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Reality TV Interview

Mario & Lisa (Big Brother 9)

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Mario & Lisa (Big Brother 9)
Mario Marconi and Lisa Appleton are two of the best loved and most memorable contestants from recent Big Brother series. Mario's health and safety obsession, Lisa's talk of "little green men" and their infamous marriage proposal provided comic relief among the spats and spitgate scandals of the 2008 series. DS caught up with the couple to discuss their last 12 months and ask their opinions on the show's demise.

What did you think when you heard the news about Big Brother coming to an end?

Mario: "Well I first heard about it third-hand. I heard that they were axing the current show, but that just turned out to be gossip and the rumour-mill. But personally, it's quite sad because I think the show has got more life in it if things are done differently in terms of nominations and characters."

Lisa: "I still think Big Brother's popular and it's still the most-talked about show in the street. So it's weird that it's going to come to end. But I also think they'll revamp it with a new format. The great thing about Big Brother is that it runs for such a long time. It often gets people through their pregnancy, their illness and their hard times. I think if a programme is over and done with in half-an-hour or a few weeks, it doesn't have that same effect. People will really miss Big Brother, I know I will. It keeps people spirits up and takes their stresses away. What are they going to replace Big Brother with? I mean how can you replace a show that runs for three months! How many tiny little reality shows can they come up with to fill the gap."

Why do you think the ratings have dropped so dramatically in recent years?

Mario: "The ratings this year? It must be down to the characters a bit, but I think they started on a bad point when they dropped the live streaming. I work a lot and there's only a certain time I can watch the show. That hasn't gone down too well and I think that has lost a percentage of viewers. I also believe that some of the media should be held accountable. We had the media telling us, 'Make the most of it! It will only last two weeks!' Hasten to say, we're quite fortunate that we still have interest from photographers and people pappin' us. I don't think the media have done any favours for Endemol. It also doesn't help that last year's winner, Rachel Rice, wasn't willing to spend too much time with the media. There's lots of facts and elements."

What have been your highlights over the last 12 months?

Mario: "There's been lots of doors open. It was only last week that we were down at Elstree on BBLB and my kids got to meet Davina and George Lamb. I think the best thing for us is that we've been able to tell the press, 'Write what you want... but we're nice, genuine people'. We're not 22, we've not just gone on Big Brother, we're coming up to 50 and we've done lots in our lives. We've continued with all our charity work and the show's enabled us to do it on a grander scale. A few weeks ago I was playing a charity football match at Hillsborough for the Sodje Foundation. I was playing with Dwight Yorke, Cyrille Regis, Frank Sinclair, Andy Cole... and I couldn't believe it! That was like my wildest dreams. We've also got a race horse called BB9, which wins money for Guide Dogs For The Blind and a children's charity."

Lisa: "It's the most surreal and life-changing experience. You know you have these dreams and fantasies, well they have really happened for me. I still have to pinch myself to absorb it all."

Do you both still get a lot of attention when you walk down the street?

Mario: "Well with the charity work, we get out there and meet people who like Big Brother. Especially Lisa, who did three months in the house, she has a really big cult following. Even earlier today, we just went in Burger King in Liverpool and even though we had our baseball caps and shades on we still got recognised. That's where you think it would die off a year later or at least dilute, but it's as if we've just come out the house last week. Because off all the charity work we're doing, wherever we can, it's been to our advantage. Lots of agents tell you not to do it because it doesn't pay and that was one of our downfalls when we came out of the house, agreeing to those rules. That contributed to a negative reaction in the media and we've had to turn that around ourselves. Now we manage ourselves, and I think personally, the agents could have done a lot better for a large amount of the Big Brother housemates."

You both did quite a bit of TV work pre-Big Brother. What are your future plans?

Mario: "We're in talks with producers at the moment and we've had a few come after us. There's been various projects and ITV1 wanted us to do a Peter and Katie fly-on-the-wall project, but that was deferred because we were still in contract with Endemol for four months. The feedback we get from people on the street is, 'When are you two next on the telly!' I always go back to this fly-on-the-wall idea, which would be similar to Kerry Katona and Mark Croft. It would show people what life is like after Big Brother - people think you are treated like megastars and film stars, but it couldn't be much further from the truth at times. Seeing the nitty-gritty and the hard times would be a nice contrast and interest people. Lisa's also got other projects in the pipeline, including a book. It's all about shedding that Big Brother skin and going into meetings with the BBC and ITV and moving on. People don't usually like the Big Brother typecast, but because we've done other bits and pieces in the past, it's easier for us to jump on to another channel. It's about keeping fingers in lots of pies."

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