Monday, September 1, 2014

CBS Big Brother - Expect the Boring and Predictable

Once upon a time there was a reality TV show where strangers gathered in a house, shut off from the outside world, to compete for $500,000. That was CBS' Big Brother, the network's annual summer romp of lying, backstabbing, sunning, flirting, and strategizing for cold hard cash.  Recently, however, the show has become more about becoming a launching pad for a career (Brenchel, Jeff and Jordan, Will and Boogie) or about bringing in fans of houseguest's family members (Russell Hantz, Rachel Reilly, Ariana Grande) to boost ratings. Stunt casting as become the new normal.

This year CBS' Big Brother completely handed over the show to one houseguest - self-proclaimed social media mogul and Ariana Grande's half-sibling Frankie J. Grande. The show was immediately rewarded with higher ratings, media buzz and relevance.  Frankie was chosen to be part of Team America, carrying out the wishes of the viewers.  Frankie was entertaining and over-the-top and did his best to help make Big Brother 16 exciting.  

It only took a few weeks, however, for fans to tire of Frankie and lose interest in him as the star of the show.  Instead, social media went crazy for cute, unpredictable recent college grad Zach Rance and sweet, bearded groundskeeper Donny Thompson.  Much to the surprise of casting, no one liked Frankie nor did they hate him enough to raise him to Evel Dick status.  We were bored with him. 

In the house, the feelings of the viewers were echoed.  They grew suspicious and sick of Frankie and plotted to get him out of the house.  So how did CBS respond to the potential loss of who they picked to be the star of the show?   At every opportunity to evict Frankie, an obstacle was put in the way. Instead of throwing the BoB competition, Caleb "decided" just to sit it out.  Frankie saved himself with his BoB win then decided to release his secret weapon that would guarantee his longevity in the house: announcing to his fellow houseguests just how special and important he was.  He told them about his "social media mogul" status, his 1.5 million followers/subscribers, and finally that his sister was the one, the only, Ariana Grande.

All the houseguests suddenly "decided" that the could not get rid of Frankie.  Ever.  They couldn't say a bad word about Frankie.  Ever.  They were being watched 24/7 by the Ariana Grande Army who would strike down upon them with great vengeance and furious anger if they touched a hair on Frankie's pin-sized, peacock plumed head.  So, instead, the enemy of his enemy became their friend.  Zach now was the biggest threat and had to be evicted solely because it was what Frankie - who they tried to evict just the week before - wanted. It doesn't take a great imagination to replay the diary room conversations that convinced the houseguests that Frankie should not be touched.

Today was the latest and most blatant example of CBS having a hand in keeping their star on the show through diary room manipulations.  Last night, Caleb, Derrick and Cody decided once and for all that Frankie was the biggest threat, bigger than Nicole, and he had to be the next one evicted if their final three fantasizes were to become a reality.  They discussed this ad nauseum until each was equally convinced.  Then this morning, everything changed.

Instead of renominating Frankie and back-dooring him this week, as he planned all night, Caleb had an epiphany.  Right after leaving the diary room, Caleb "decided" not to get rid of the biggest threat to win HOH.  The only person  who poses a real challenge to the final three that Caleb wants (Cody, Derrick, Caleb) is staying another week.  Nicole, who poses less of a threat and would not target them, will be evicted instead.  Caleb put Victoria on the block next to her at the POV ceremony, thereby keeping Ariana Grande's brother safe, in the house, and on our televisions for weeks to come.  

What a shocker, right?  Not so much.  Remember when Big Brother was a reality TV show and not scripted to within an inch of its life?  Me neither. 

These days the producers of Big Brothers leave very little to chance.  They limit what the houseguest hear and see, what they let the houseguests know is as important as what they don't tell them.  Who host Julie Chen talks to, and who she ignores.  What family members are interviewed, what stories are told.  All of this takes a reality show and turns it into a comedy/drama that they meticulously produce for whatever storyline they want to sell the viewers.  This is why live feed viewers, who have mostly unlimited access, often have quite different opinions of the houseguests from viewers who only see the precisely edited version. 

But what other bullets the producers keep in their chamber is their ability to influence the houseguests during their private diary room sessions.  These are not viewable by the live feeders and only selected parts are aired on the televised show.  Anything can be discussed there, we would have no way of knowing.  Do the producers come right out and tell houseguests what to do, probably not.  But do they influence their decisions by the questions they ask, their tone of voice, the questions they don't ask - of course they do. 

How would that have worked this week?  Maybe a simple question to wannabe Country singer Caleb Reynolds about how Ariana Grande might feel about whoever back-doored her brother.  Maybe a question about what kind of relationship he'd have with Frankie out of the house if he were the one responsible for voting him out?  Perhaps a question about Frankie's social media fans and their reaction?

The fact is since not every conversation with the houseguests is broadcast and since they are repeatedly told "you are not allowed to talk about production" we will never know.  We can only deduce from circumstantial evidence.  Caleb goes into the diary room hellbent on kicking out Frankie, he walks out planning to save him. 

This was the season that was supposed to be the most twisted ever, ramping the "expect the unexpected" concept to new heights. Instead, it is dragging along to a pitifully boring end where the producers will do everything in their power to manipulate the action, keep their star on the show and have the story end the way they want it to.  This is not what we signed up back in 2000 when we started watching what promised to be a unique reality TV show/social experiment.  Which begs the question, since it's already off the rails, is it time for us to jump off the Big Brother train?  Or can this show ever get back on track?


  1. Yeah, I'm pretty much done with this season.

  2. Or, instead of getting all paranoid and conspiracy theorist, you can just take a look at the fact that Caleb is the most loyal of all the house guests. It's what he built his entire game on. Perhaps he realized that if he betrays Frankie, the others might think that "Caleb betrayed Frankie, he will betray me next." Or that he won't be able to play that card to the Jury when the time comes. Hard to say how loyal you were and make it a selling point when you got at least one of the members of the jury out by betrayal.
    Basically, Caleb did what Caleb has been doing all season. Playing it safe. Nicole/Victoria is not a member of his alliance at all. No back stabbing, no anything. It's very boring to us that he took the safe route, but it might be best for his game. Frankie will not try to get Caleb out for sure. This move was only to benefit Cody and Derrick's game. Maybe Caleb realized that.
    I think with the popularity of Frankie at an all time low, CBS might not be as anxious to have him in the house as you would think. Amanda was a great person to hate last year and the best part about hating her was watching her get taken out.

    1. I might agree with you had Caleb not admitted today he was worried about being hated by Frankie's "millions" of fans (and possibly wasn't also thinking about getting Ariana's help with his recording career). Plus, his loyalty is with Cody and Derrick.

  3. Excellent blog!!!! I've been a die hard live feeder since S1 & BB addicted, however, it does appear that the latter seasons are very predictable which makes for a snoozefest.

  4. I totally understand. But theres a lot of money on the line for CBS. So they need ratings, or the show is cancelled. What's the point of great television if nobody is watching it, and it's gets cancelled?

  5. WHAT A BORING SHOW THIS YEAR. They all listen to Derek he doesn't want to
    get his hands dirty so he sits in the back telling all what to do. And the dummmmies
    listen to him, no one can think for themselves.