Along with the Big Brother MVP, Candice, and Judd, I’m out

Big Brother aired its annual fast-forward episode last night, losing two players to its newly expanded jury. (How convenient that Julie Chen will no longer be able to talk to evicted houseguests about anything of consequence.) While Candice’s exit was no surprise, Judd’s eviction was a shocking blindside, I guess, but I was too busy banging my head against the wall after Aaryn won HOH again to notice or care.

Judd’s exit is also due to the paranoia generated after producers changed the MVP twist without telling the house, which is either genius or frustrating, depending upon how much you like Judd. There’s speculation, based on what Julie Chen said, that one of them may return to the house. That won’t change much.

For BuzzFeed, I wrote a mid-season update that illustrates just how gross this season is. For example, while there are many complicated alliances and factors that contributed to how the game played out over the past two weeks, so there is not a direct correlation here, it is still very disturbing that the two cast members responsible for the most racist statements, Aaryn and GinaMarie, are the ones who were in power when the only two black people, Howard and Candice, were voted out.

I talked to both Hamsterwatch, who tirelessly chronicles what’s happening inside the house, and Jun Song, a Big Brother winner and fan who publicly gave up this season and, in a scathing open letter to Julie Chen, asked, “Have ratings trumped human damage?”

I don’t know how it’s possible any more to answer anything other than yes. I didn’t watch the last two weeks worth of episodes, catching up only to write the piece, and there wasn’t anything to enjoy. More significantly, especially as Spencer’s “joke” made headlines, I’m rather compelled by Jun’s argument about “noise adding to the ratings.” (Tangent: During our conversation, I learned about Jun’s piece about the awful things she said at one point during her season; it’s a must-read.)

I’m torn between envying and being frustrated with those who still just see Big Brother as a light, fluffy, dumb, entertaining show. Yes, it could be, and has been–season six for me was near-perfect, even if things didn’t unfold the way I’d want them to. Now, though, it’s like someone spilled rat poison in brownie mix, and I just do not understand how some people are like, “Oh, just eat the brownies. They’re bad for you anyway!”

That said, I also believe deeply in holding the powerful (in this case, CBS) accountable and also in the value of exposing things to light that might otherwise be kept in the dark. Perhaps there will be something worth of that again this season, but I sincerely hope not.

What’s most clear to me is that the network has taken a potentially exceptional format and systematically destroyed it, in part from neglect and laziness. But CBS also cynically takes advantage of the publicity that comes from the shit that happens and then pretending it does not have a role in encouraging those things to happen, from casting to the lack of consequences for some really horrific behavior.

Like so many TV networks, they cater to the lowest common denominator, and in the process miss opportunity after opportunity to produce better, smarter, more entertaining television.

Perhaps CBS’ new reality TV executive will undo some of the damage. Perhaps not. What’s perfectly clear is that Big Brother won’t change this season, and for that reason, I’m checking out.

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.