Why ABC’s new summer live feed series Glass House already seems better than Big Brother

Anyone who watches Big Brother knows that the show is in a rut. Heck, its dumb contestants even know exactly what challenge or twist is happening because they know what day it is. It’s frustrating that CBS and the show’s producers have refused to evolve the game beyond a few lame twists and redecoration of the show’s house.

But there’s hope, thanks to ABC, which is copying Big Brother and turning it into The Glass House, which will follow 14 contestants living in a house and competing for $250,000. The show won’t start taping until the end of May, and it won’t debut until June 18, but on paper, it already seems better than the CBS series it is knocking off. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Interaction between players and viewers. ABC says viewers will “vote to decide everything from what players wear and eat to the games they play, even where they sleep.” That sounds dangerously close to the lame-ass voting Big Brother offers. But here’s the awesome part: “Viewers will also have the chance to give their favorite contestants feedback on their game from outside the house.” ABC notes that “how the contestants use that information is up to them, because in the end it’s about who plays the best social game. The most important alliance players can have is with their fans!”

    It’s not clear how this exchange will happen, but the house is “totally wired,” so I hope the contestants will have live, uncensored access to social media–not just filtered, curated, censored comments from a few fans who producers think are cute. Just imagine: actual, real-time interaction with reality TV contestants as they play the game. That would be awesome. ABC, don’t let us down!

  2. The live feeds aren’t 24/7. I’m sure some people will find this to be a major weakness, but the feeds apparently won’t be broadcast all the time, meaning it’ll be possible to have a life and watch the series. ABC says that “several times a week, viewers can watch a live online feed of the players.” I am glad we can have engagement without having to be devoted to staring at morons all day in the hopes that they do something interesting–which, for the last few seasons at least, has not happened with the hamsters.
  3. Viewer votes affect eliminations. Viewer “votes [will be] helping to determine which contestants are sent home and also which eliminated players will earn the chance to return to The Glass House to compete each week.” There’s some hedging there–“helping”–that suggests viewers won’t have full control, perhaps to prevent another season one of BB. I’m anxious to learn more about how voting will work.
  4. High definition. The show will be broadcast in HD; Big Brother never has been and may never be. (Here’s why Big Brother is not in HD.)
  5. It’s produced by a former Big Brother producer. Executive producer Kenny Rosen’s production credits include The Joe Schmo Show (which was brilliant) and Big Brother (up until season eight, apparently), so hopefully he knows what’s broken about the show he worked on.

Let’s hope all this comes together with strong casting to make for a really engaging summer series.

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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.