The cast of Big Brother 3 was secretly observed by George Clooney, who took a tour of the show’s house and watched the cast from behind the glass.
That amazing story and other surprisingly candid revelations came from the show’s executive ogroducer, Allison Grodner, who was a guest on The Jay and Tony Show Show podcast‘s most recent episode. She talked about everything from her own future on the show to past producing experiences.
Highlights of what she revealed during the hour-long interview:
- George Clooney toured the Big Brother 3 house. While he “wasn’t necessarily a fan” of the show, an editor he was working with on a movie was a fan, and requested a tour and brought Clooney along. This was 2002, before the show moved into its current soundstage house. Clooney “couldn’t have been lovelier,” Grodner said, and called it one of her “made-my-decade experiences.”
- The “bulk of our casting is in that 20-something” range, Grodner admitted. (Here’s the breakdown of all houseguests’ ages.) Because of that, it’s provided some interesting insight: “we’ve been able to see the same age group and how it’s changed form the early 2000s to now,” she said. They’re now “definitely more aware; less materialistic” and also have “more of an appreciation for the world.”
- Grodner admits she is not a historian of the show she produces, and instead relies on the Internet: “I try to empty my brain after each season of that information, and if I need it, I go to Wikipedia,” she said. (She and I have the brain-purge part in common.) “We have to look things up.” Her 15-year-old nephew, however, is one of the Big Brother “historians,” as she calls them.
- On Big Brother‘s future and her own as its producer: “I think it will continue on for quite a while because it is consistent. How much longer am I continuing? I don’t know, let’s hope, I guess…,” she said, adding, “Every summer at this time, because we just completed our finale, there is that, ‘Oh my god, can we do it again?'” Grodner also said, “I’m lucky to have a show that comes back every summer on a network that does a consistent rating, that still has a decent-size budget to it, and the support it has from CBS. But yeah, every year you wonder,” she said, citing American Idol‘s impending end. Although the show was renewed for seasons 17 and 18 simultaneously last fall, Grodner said that was atypical: “We live year to year on this show, pretty much like all of us do on all of our shows. But you would think on a show that’s been on 17 seasons, maybe you’d get a few seasons pickup. But no, we don’t. We get the news at the end of the year, and the end of our summer. But then we’re ready to it again—after a lot of drinking and rest.”
- Some rules have relaxed over her tenure. She discusses how, during season two, producers revealed the events of Sept. 11 to the final three, but only via the loudspeaker, keeping the cast completely separate from production because “we were still adhering very strictly to the rules.” Now, in “a very serious situation” or when “we need to intervene in some way,” she said “that human contact” is important enough so that “sometimes, and it’s very, very rare, we will go into the Diary Room itself and have that personal conversation.”
- What’s the twist for Big Brother 18? “If I knew, that would be awesome,” she said, pointing out that they just finished the previous season and are “in detox.” Her co-executive producer, Rich Meehan, was “in Hawaii, detoxing” after the season when the podcast was recorded.
- Grodner compares the cast disconnecting from technology in the house to heroin withdrawal. Even though the houseguests sometimes talk about forgetting about texting or checking their phones by the end of their time in the house, when producers give the houseguests phones back to them, “they’re just puking all over social media,” she said.
- What are Big Brother’s producer’s favorite shows? “They’re all scripted,” she said, starting by citing several Showtime series: Masters of Sex, Homeland, and Ray Donovan. And she also said that, while “everyone will go, oh yeah, CBS,” she likes the Sunday night shows The Good Wife and Madam Secretary. She also named FX’s show You’re the Worst, plus House of Cards, Transparent, and Orange is the New Black.
- As “a very small child,” Grodner appeared on Get High On Yourself, NBC’s 1981 anti-drug use campaign. (It’s on YouTube.) After creating a commercial, they came back and reenacted the creation of the commercial—staging reality, in other words. Grodner said, “I remember thinking it was very odd that we all went back and pretended to audition again, and went through the whole thing again, just because they needed a special.” Despite bombing an earlier audition, she was later chosen by Robert Evans to be one of three kids standing in the front, singing.
- Grodner cited The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott as one of her worst producing experiences. Jay and Tony worked with her on the show, and they discuss an incident where the cast was supposed to perform for Missy Elliott at a gas station where the tour bus stopped. Grodner says they went into “massive overtime” because it was a situation where “the talent does not want to come out of their trailer, and we just couldn’t make that happen.” She added later, “no hard feelings.” Also on that show, she said, the cast performed original songs because “we couldn’t afford pop tunes.”
- Along with Jay and Tony, she discussed finding producing talent, and Grodner said it’s harder to find because “really good showrunners” are “in big demand and/or because there’s so much programming.” She also notes that, now, “there’s people rising through the ranks and getting the titles it took us 10 years to get,” and she’s sometimes surprised by people: “How do you have that title and you can’t tell a story?”
- What’s wrong with reality TV now? Grodner rejects the idea that reality TV is over but said “no one is taking risks or chances” and discusses the “middle management” at networks that means producers are often “going in circles” between executives with different preferences and priorities. “It’s harder than ever to get a show on the air,” she said. “You make a deal, you think you’ve got a sale, and you have to jump through 6,000 hoops before anyone takes a chance on it.” So, “you’re taking ideas that are fresh and good and they’re getting stale.” Grodner said that as a result of all this, she is currently working on “eight shows that were started over a year ago.” One show has completed casting, and it “couldn’t have been better, major network, really excited, wow, love this cast.” But then the network said: “don’t love the show any more. Can you make a new show to go with the cast?” So, that project is “still alive” but “we’re starting at square one and building a brand-new show,” she said.
Listen to the entire episode, #56: