CBS today announced all kinds of things about Big Brother’s broadcast this summer, but there’s not much that’s actually new, except live feeds are moving to CBS-owned properties and Canadians are getting screwed.
Canadians, who watch the CBS version of the show on Global, and others who don’t live in the United States are getting shut out of the new CBS.com live feeds. The live feeds FAQ says they “may be accessed in only the United States including Hawaii, Alaska and the Virgin Islands.”
This is, of course, a blessing in disguise: those people now have their summers back. And those who want to watch will probably find a way. Already, there are instructions to circumvent the restrictions.
The press release notes that full episodes will be on CBS’ iOS app, and the After Dark broadcast will be on TVGN. The live feed features it mentions—“subscriber-only web chat, four different live feeds, multiple camera angles, quad-camera view, and live stream playback - along with new features like live feed highlights, offering bookmarks of key moments in the house; the ability to rewind within live playback; House Guest status updates; and more”—aren’t really new or exciting.
However, in the press release, CBS Interactive SVP Rob Gelick promises they are “bringing the show’s die-hard fans even more opportunities to impact components of the show and interact with this season’s houseguests.” But he also says, “Fans will have the most immersive, 360-degree Big Brother experience ever, across every possible screen, including social media integrations, the Live Feeds on CBS.com, and full episodes on the CBS App.”
Will this just be another wasted opportunity, as that last sentence suggests, if the show stays in the same rut it’s been in for years and just distributes its footage in pretty much the same ways that it always has? Or will the producers do something new and, say, borrow heavily from cancelled ABC seriesGlass House so viewers can have some actual interactivity with viewers beyond picking which stupid food combination is used as a stupid punishment?
American Idol 8 semi-finalist Nathaniel Marshall has found a new use for his talent: gay porn. Perhaps ironically, he was eliminated from the competition during the semi-final round after singing “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf.
“I have always been a very sexual human being. It wasn’t until after the Idol experience that I really grew into the person I am today. I was only 19 and fresh out of high school on Idol, and from a small town. Since the show, I’ve moved around a lot and have had a lot of social growth. So, I did porn because I’ve always wanted to, and why not?! I live my life for one person and one person only, and that’s myself. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with your life and do what makes you happy.”
He said that he’s still singing, though he prefers smaller venues, and adds that, “When I was on the show I gained over 45 lbs just from stress-eating and not working out. I’m happy with my appearance now and embrace my not so perfect physique.”
Two competitions kicked off last night, a brand-new competition and a reboot of an old favorite. Here are my quick responses to both episodes:
Animal Planet’s competition Top Hooker started strong: it was a great first episode. While I’m sure fishing purists—including the ones on the show—were frustrated by the lack of actual fishing until the final challenge, the challenges the producers created were strong and interesting. It’s also well-cast, with a pretty diverse array of characters. I was distracted that the editors used music previously used by SyFy’s Face Off, and literally starting the episode with someone saying “I’m not here to make to make friends” almost lost me, but I’m in to see where this goes.
Meanwhile, Food Network Star debuted its new format, and alas, it made the show a lot less interesting than last season. The mentors worked with the contestants, but as a group, and also joined in judging decisions with Bob and Susie. There was a good amount of Bob and Susie, but without teams, there seemed to be a lack of investment in the pretty weak cast members. I did like the addition of the live focus group, whose laughter or blank stares were a good stand-in for viewers’ responses. It’s hard to imagine any of the cast members having their own show at this point. I hope it picks up, but I’m not hopeful.
Three men featured on the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers were among the nine people who died during Friday’s tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma. Tim Samaras, 55; his son, Paul Samaras, 24; and Carl Young, 45, all died while chasing the tornado.
Tim’s brother wrote on Facebook that “They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED. Chasing Tornado’s [sic]. “
The network said in a statement on Twitter, “We’re heartbroken by the loss of [Tim Samaras], son Paul & Carl Young and all those lost in Friday’s storm in Oklahoma.” In a blog post/obituary, Discovery recounts how the men got started in storm chasing and reports that Sunday night’s special “Mile Wide Tornado: Oklahoma Disaster, at 10|9C, will be dedicated to their memory.”
Another storm chaser, Doug Kiesling, told CNN, “This thing is really shaking up everyone in the chasing community. We knew this day would happen someday, but nobody would imagine that it would happen to Tim. Tim was one of the safest people to go out there. … He’s had close calls but he’s always had an escape route.”
Tim, Paul, and Carl joined the cast in 2009, for the show’s third season, and were identified as the TWISTEX team, named after the tornado probe project Tim founded.
This isn’t the first death of a star of the show: Matt Hughes, who was also featured on the show, killed himself in 2010.
