Tiffany Pollard's time on 'Celebrity Big Brother' gave us the most iconic TV scene in 2016
Of all the great TV that aired in 2016, one moment stands above the rest. It was not BoJack Horseman's silent, underwater episode. It was not Stassi making up with Katie on Vanderpump Rules. It was not Lena Headey elegantly, deliciously drinking wine in victory on Game of Thrones.
It was Tiffany "New York" Pollard misunderstanding Angie Bowie on the United Kingdom's Celebrity Big Brother.
There's no trick or cleverness to the clip: Angie Bowie, David Bowie's ex-wife, learns about her former husband's death. She tells one of her closest friends in the house, New York (known best for her time on Flavor of Love and its myriad spinoffs), that "David's dead."
New York, not unfairly, assumes that Angie is talking about David Gest, their fellow houseguest on the show. New York freaks out, but never explains she thinks it's David Gest. Angie explains that "David" died of cancer; New York says she cant keep it to herself. Of course, David wasn't dead — not Gest, at least — which sent New York into a rage.
Watching the full clip is tantamount to watching a top spin out of control, destroying everything in its path. Angie realizes too late what happened and can't stop New York's meltdown. New York becomes convinced Angie said "David Gest" (which she didn't), while Angie laments that she's "fucked it up."
It's a farce in the most classical sense of the term; Angie even goes as far to call it a "comedy of errors" on camera. What makes it such a genius sequence is that, if it had been scripted, we probably would have thought it was too outlandish to be believed.
The whole ordeal has taken on a macabre quality — or more of one than before, at least — since David Gest actually did die within months of the Celebrity Big Brother moment airing in the U.K. He was planning on going a tour literally called David Gest Is Not Dead when he did.
There's a surreality to all of it, from the clip itself to the aftermath. It's a reflection of the strange ways in which real life can penetrate the cultivated bubble of reality TV (see also: this season's American Big Brother contestants learning that Donald Trump won the presidency). In a year when the seemingly impossible happened, this clip was an early warning that everything is possible, no matter how outlandish it seems.
We're in a golden age of scripted TV, it's true. And indeed, there are plenty of dramas and comedies worthy of praise. But on a trashy little reality show across the pond, New York and Angie Bowie magically created fascinating, entertaining, can't-look-away TV. It was, put simply, the definitive scene of 2016.