Dowling favourite for 'Ultimate Big Brother' prize

Dowling favourite for 'Ultimate Big Brother' prize

Irish contestant Brian Dowling is the bookies' favourite to take the 'Ultimate Big Brother' crown tonight as Channel 4 waves goodbye to the long-running reality show.

Air steward turned TV presenter Dowling, who entered the house in 2001 as an unknown, is expected to beat off competition from other former contestants to be named the viewers' favourite.

Tonight's final will also mark the end of Big Brother's 10 years with Channel 4 which announced last summer it would not be renewing its deal with programme-maker Endemol.

The reality show may not end, however, as media tycoon Richard Desmond said he was thinking of reviving it when he took over the Five TV network in July.

This summer's winning housemate, Josie Gibson, 25, from Bristol, was given the opportunity to compete to be named ultimate housemate following her victory last month but quit just two days later, saying she could not handle the sudden influx of new people and missed her old housemates.

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

Paddy Power spokeswoman Sharon McHugh said: "Brian Dowling has really stood the test of time. Not only was he hugely popular in 2001 but judging by his odds it looks like he still appeals to the 'Big Brother' masses. He deserves to be crowned the 'Ultimate Big Brother' champ."

Chantelle Houghton, who won 'Celebrity Big Brother' in 2006 despite being the only housemate who was not actually famous, is second favourite to win.

The model, who had to pretend to be a singer with fictional pop band Kandy Floss to fool her fellow contestants, married Ordinary Boys singer Samuel Preston after the pair met on the show.

They split within 10 months and later divorced but viewers hoped for a reconciliation after both returned to the house this summer.

Paddy Power offered odds of 7/2 on Houghton winning tonight while Preston is trailing on 33/1.

Third favourite is tantrum queen Nikki Grahame who first entered the house in 2006 dressed as a Playboy bunny.

William Hill has Grahame on 10/1 while Paddy Power rates her chances as slightly better on 8/1.

Also in the running for the crown are "Nasty" Nick Bateman who was asked to leave the first series in 2000 for trying to manipulate fellow housemates' eviction votes, 'Celebrity Big Brother' 2009 winner Ulrika Jonsson and Victor Ebuwa who is best known for a huge argument with fellow housemate Emma Greenwood during Big Brother 5.

Radio presenter Vanessa Feltz, rapper Coolio, racing pundit John McCririck, 'Big Brother' 5 winner Nadia Almada and former housemates Makosi Musambasi and Michelle Bass have already left the house.

Housemates held a funeral service for the show yesterday and a group of 18 former housemates, led by Gibson and first series winner Craig Phillips, have recorded a video miming to Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman's 'Time To Say Goodbye'.

The video, which also includes footage of the late Jade Goody, will be screened on E4's 'Big Brother's Little Brother' today at 6pm.

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