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Celebrity Big Brother has been a delightful surprise from a garbage show

Ross Mathews after winning the "Bowlerina" HOH competition broadcast on Feb. 11, 2018, during Celebrity Big Brother. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

In a column about how the media’s response to Celebrity Big Brother and Omarosa’s content-free comments about her time in the White House, THR’s Dan Fienberg described Big Brother like this:

“CBS’ Big Brother is trash, but it’s sometimes wildly entertaining garbage provided you don’t dig too deeply and find out which of your favorite contestants, which of the contestants most aggressively embraced by the network, have said which repugnant things during that cesspool of time-wasting known as the live feeds.”

This is entirely accurate.

It also explains why Big Brother sometimes stumbles into better versions of itself but never changes, and even seems to get worse after being amazing. I used to think season six was the show at its ; now I think it was a fluke.

The problem with garbage is that it’s all together in the dumpster, and since it’s all on its way to the landfill or incinerator, who cares what’s there? None of it matters more than the rest; it’s all ending up in the same place, on television, squished into the exact same episode format, with the same musical cues.

This special season of Celebrity Big Brother, which ends tonight, has had its own nonsense, starting with Omarosa’s immunity—which, as presented by the production, was sketchier than anything Omarosa herself has ever done on a reality show.

Here’s the thing, though: Celebrity Big Brother has been a freakin’ delight, at least as a season of Big Brother.

A few of the reasons why:

  1. The cast, which on paper seemed weak, showed up to play a game they all cared about. Even having two players quit the game, one of whom was never quite sure of what game he was playing, didn’t have an effect, because 1) Metta was great television and seemed like a great person and 2) exiting acknowledges that the experience is tough, and is better than treading water to try to make it to the jury house to get paid to sit around.
  2. It also helped that the cast is also older, so they have more life experience and are just more interesting. Plus, even though they are all best known for being reality stars, they haven’t seemed desperate for attention.
  3. There were evolving alliances without escalating bitterness and anger. Sure, Brandi and James didn’t get along, but they’re not taking it personally, like I do when someone says “take it personal” and I shout at the TV.
  4. An accelerated schedule has led to a season without the late-stage stagnation that usually plagues the series, as people sit around the house for days between episodes, doing things that never end up on TV.
  5. Most houseguests aren’t screaming in the Diary Room, perhaps because they’re not willing to be coached into repeating their sentences, or perhaps because they know how to deliver a line to camera.
  6. There was an absence of the show’s usual overemphasis on showmances and other phony nonsense.

Of course, none of these improvements will affect this summer’s edition, in the same way that Big Brother: OTT’s wonderful changes simply evaporated by the time the summer show returned. (That season broadcast its competitions on the live feeds, and while that would have made sense for this shortened edition, the live feeds have been the same as usual.)

The network gets the show that it wants, and the people who make the show are completely content delivering that, and no one is really invested in making it better because trash is trash is trash—and their fans are more than willing to accept whatever is dumped on their lawn.

Racism? Bullying? Violence? Bullshit twists?  Blatant manipulation? All sanitized for the TV version? Bring it on!

Sometimes, though, there’s something of value amid the crap, whether it’s season six’s twist or OTT or this season, an unexpected gift amid the usual detritus. And if we can’t have a better Big Brother, at least there’s that.

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