Believe It Or Not, I Like Big Brother

It’s no secret that I absolutely despise all reality programming, especially those that Ron and Fez’s Ron Bennington describes as “kick off the island” shows. I gave Survivor one season, but the product placements and clichéd “twists” turned me off forever. The same with The Apprentice, Amazing Race, Hell’s Kitchen, The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, etc. etc. etc.
As with every rule, though, there is an exception. I’m not proud of this fact, either. I tell myself every summer that I won’t allow myself to be once again sucked in to this particular show. Usually, I’ll even miss the first couple of episodes. Inevitably, however, I begin to poke around the internet and I’m once again hooked.
The show in question is Big Brother, whose eighth season is rumored to conclude Tuesday, September 18. In fact, forget about the trio of shows that air each week. It’s the internet feeds, and the websites that document every action of the contestants, that are the “real” show.
Indiana network manager (and Ron and Fez Show Big Brother correspondent) “Mike H” completely relates to this opinion, and it’s the online feeds that led him to create “I came across the show one night and then the next day I found out you could watch it for free over the net. That’s right – FREE. Of course that ended after the first year.”
Mike adds that Big Brother is also the only reality show that airs as the competition actually happens. “For comparison, take the other show that started about the same time, Survivor. That show is basically over when the first episode airs, so while the viewers don’t know who will be eliminated, the producers do, and they shape each and every episode towards that end.”
While Mike admits that because of the internet feeds he’s rarely surprised by the person who is eliminated, it is fascinating to see “all (or many) of the developments as they happen…On BB3 we listened to Chiara attempt to talk in code to the other girls about a relationship she had with a famous person. The sharp folks watching figured out her code and passed the information on the internet and within an hour Chiara was being admonished by the producers and calling the folks watching over the internet nasty names.”
Since the cameras are constantly on, contestant’s good and bad quality are out there for anybody to see. That doesn’t mean that the show’s contestants can’t make the usual complaints that selective editing distorts what actually happened, especially since the internet viewers pale in comparison to the millions that watch the CBS broadcasts. “The second house guest ever voted out of Big Brother – Jordan – told David Letterman she was edited badly”, says Mike. “As an example for this season, Jen was shown crying over her picture and being extremely emotional. As it turns out, that was the only time in the first month she cried, yet the viewers still remember those initial images.”
Mike adds that the addition of a nightly three-hour Showtime broadcast has put new pressure on the show’s editors. “I do think that the producers have felt the need to be more accurate in reporting certain incidents. The house guests are also very aware when the Showtime feeds are on, and during the first few weeks the production team would give the house guests alcohol thirty minutes or so before the feeds are on Showtime.”
What about this year’s contestants? I was one of those who were bored to tears for the first few weeks…but I must admit I say that every year. “Everyone complains each year that the cast isn’t as good as previous seasons”, says Mike. “It always takes a month or so for things to heat up. When you put fourteen people in a house some are going to be duds and until they are tossed out, there isn’t much reason for conflict. I would say that from a ‘game’ aspect”, this year is one of the better ones. If you are looking for beefcake, it’s all gone. ‘Showmances’ are over as well.” There has, however, been lots of crying from Amber, a Las Vegas “cocktail waitress”. Constant crying. Seriously, it never stops.
I must admit I agree with Mike. After an extremely slow start hampered by a silly twist that saw “enemies” of three of the contestants surprise the original eleven, the show has slowly built up momentum. Even the CBS broadcasts have relied less on the silly cheese; there’s actually not enough time in the week to show the tense bickering generally started by “Evil” Dick.
One other “twist” has been a constant source of derision from hardcore fans. One contestant, Eric, has been dubbed “America’s Player”, and after each episode viewers are to choose something he must perform before the next episode. Sometimes they’re silly stunts such as secretly messing up one of Jen’s shirts with mustard, but each week viewers also decide not only who he needs to push for nomination but his actual elimination vote. “I find the America’s Player thing a farce”, says Mike. “If anything it is setting Eric up for a downfall later on if he has to vote out one of his allies”. At press time, this has yet to occur, but his votes and the mustard incident almost led to his eviction on August 9.
In fact, houseguest chatter regarding Eric’s close call seems to prove a long-believed allegation about production interference. “Do the producers try to influence the outcome? Every year fans hear things on the live feeds that imply the production staff try to influence the mood in the house. The house guests quickly become aware that certain questions are being asked that in order to make the house guests feel a certain way. When Eric was up against Kail, both Jen and Amber reported to other house guests that they felt 'the diary room' (production staff) wanted them to vote to save Eric without saying it directly”
Big Brother is not the only show plagued by these rumors. “From what I have read over the years, this is a common occurrence in these types of shows. Survivor, The Bachelor, Joe Millionaire, any show where the participants vote others out is susceptible to influence by those producing the show in order to make a more entertaining program.” For those looking to apply for next year’s season, Mike has a number of suggestions for those who make the cut. “Just know that your every skeleton will be dug up. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, as people actually keep track of that. Watch every season of the show, but don’t let on that you have.
“Try not to sound too smart, as smart people become targets. At the same time don’t appear too dumb because dumb people are excluded. Never trust anyone 100% and don’t forget that a close ally one week may be a bitter enemy week two.
“Also learn to stay up late. If you are the first in bed you will miss out on potential strategy talk late at night. Mike was always in bed early this season. You remember Mike? He went home week three.”
A day after the initial e-mail interview, Mike sends me one more major suggestion. “Never forget that everything you say in the house may be being broadcast. Amber is going (if she hasn’t already) to walk out of that house being called a ‘Jew hater’ after (an incident August 8). What a dumbass.”


Anonymous said…
Great posts! Even if I do say so myself ;)

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