the Jade Goody, who died from cervical cancer in 2009.

She first entered the house in 2002 and became the show's most successful star.

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