Let’s Fix Big Brother

September 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment


Regular readers know of my love for CBS’ Big Brother, a reality series airing every summer (and one ill-fated spring season) in which twelve “houseguests” are forced to live together in a house wired with something like eleventy billion little cameras. They have no contact with the outside world, no TV, no newspaper, no internet. Just each other, the cameras, their wireless microphones, and a game in which one of them will win $500,000.

Watching season 11 (airing this summer), it occurred to me that I’ve been watching this show for close to ten years. Yikes. I skipped the first season, when the viewers at home actually voted on their picks to leave the house each week; by season two, that power was exclusively in the hands of the guests themselves, making it a more Survivor-esque competition against warring personalities, brain powers, and athletic abilities.

Since then, I have loved the show—I love that I have a tasty mindless treat to look forward to every summer, when all my other favorite shows are usually on repeats. I love the compressed editing schedule that gives the producers as little time as possible to take reality and manufacture it into “reality,” although they still manage to manufacture plenty. I love that it’s almost completely about the game; there’s no exotic foreign locale, no race-to-the-finish around the globe, no dumb job to occupy the hours not spent drinking and fucking. For shitty TV, it’s remarkably pure.

I think it needs some work, though, as it faces its 12th season next summer, and growing competition from other reality competition shows. I doubt CBS or the show’s production company will be interested in making any changes whatsoever since it does just good enough in the ratings as it is, and is insanely cheap to produce, but here’s a few ideas.

Casting, casting, casting. I don’t know if people realize the extent to which picking the right contestants for your average reality show is critical to each show’s success. Big Brother has occasionally had brilliant casting, but this past season has skewed toward the typical young & pretty reality show crowd. Salty old folks like last season’s Jerry and Renny add a nice flavor to the mix; they also play the game differently than young people do in many ways. You’ve also got to find a good mix of BB die-hards who have memorized all the moves and newbies who are less experienced with the show but will make for good TV. The key is diversity.

Give us a real twist. I honestly cannot remember the last time the game gave us a real honest-to-goodness surprise. They’ve simply recycled old ideas (the coup d’etat) or come up with clunker opening “twists” (the cliques). Okay, I lied: Putting Jesse back in the house was a solid twist; too bad he’s a nigh-unwatchable asshole. I don’t know what this is but they need to come up with something truly surprising to kick things off next season.

Show us the jury house. Inevitably every season, events reach a point where the most interesting people are voted out, and/or the numbers dwindle to such a degree that basically nothing’s happening. Meanwhile, all the interesting/shocking/annoying people who have been voted out already are sitting in a jury house someplace, basically not being filmed much at all and chillaxing. I think a fantastic twist would be some kind of parallel competition in the jury house where the winner gets to re-enter the house. At the very least, tape more footage there and give us more glimpses; by the final weeks of the show, you could fill one full hour of the 3-hour episodes with just jury house stuff, depending on how incendiary the cast members are.

Hire me as executive producer. I will do good. I promise this.


Entry filed under: Reality, TV. Tags: , , .

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