Big Brother erases a human being from a scene

Big Brother‘s editing has been better than in past seasons this year, according to those who watch both the live feeds and the broadcast episodes, but Sunday’s episode did something shocking and new: it erased a person.

Last Wednesday, Aaryn accidentally drank nail polish remover, confusing it for water. She spit most of it out and apparently did not require medical attention, though her fellow players were concerned.

hello, those cagey editors deleted Helen from the polish remo... on Twitpic That scene was included in last night’s episode, but as this comparison image from Hamsterwatch shows, Helen was missing.

Thanks to the rigid template the series follows, live episodes only include post-veto meeting footage in one or two segments. So, it makes sense that the show would want to include an entertaining or informative scene in a future episode. The problem, of course, is that Helen was evicted on Thursday’s live show, and thus it would seem odd if she was suddenly back in the house–though I think even the dumbest Big Brother viewer would probably get it, especially if there was an accompanying message such as “three days earlier.” But I digress.

In the past, the show has included scenes filmed before an elimination even though it’s broadcast after someone has been eliminated, but usually that person is just in the background or not at all present. And of course, reality television producers and editors cobble together footage out of order all the time, and that can be done in a way that maintains the show’s integrity, or it can unethically change reality.

For an inconsequential scene like drinking nail polish, there’s nothing wrong with including a scene that was filmed earlier than something that was already broadcast. This time, though, the editors just erased Helen out of the frame, so that it looks like she was never even there.

That’s a serious breach of trust even for such an inconsequential scene.

Two years ago, Fox’s Masterchef faked a crowd shot by copying and pasting people to make the crowd seem more robust than it actually was. That was a betrayal of viewers’ trust, and so is removing a person. The absurd part is that Helen’s presence in the scene didn’t matter; it’s just something that happened before she left. It’s filler, so why manipulate reality?

The fact that the show’s editors are talented enough to erase all traces of a person from footage in the short amount of time they have to turn around an episode is technically impressive (though one Redditor suggests it is a “quite simple” edit). But it also means the show can–and is willing to–manipulate reality far more than one would reasonably expect.

That the producers are willing to do that would erase the show’s credibility if it had any.

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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.