Big Brother producers handicap two teams but insist “integrity and fairness” are important

Is it possible to hate Big Brother contestants one second after they appear on TV for the first time? “I’m Natalie, and I love bikinis, coffee, and God.” “I’m Jacob, and only the righteous will prevail.” “I’m Chelsia, but you can call me trouble.” I almost hurled my laptop into my TV.

But hating is part of the dysfunctional fun of this ridiculous series. And so is hating on the producers for being manipulative, and they really ramped up their manipulation in the first few moments alone. Besides the couple’s twist, Julie Chen revealed that there were other “twists,” although she didn’t mention that they were just things the show has already done in the past. Our host explained that houseguests Sharon “and her ex [Jacob] have no idea that they’re about to be reunited in the Big Brother house,” and also said that Jen and Ryan, who bloggers already figured out were a couple, are playing “as a team to try to get to the half-million dollar grand prize” without telling anyone else.

Seriously? We’re back to these same patently unfair casting decisions? What kind of competition is it when two people have an advantage and two others are crippled while everyone else is left alone? Allison Grodner, the show’s executive producer, told Entertainment Weekly yesterday, “The integrity and fairness of the game is so important, and obviously we want to entertain as well. So it’s a lot we’re juggling. … It really is important for us that the integrity of the game stays as intact as it possibly can and that we can create an entertaining and fair show.”

I’d say she’s lying except both of those statements clearly hedge: the first emphasizes entertainment as a priority, and the second says they want the game to be as fair “as it possibly can” be. On no planet is it fair to handicap two contestants and give two others an advantage–and that ignores the whole inherent unfairness of the couples twist. In addition, the producers also decided which two couples wouldn’t have bedrooms and would instead sleep in sleeping bags.

Of course, all of this made for a fun first episode, particularly when there was instant conflict, like when Adam instantly began calling his “cougar” soulmate Sheila “ma” after she banged her head against a sofa because she was so irritated with her match, a blonde, short smoker. The producers also forced the two exes, Jacob and Sharon, to be a couple, while Jen and Ryan were paired with other people, which of course maximized the drama. That became evident during the first challenge, which gave the new couples the opportunity to mount each other while suspended in the air and resulted in a “power couple” who will choose one other couple to evict tonight.

That all made for an entertaining first hour, and will probably continue to deliver for however long this season lasts. But let’s not delude ourselves and pretend that the game is in any way a fair competition.

‘Big Brother’ Exec Hears Your Ideas [Entertainment Weekly]