The documentary series was cancelled in early 2012 after five seasons. Here’s a clip from TWISTEX’s first season:
As a public service to TV critics who once again have to select just two reality shows to nominate for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming for the 2013 TCA awards, I present a list of shows that are actually outstanding and demonstrate achievement in reality, rather than, say, popularity or scriptedness (let’s please not nominate Duck Dynasty, which is more sitcom than reality).
Each member of TCA can each only nominate two shows per category, so this list is small by design. I’m also including only what was, for me, truly outstanding television. A show I watched but that didn’t have a strong season or year creatively (So You Think You Can Dance, for example) did not make the list. Others, like Top Shot, fall out of the date range. Also, I’ve suggested Survivor, but only the fall season; Philippines was exceptionally strong but it was followed by an embarrassing spring season that dragged the franchise down.
This list is heavy on competitions and light on documentary-style shows, which I think is representative of the increasing focus on scripting/over-producing docudramas. Here’s what I wrote last year about the shows I chose, which holds true this year, too: “These are the series that had exceptional seasons last year and rise to the top for the exceptional ways in which they transform people’s lives or experiences, real or contrived, into compelling entertainment. Thus, they truly deserve recognition.”
ABC has cancelled The Glass House, the network has confirmed to me, so if you’ve been holding out hope that it’ll return this summer, it’s time to give up and let it go. Yes, my desperate plea to renew the low-rated summer competition series. The loss of the show is sad, but we’ll get through it together.
New York public broadcasting station WNET has begun a fundraising campaign that advertises for five fake reality TV shows on fake networks—“Bad Bad Bag Boys,” “Bayou Eskimos,” “The Dillionaire,” “Knitting Wars,” and “Married to a Mime.” The imagery for the fake shows and includes this tagline: “The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV. Support quality programming. Join us at thirteen.org.”
To summarize, instead of producing high-quality reality TV of their own, WNET and Thirteen have resorted to condescension. Nothing like living up to the stereotype of public television.
Hey, WNET: You produce TV, too. In fact, you produced the very first reality show, never mind recent shows such as Colonial House. But why have you become so pathetic that you can only resort to kinda lame parodies of reality shows to get attention for your programming that no one wants to watch, except that show that comes from a commercial UK station?
Forgive my exaggeration and anger, but PBS and its affiliates—especially ones like WNET that are capable of producing and funding high-quality programming—are blowing a huge opportunity to capture audiences who I think are desperate for authenticity in their entertainment. They’re just not getting it from cable networks, which have largely decided to spend less money and over-produce every show to get a predictable outcome.
To be fair, WNET’s ads are well-designed and cleverly written. EW has copies of the posters, because apparently WNET is savvy enough to know that EW is where press releases go. And while “The Dillionaire” and its star “Fred Pickles” is just dumb, “Bayou Eskimos” and “Knitting Wars” are kind of hilarious, and both could easily be a real shows. WNET smartly also created parodyTwitteraccounts that are very active, which is smart.
But why not put those resources into marketing an actual reality show? I mean, did that seriously occur to no one? Of course, it’s more expensive to produce a show than an ad campaign, but the payoff would be bigger, too.
Big Brother After Dark, the nightly broadcast of the live feeds, is moving to TVGN, formerly the TV Guide Network, and being shortened to two hours. The broadcast begins June 26, the same night as the debut of the CBS broadcast.
The press release calls this “a curated live feed,” which means they choose which feed we watch, which also happened on Showtime; however, since this is now cable instead of premium TV, one can probably assume it’ll be even more censored than before.
TVGN President of Entertainment Brad Scwartz said in a press release, “When the sun goes down and the cameras are still rolling, some of the best reality TV moments come to life,” and he also referred to “jaw-dropping action.”
Clearly, he hasn’t watched the coma-inducing After Dark broadcast in years.
TV Guide Network has ditched the actual TV guide in recent years and tried to go with regular programming; the struggling network was acquired by CBS and Lionsgate earlier this year and renamed to ditch the direct connection to TV Guide.
Showtime was in the same corporate family, but this gives CBS a chance to build an audience for its new network by sending a loyal audience to it to watch absolutely nothing happen for two hours every night. Perhaps the producers will be encouraged to rip off Glass House and actually give their houseguests something to do every night?
The Bachelorette debuted Monday, the 26th season of the franchise, and featured the usual parade of crazy people coached to do ridiculous things trying to woo someone from a previous season who the casting producers clearly hate based on the people they select as potential mates.
Airing against The Voice and without Dancing with the Stars, and on a holiday, it seems even ABC’s schedulers wanted to screw with Desiree. As James Hibberd notes, the premiere “fell 27 percent this year, yet faced a serious uphill battle.” In other words, ratings were way down from last summer’s Bachelorette, but an even year-to-year comparison isn’t really possible.
