HOLLYWOOD—I have been a massive fan, and I don’t utilize the word ‘superfan’ because I don’t like when it comes to the CBS reality competition series “Big Brother.” I have been watching religiously since its premiere in 2000. Some seasons I watched in its entirety, others not so much. I’m looking at you BB4, BB9, BB12, BB15, BB16 to name a few. When it comes to TV, I want to be entertained, and when things are not entertaining, you start to lose your audience. The past few seasons of the reality series has raised a big question I want to address: is “Big Brother” broken? If so how can we fix it? I don’t think it is broken, but there are indeed issues that need to be fixed.
This is in direct correlation to the current season, its 23rd to be exact people, where many predict another steamroll courtesy of The Cookout alliance. Look, before you start, I am a fan of the Cookout alliance, and as an African-American male, I’ve been wanting a winner who looks like me for years, but I don’t fully agree with the approach that the alliance is taking to make that happen. I could write a thesis on this alliance and there decision making to stay a united front even if it goes against their individual games. That is a column for another time and trust me I will address it.
However, this column is about the problems with “Big Brother” in the present people. For starters, I used to ALWAYS be a fan of twists in this game, but the older I got, the more I analyzed the series and looked at previous seasons I’ve come to a conclusion: twists hurt the gameplay more than anything. I have to agree with Taran Armstrong who is a podcaster at Rob Has A Podcast and is fantastic keeping up with the live feeds on a daily basis. Trust me I have NO IDEA how Taran does it without missing a beat, but twists stifle gameplay to a large disadvantage for the underdogs and always helps the majority alliance.
I mean look at the current High Rollers Competition. It is benefiting the Cookout and now two weeks in a row America’s favorite players in Britini and Derek X are about to go home because they can compete in a competition that was supposed to shakeup the game. Looks like another flop of a twist if you ask me. Just like last season, they had that twist that started right after jury that wasn’t terrible; at least the players got to earn their powers, versus an America’s vote.
The problem with America voting is you have two types of fans: casuals and the fans who watch the live feeds and understand exactly what is going on in the house, with the edited version that the producers want to depict on the TV screen. Hell if it wasn’t for all the uproar online, casuals would have NEVER known the ugliness of BB15, BB19 and BB21. The producers need to understand this is a social experiment and trying to hide things from the TV viewers will never work, we see what you’re doing.
Here is the thing about implementing any twist in a reality competition: it needs to give everyone competing equal chances of victory. I thought the Safety Suite comp in BB22 was great because it allowed people to compete at their will if they thought they were in danger for safety. This year, the Wildcard Competition forced people to compete when perhaps they didn’t need to or want to compete and I don’t love that at all. Other twists from BB past that have flopped: America’s Player (screwed Eric Stein from BB8 royally), handing Jeff the Coup d’tat in BB11, the Saboteur in BB 12 (went out week 1 people), Pandora’s Box and the Safety Key in BB13, the coaches twist, the second POV and reset button in BB14, the MVP twist of BB15, the absolutely worst twist ever in BB16 and BB17 with the Battle of the Block competition, the care packages for BB18, The Den of Temptation Tree in BB19, the BB App Store and Hacker Twist of BB 20, the Whacktivity, Camp Comeback and BB Field Trip twist of BB 21.
Are you seeing a trend people? None of the twists actually helped gameplay, it stifled it. Had it not been for the hacker twist, Foutte would have been victorious in finally overthrowing Level 6 in BB20. Camp Comeback hurt the chance of players making a big move out of fear a player would come back into the game, America’s player prevented Eric from making moves that benefited his game versus what America wanted, and that Temptation Tree was the biggest flop because people were so scared of Paul it made no sense whatsoever and they didn’t even try to go for it.
You want to know what works? No twists, just take a look at BB10. One of the greatest seasons ever and besides that Week 4 twist where Dan was America’s player that season was freaking fantastic because the producers just allowed the players to play the game without interference, or worrying about some unknown variable in hopes of having content for each episode.
You have to consider casting interesting people. That is one of my biggest gripes about modern BB, they cast contestants too young. Not 75 percent of the people in the house need to be in their 20s. Cast people in their 30s, 40s, 50, 60s, jeez, just look at Jerry from BB10, he was in his 70s and till this day is an iconic character and competed just as well if not better than some people in their 20s. Age is just a number. The diversity in aging has been a major problem in my opinion since BB10. When you ONLY cast 1 person who is the oldest person in the house, it immediately makes them a target people. Jodi BB14, Donny BB16, Glen BB18, Steve BB20, I can name a lot more, but you get my point.
