Cliques will compete for immunity; challenge losers punished; viewers vote for food restriction

The Big Brother 11 clique twist was revealed yesterday, but more details are emerging, ones that make the show seem very, very familiar.

In a telephone interview with We Love Big Brother, executive producer Allison Grodner discusses this season’s clique twist, but also talks about how that will affect the game play, which now resembles another CBS show a bit more than it did before.

Grodner said, “This is still, I want to stress, an individual game. But what we’ve created is a system in which you want vie to be in the in crowd. If your clique is the in crowd for the week, by winning Head of Household … then it ensures your safety for the week, because you cannot nominate a member of your own clique. But, ultimately, when you vote, you’re voting as an individual, so if it’s a member of your own clique and you haven’t clicked, so to speak, you can still kick them out. What this is does is it creates a powerful, in-crowd group that switches off week to week, with the power of Head of Household, but it is still, I want to ensure people, an individual game.”

So just to get this straight: They’ve created a system in which groups of people compete in challenges, and the winning group gets immunity. That does sound brand-new and inventive! (For the record, I’m optimistic about how this will play out, but it’s sort of ridiculous to pretend this isn’t just borrowed directly from Survivor.)

She also said that houseguests will compete in challenges where one group is rewarded and one group is punished, which seems to borrow directly from the Netherlands’ version. “This season we’re going to be revealing to the houseguests, instead of your traditional food competition, we have a ‘have and have not’ competition. There will be a group that if they lose this competition, they will be subject to the worst living conditions that we’ve probably had in Big Brother, and that will include living in this horrible, sparse, just cold cold room, and having to take cold showers, and be subject to that week’s food restriction. … This is like living on a block of ice in the middle of a room under bright lights that never turn off,” she said.

That bedroom, with its steel bed, is visible in Julie Chen’s video tour of the house–a tour that reminds us why we love her, like when she says the plants in the living room are eco-friendly because they are plastic. (Um, what? Something that had to be manufactured and doesn’t contribute to the environment is eco-friendly?)

Speaking of the punishment part of the reward challenge, which is definitely more Big Brother than Survivor, Grodner said that food won’t just be restricted to slop this year. “We are sort of sick of slop ourselves, and I’m sure the viewers are like, okay, we’ve seen enough slop, what else can we do? So we’re going to throw it to viewers this season. Starting the second week, we are going to put it to a vote for the viewers to decide what the food restriction is,” she said, suggesting those items could be “sardines or lollipops or chocolate.”

Finally, Grodner said that the mystery 13th houseguest won’t be revealed until the premiere next Thursday night, not July 7 like CBS.com says, and when asked about the “recycled” houseguest theory, she said, “I didn’t even think about that; that’s very funny,” and would only say that “it’s a really fun twist.”

Allison Grodner Reveals Big Brother 11 Twist Details [YouTube]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.