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Big Brother house: inside the soundstage

Big Brother house: inside the soundstage
The Big Brother 19 house's living room, themed to the twist of Summer of Temptation. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

After touring Big Brother house Saturday, I was left with new respect for the people who both run it and live there. Although perhaps “respect” is a little much for the houseguests; actually, I just now appreciate how easy it is for already insane people to go crazy in there.

Here are my observations from inside the house space, a set constructed inside a soundstage, not a real house. This is Big Brother behind the scenes.

Again, please do not copy and paste this into your message board or blog, or I will hand-deliver you some of the salmon rotting on the kitchen counter in the house. Feel free, of course, to link, using the handy tools at the end of the story. Thanks!

Into the Big Brother house via the storage room

  • After touring the back yard, control room, and camera cross, we entered the house through the storage room, which has signs by the produce telling houseguests they’re responsible for refrigerating anything that needs refrigeration. It smells like the produce section of a grocery store.
  • It is really fucking creepy to walk around someone’s house when they just left, and have no idea you were ever there. (NPR’s Linda Holmes has more on this phenomenon.) To me, it felt alternately like we were invading someone’s home and like a sci fi movie where people had just evaporated, and all of that was compounded by the fact that I know, sort of, the people who live there.
  • The mirrors in the house are odd. You can nearly always see your own reflection. However, it was easy to quickly adjust to this by not looking at them.
  • Despite the fact that we had just been in the camera area behind the mirrors, I immediately forgot that cameras could be there filming us. You don’t get the sense that there’s anything outside the house. However, there are visible cameras inside the house that producers said follow the houseguests as they walk around, making it clear they are being watched.

Up close inside the Big Brother house

  • I described the general layout of the house, but it kind of feels like one of those apartments that’s just a long hallway with rooms off of it. The hallways on each side of the U shape are narrow, and the living room, entry way, dining room, and kitchen form the biggest space. Since the house has a second floor, the open space above helps make it feel bigger, but the large dining room table and the couches fill up much of the available space.
  • This is not criticism, but the house is in pretty bad shape. That’s because it’s very much a set. Every set I’ve been on has surprised me because it’s not perfect; on TV, especially on shows not in HD, imperfections don’t show up, so there’s no need to make something flawless. But the effect is unsettling: the drop ceilings have stains and some tiles are gone as cables snake around; paint isn’t perfect; edges don’t line up; the light fixtures over the mirrors in the bathroom look like they’re falling apart; the plastic panels covering the line of lights are cracked and overlapping.
  • The keys are plastic and have sticker-like material outlining them and forming the houseguest’s name, kind of like vinyl lettering on a plastic sign. It’d be easy to snap a key in half.
  • The memory well’s LCD screens appeared to be surrounded with a styrofoam-like material that was spray-painted silver. Again, it’s a set.
  • The kitchen was nasty. Two pots of food were on the stove, including something that looked like festering peaches. Critics in the first group to tour the interior report that the houseguests went to the veto competition and left the stove on. On the counter, there was a pan with salmon, so the whole area smelled like cold fish.
  • I opened the fridge, and saw two containers of mayo, some Coca-Cola, and lots of condiments.

The Big Brother house’s bathroom

  • The houseguests have Method body wash in the showers, and clumps of hair in their drain. There is one drain for two shower heads, which are divided by a curtain.
  • The door to the cabana room is along the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom. The fish tank in there was being cleaned or something by crew members while the veto competition was taking place. They moved quickly and by the time we were out of the bathroom, had cleaned up.
  • The small square tiles in the bathroom on the floor and walls aren’t tiles: They’re some kind of laminate wallpaper-ish thing.
  • Producers provide basic toiletries, but houseguests bring their own. If they run out, the show will replace the item, but not necessarily with the brand the houseguest wants; executive producer Rich Meehan told our group that producers don’t go shopping for the houseguests.
  • The single toilet has a camera in there that’s only turned on when someone is MIA or using that room for something else, like praying or strategizing.
  • Meehan said that things like cleanliness or one bathroom for 12 people are referred to as “roommate issues” that the houseguests have to sort out themselves.

Upstairs in the Big Brother houses: the HOH room

  • The air in the house is rather stale, and smelled, therefore, of things like the salmon sitting out on the counter. Overall, it was not quite as rank as you’d expect, but one crew member walking with us said that by the end of the season, the smell is awful.
  • Our group went up the spiral staircase to the HoH room. The “who wants to see my HoH room?!” music did not play in my head, thankfully, or I might have thrown myself over the balcony. Speaking of the balcony, Meehan pointed out that the chess board and couch outside the HoH door were both often used in previous seasons, but have been ignored this year. Translation: house of dummies.
  • The HoH bedroom and bathroom, especially, feels spacious, especially compared to the downstairs rooms. Still, the bed takes up most of the wall. It, too, was messy, with clothing everywhere, just like the downstairs bedrooms.
  • The bathroom has a tub and a separate room for the toilet. I peered over the top of the swinging door that leads into it and saw a sign asking houseguests to not flush anything down the toilet except what you would expect should be flushed.
  • On the glass table was Rachel’s new HOH basket of stuff, including Survivor Brendan’s granola and a pair of handcuffs and a plastic baton (which seemed funny then but were explained by Sunday’s challenge). As I came out of the bathroom, a critic pointed to Rachel’s bag on the floor, where red hair extensions were spilling out of the unzipped pocket at the end.

Other details about the space where houseguests live

  • There are speakers inside the house, and among other things, they’re used to play music before challenges. As we toured the house, we could hear the feed of Brendon’s veto competition hosting from the back yard.
  • The carpet in the first bedroom is black indoor/outdoor turf carpet. That bedroom is basically open to the living room via a short hallway. The “have not” and other bedrooms, therefore, have more privacy because they have actual doors to enter them. This diagram is accurate, though not quite to scale.
  • The “have not” room, which had a freshly installed camp toilet for a punishment related to the veto competition, didn’t smell bad, and actually smelled nicer than the rest of the house.
  • There was luggage besides the small duffel bags the houseguests carry in on day one; I assume that’s delivered through the storage room, where houseguests have taken evicted houseguests’ luggage in the past.
  • The Diary Room is very tiny and is simply a couch at a diagonal facing a corner, with two mirrored windows on each wall, and a camera that’s inside the room. We didn’t, alas, walk down that hallway and instead saw the Diary Room from behind the windows.
  • In the green room, which is just down the soundstage hall from the storage room entrance, but, of course, invisible to the houseguests, there’s actually a refrigerator with a sign that says “The contents of this fridge are for the Houseguests only.”
  • Slop wasn’t that bad. We were given a chance to taste it, and based on the bowls with uneaten samples, I know some of my colleagues strongly disagree, but it wasn’t horrifying. It was like gummy, bland, pasty oatmeal, so adding approved condiments would make it tolerable. Of course, I wouldn’t volunteer to eat nothing but that for days, so I’m sure it gets annoying, but it’s not like eating dirt.

Previously: A tour of the back yard, master control room, and camera tunnel.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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