Producers, M-Net and DStv, and viewers, are on cloud number 9 following the launch of the 9th fame-courting season of Big Brother Africa - entitled Big Brother Africa Hotshots - on Sunday night in Johannesburg in a new camera house following a devastating fire a month ago which scuppered the launch.
Endemol SA, M-Net, MultiChoice and Sasasni Studios have so far refused to divulge the cause of the fire which threw the show into crisis and cut a month of the running time. Big Brother Africa Hotshots will now run for only 63 days on television, instead of 90.
"We not only beat the fire, we kept a positive attitude," said Big Brother Africa Hotshots host IK Osakioduwa from the live launch programme studio at Red Pepper productions in Linden, Johannesburg, calling the fire which destroyed the Sasani Studios stage on 2 September "a little setback".
Further down the road, in 7th Street, was the big house complex, hastily put together in the past 3 weeks to accomodate the voyeur show's contestants and camera crew.
Gone on Sunday night were the massive live crowd from the previous 8 seasons at launch of the Endemol South Africa produced show, replaced with a 70-odd, seated audience of media representatives, as journalists flown in from various publications across the continent sat ready with insta-vote devices to score the contestants as they were introduced.
On Sunday night the 26 new housemates - the first time including a contestant from Rwanda - entered the reality house of the show which can now be watched on MultiChoice's DStv on channels 197 and 198 for 24-hours per day, as well as with highlights shown on the AfricaMagic Showcase channel. The show is beamed to an audience of 25 million viewers across the African continent.
In a well-conceptualised and well-executed launch show, the 26 contestants - ranging from an exotic dancer, hairdresser, poet, fashion designer, aspiring actress and photographer to a business woman, radio presenter and more - had to perform talents (mostly singing) like an American beauty pageant, while they got scored by the studio audience.
A technical mishap which didn't influence the outcome of the final top-vote getter, Leveda, marred the live launch show when half the studio audience's voting devices didn't work during the talent performance of contestant Permithias, making it impossible to cast a vote for the contestant.
Live performances during the launch show included appearances by Nigeria's Davido and DJ Dimplez and AB Crazy, Tanzania's Diamond, as well as South Africa's Cassper Nyovest.
Over the course of the next three months contestants will have to "outshine" each other in celebrity and performance based tasks, having to "entertain" TV audiences in order to prevent being evicted from the house.