Last week, I was in the North Sea aboard the Steve Irwin, covering Whale Wars spin-off for Playboy, somewhat worried about being imprisoned and/or dying. That meant I missed three episodes of Big Brother, among other TV shows, and coming back to those was quite the contrast.
After five days away, I lost all interest in the show. That was in part because the post-ship land sickness (I’ve self-diagnosed myself with this syndrome) has been making it difficult for me to actually watch TV for a few days. But literally, it dropped away, even with the big, pre-spoiled twist. However, I had too much invested to just drop out now–I’m not the kind of person who walks out in the middle of a movie–so I just watched all four hours in a row.
That’s left me with some observations about this season and the show in general:
- The point of watching is that you’ve already watched a lot. A significant part of the motivation of watching the show is the investment I’ve already put into it. (I have no idea what motivates people who watch the live feeds; they’re stronger people than I am.) Usually at the end of the season, I can’t believe I’ve wasted more than two months on this nonsense and purge it from my brain, which allows me to approach it with fresh enthusiasm the next summer. But stopping mid-season is much more of a shock to the system.
Watching Big Brother is like riding a kiddie roller coaster and losing your memory every time it pulls into the station so you think there’s brand-new track ahead: it’s mildly exciting at some points and you keep thinking it’ll get better, but really nothing changes and it’s not that exciting to begin with. If you do regain your memory mid-ride, it makes it difficult to keep going around and around and around. That’s because:
On top of that, we get the same challenges, the same musical cues, the same structure for every episode, and it just drags and drags and drags. Some familiar elements make sense–“the tribe has spoken” and so on–but the challenge of editing the show in near-real time has given us an increasingly familiar show.
In four hours, very little happened, although it had the potential to be very interesting: Rachel sobbed, Lawon nominated himself and got voted out, Brendon returned, the underdogs prevailed and Daniele became HOH only to play nice and nominate the least-controversial people, Daniele back-doored Brendon when the opportunity presented itself. I would have liked to have seen more depth to all of this rather than, say, footage of Shelly pacing around in solitary.
When I interviewed executive producer Allison Grodner a few weeks ago, she repeatedly mentioned “story,” and noted that the pre-existing relationships from the duos “gave us a lot of story, and that has been what’s driving this particular season.” In other words, that’s what they’ve primarily chosen to focus on.
So, it’s no surprise Brendon got voted back in, even though many of us can’t stand him or his relationship with Rachel. First, the 2 million votes that were cast aren’t that significant: that’s 200,000 people voting 10 times each (assuming people didn’t cheat and log in under multiple identities). Brendon got 1 million votes, which is just 100,000 people voting. Although the fact that he got 50 percent of the vote seems impressive, he got far more than half the screentime this season, and the others never had a chance. The producers might not fix the game directly, but they exercise tremendous power with what they choose to focus on.