When you diversify the age group you open the door for more fun pairings, like not all the twentysomethings aligning against the 1 or 2 people outside that bracket, you get more personality clashes, young vs those with some life experience and maturity. Forty is not old and that needs to be a massive adjustment in future seasons if BB is to continue airing. Another issue is the cast size.
There is no need to have a cast of 16 people. There is no need to have a jury of 9 people. I wish BB would go back to the jury of 7 because the first person of a 9-person jury has been out of the game for close to 6 weeks in most seasons, is that a good thing? No, they barely know what is taking place in the house, yet they’re about to cast a vote to crown a winner $500k, well they finally upped it to $750k this season, it should be a $1 million if I’m being honest to be locked in a house for close to 3 months. Cast in older seasons were 13 to 14 people which is great because the first 4-5 boots are prejury and you get right into the meat of the season, and there were very minimal twists in earlier seasons. It would expedite the pacing of the series and almost to a degree prevent the massive alliance from forming right away.
Other issues we need to discuss are competitions like the Head of Household and Power of Veto. People forget in BB3 the POV could NOT be used on yourself until the final 5 when the Golden POV was introduced. Before that if you won the POV you could only use it on 1 of the 2 nominees. I’m glad that change was made, but I hate the random draw of the POV. This changed in BB7 because before that the nominees and HOH could pick who they wanted to compete in the POV. The problem is this opens the door for the backdoor method where someone who is not HOH, who has not been picked for the POV could be booted because they couldn’t compete.
I know people are going to say you have to have social capital and if you do you don’t have to worry about that. Here’s the problem with that theory people, if a massive alliance already has a grip on the game, no matter how social you are, if you’re not in the majority alliance you’re already in trouble and barely have a fighting chance. There are ways to improve the POV, open things up for at least 7 to 8 players to compete and perhaps if you truly want to get America involved, let America vote on the person who they want to compete in the competition each week, until we’ve reached our final 7 or 8 where everyone can compete. You want to deliver a twist, the same person cannot be voted each week.
Let’s talk about competitions and the predictability. Fans know what to expect and that is a major issue. They should NOT know when a endurance, a puzzle, a knockout, a quiz or when certain competitions (the wall, a crapshoot, the slip n slide, OTEV, spinning disks, the black box, hold or fold, etc). When people know what is coming it makes things predictable and you can determine who is likely to be victorious as a result.
There should be a fair balance of physical and mental comps. It provides all with an equal shot, and we definitely need more mental comps. So far this season we’ve only seen 1 quiz. One quiz people, and we’re about to enter week 8 (fingers crossed we get a quiz, but I expect some hooky crapshoot or puzzle). In addition, endurance comps absolutely have to be shook up. The pressure cooker was a fave in BB6 cause everyone had an equal shot, the same with the spider-web from BB7, I loved the disc-holding stop sign in BB19, more comps like that need to be done. Hell you can have people keep a foot on a button. Last person with their foot on the button wins. There are so many ways to make the competitions more fair and balance and its time to see that transpire.
The biggest thing I want to chat about is the double eviction and triple eviction. BB22 gave us our first triple eviction which was terrible. Why? The major alliance was about to turn on itself and it led to no drama or fireworks because the primary target was booted in fashion that was just boring. Also they recycled the freaking veto comp, which was simply a puzzle in reverse! Get rid of that triple period, don’t ever do it again and in regards to the double why are we waiting so late to do them all of a sudden. Now it seems we’re waiting till the final 7 at best. That is way too far in the game. Think about it, name a double eviction where you were actually excited for the result? I can name 2: BB6 when Janelle won HOH after Kaysar was evicted and BB13 when Kalia booted Jeff after he finally got Daniele evicted.
Honorable mentions go to BB14 when Frank was nearly evicted and when Ian won that POV unaware that he was a target. The BB15 second double was great when Amanda was evicted and Andy convinced McCrae to nominate Alyssa who was actually loyal to him. Beyond that, all others have been iffy, especially the last few seasons. If you want to throw the houseguests off their feet do a double right before jury, so the first person evicted is pre-jury and the next person evicted is actually the first juror. Or do a double right at the start of jury, take a week off and then deliver ANOTHER double which I doubt any of the houseguests would expect. The producers have to change the predictability element because it makes entertaining TV and forces the houseguests to actually expect the unexpected.
I’ve talked a lot and can keep griping, but changes need to be made the question is rather producers keep the series fresh and entertaining for audiences to keep watching for years to come or recycle the same thing until fans finally give up.