I didn’t watch, because I’ve grown tired of the formula and am about as interested in Desiree’s journey as I am in the journey of decomposing fingernail clippings. Of course, it’s not really about her journey to love; it’s about entertaining us along the way.
The franchise’s inability to create lasting relationships isn’t news any more, but its failure is usually the cited as the statistic that matters. I certainly have made fun of the show for its failure rate in the past (and undoubtedly will continue to chronicle future break-ups). But it’s time to retire that as a metric, because it’s not what matters; if it was, the show would have been cancelled long ago.
Crazy is what matters. It thrives on what people reacted to from Monday’s episode: the dumbass in the armor. The guy who was asked to leave because he freaked Desiree out by immediately suggesting they go to the fantasy suite, i.e. bang. Et cetera.
I would like to see it get out of its current formulaic rut, but this formula is clearly why it has such insane longevity. If it can keep entertaining enough people who generate multiple trending Twitter phrases, as it did Monday, and ratings that ABC is okay with, it could last for years and years.
Speaking of The Bachelor franchise’s longevity, for the premiere, The Daily Beast compiled statistics on the first 25 seasons (in other words, it excludes this season), and the numbers are incredible. Here are just a few: in 228 episodes, there have been 631 contestants, 398 one-on-one dates, 146 group dates, 36 countries, 64 visits to the fantasy suite, and 1,231 roses.
The full list is worth checking out, though they didn’t compile truly fascinating data like the number of times the fantasy suite was used to completion or how frequently Chris Harrison said something condescending.
There are an absurd number of reality shows airing this summer, both new and returning. Many are the new cable standard: cheap and overly produced/faked, which is disappointing. But there are signs of hope, and by that I mean reality and entertainment combined.
That starts with Brooklyn DA, which airs tonight on CBS but is notably produced by CBS News and the 48 Hours team. In other words, it’s a reality series not produced by CBS’ entertainment division. Meanwhile, I’m interested to see what CBS does with the hit The Great British Bake-Off, retitled as The American Baking Competition.
But tomorrow night, I’ll be most excited for Top Shot. Although it’s going with an all-star format—very early in its young life, and thus it’s a little worrisome—the show has been off the air for a year, so I’m just anxious to see it again. Its production company, Pilgrim Studios, is also behind Top Hooker, the Animal Planet fishing competition (no prostitutes, alas) that I’ll definitely be watching. I care less about fishing than I care about guns, but as the result of Top Shot, I trust them to make it interesting to non-fish people like me, just like they’ve made engineering interesting on The Big Brain Theory.
I’m somewhat concerned about Food Network Star (because of changes made to last-season’s winning format) and and HGTV Star (formerly Design Star, because they’ve “retooled” the show but kept Vern and Genevieve, who I like on other shows but are consistently awful here). I also hope Face Off can come out of its somewhat predictable rut. Different types of makeup, please!
Besides The Pitch, an imperfect but compelling and well-produced series, there are several documentary-style shows that I hope can bring more reality to reality TV. Discovery will drop two naked strangers off with nothing and ask them to survive for 21 days on Naked and Afraid, while Cooking Channel will follow students at the Louisiana Culinary Institute for Freshmen Class. I’m still intrigued by Catfish, even though it lied to its viewers and is just weird.
My obsession with makeover shows will have me watching Bar Rescue in July and Hotel Impossible in August; the latter has grown on me and is less gratingly edited and contrived than other similar shows, while I hope Jon Taffer and company pull back a little because the most recent episodes were on the verge of becoming too Kitchen Nightmares.
On The CW—yes, it still exists—we’ll get a revival of Whose Line is it Anyway, which is not exactly reality TV by my definition but is super fun, and it features the original cast except for Drew Carey. They’ll also give us Capture, a show that’s basically The Hunger Games: set in a wilderness arena, 12 teams of two people will compete for $250,000 by looking for resources and killing—I mean, capturing—each other. This will all come down to execution, and since it’s on the typically low-rent CW I’m not overly optimistic.
I won’t say anything about Big Brother because I don’t need to start with the self-loathing until it actually debuts, but its producers have created another show, USA’s Summer Camp, a competition series set at summer camp featuring people who long ago went to actual camps.
There are a string of new competitions that’ll at least get an episode or two from me, starting with TNT’s 72 Hours, which strands three teams of three strangers to search for cash (unlike Discovery’s show, they have clothes and water), and The Hero, hosted by The Rock, I mean Dwayne Johnson, which has an amazing trailer (below). There’s also ABC’s Whodunnit?, which I’m hoping will be like the original Mole but could turn out to be more like the flat revived version of The Mole.
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