In this edition of The Confessional, the Big Brother feedwatcher known as Hamsterwatch analyzes season six of Canada’s Big Brother, which she argues was a massive disappointment.
The sixth season of Big Brother Canada is winding down, with a two-hour finale on May 10 to wrap up and crown the winner. The show was effectively cancelled after the fifth season, but was then revived by a grassroots campaign by the fanbase.
The March 5 premiere kicked off with a two-minute, special effects-laden mini movie with actors and sword fights, followed by host Arisa Cox, one of the franchise’s most valuable assets, announcing “We’re back,” and adding “thank you to all the fans for making it happen, thank you.” The “house” was in a new production studio building, although the layout was virtually identical to the first five seasons. The décor was spectacular as always, featuring a heaven and hell theme along with various medieval areas.
Everything seemed promising for a stellar comeback season, but it wasn’t to be.
I should preface that by reminding reality blurred readers that I’m all about the 24/7 live feeds when it comes to Big Brother. The TV episodes, which air on Global in Canada, followed the same format as always, patterned after CBS’s Big Brother USA: three shows weekly, each showcasing either a competition or an eviction, strategy talk recaps, fluff and filler segments, and Diary Room snippets describing all of the above.
Also like BB USA, the edits were often slanted and/or inaccurate compared to what really happened, and the Diary Room segments often sounded disingenuous at best, and were proven to be scripted at least once.
I don’t know if the show’s “hiatus” was due to low ratings or other issues, but the season 6 show ratings have placed the three weekly episodes in Canada’s top 30 shows each week—at least through week 7, the latest data availability of this writing—but falling gradually in placement and viewers. Notably, the Thursday eviction shows nearly always had the lowest ratings of the three weekly shows, which simply should not happen.
Anyone who watches the feeds or casually keeps up with them knows the outcomes of the HOH and veto competitions, nominations, have-nots, and other events before the televised shows hit the air, just like on BB USA. But unlike BB USA, where “live eviction” actually means live, Canada has persisted in taping eviction shows a few hours before they air, with a studio audience, even though host Arisa and crew would be more than capable of doing them live.
The show’s promos and network press releases say evictions are live, but they aren’t and never have been. So the only real surprise for savvy viewers is spoiled every week and a lot of folks don’t bother to tune in to the Thursday shows because the anticipation and excitement just isn’t there once the results are known. You’d think after this many seasons they’d at least try going live and have more viewers for the eviction shows, but no.
BB Canada 6 also continued its horrible tradition of evicting the first houseguest before the feeds began. This is hugely unpopular with fans, as we aren’t able to know the first evictee beyond their highly edited intro packages.
This season’s victim was 49-year-old Rozina Yaqub, who came across on the show as very loud and screechy, but she was pretty much only seen during the legitimately excitable move-in and first Head of Household endurance competition segments. Later we learned from feeds that she was well-liked by the cast and she cooked every night for all of them, including full meals for both haves and have-nots, even though she was a have-not who was only allowed to eat slop. She even made special dishes for the houseguests with vegetarian and lactose concerns. But we didn’t get to see that Rozina, and that was a great disservice to us and to her.
Premature evictions are also grossly unfair and borderline cruel to those first evictees who go through the lengthy and arduous audition process to get on the show, especially for fan applicants, only to pack up and go home practically before they’ve begun.
Canada’s done this five out of six seasons, compared to USA where it’s happened via production twist four times out of 21 seasons (Big Brother Over the Top, the recent celebrity edition, and 19 regular seasons).
Live feeds, and the real and perceived intimacy they create, are the one thing that sets Big Brother apart from the many, many other competition/elimination shows out there, and the feeds community also sets the BB fanbase apart from those of other shows. We’re a dysfunctional family in many ways but a relatively close-knit one, fiercely loyal to the show even when it drives us nuts, and usually friendly and often helpful to each other.
BB Canada 6 also had a casting twist where viewers selected two of four hopefuls to join the cast in the second week. They had a similar viewer vote in the fourth season to select two of four international Big Brother alumni, but that one was a slam dunk with wildly popular personalities Nikki Grahame (BB UK) and Tim Dormer (BB Australia) easily winning the spots.
This time, keeping with the heaven and hell theme, one male and one female were presented as “angels” and the other pair as “devils.” Canada has a reputation of being polite and nice, so it was no surprise the two “angels” were voted in, even though one of the “devils” was—you guessed it, a fan applicant, Kirsten MacInnis, already known to many in the BB feeds community.
Feedsters are a drop in the bucket compared to TV viewers numbers-wise, and we rarely get what we want when it comes to Big Brother viewer votes.
BBCAN’s feed-blocking is out of control
All of which leads back to the stellar season that wasn’t, especially for feedsters. While we’re used to having no feeds for the first week or so between move-in and the premiere airing, for both USA and Canada, we hate it. Relationships are formed and entire seasons are often set up in those pivotal first days, along with much of the get-to-know-you chatter and volatile encounters, and we’re left to piece together from edits and/or later conversational references what actually happened.
BB Canada 6 feeds began March 6 but then went off almost immediately on March 10 for almost 36 hours, and again on March 29 for 15 hours, and several other times for extended periods.
These lengthy outages were on top of the usual multi-hour blocks for competitions and ceremonies, plus rehearsal, taping, and post-eviction fallout on every eviction day, not to mention reaction over whoever won the upcoming week’s HOH competition.
Never mind that feeds are often duller than dull with nothing going on, but when they’re withheld from us, we could be missing something major. And that’s usually the case when it comes to BB Canada, since they’re blocked for interesting and/or pivotal events.
Since the move from Slice to Global for its third season, BB Canada has also blocked feeds for many of the fun tasks and booze parties, but they blocked virtually anything out of the ordinary this season. BB USA blocks comps and ceremonies, but feeds usually return while they’re still in comp costumes or cleaning off comp goo, and they return from nominations and veto meetings while the fake hugs are still underway. Canada now waits who knows how long to restart feeds after those events, when the immediate and often juicy reactions are long over.
This season they also blocked weekly sponsored events—eating a Wendy’s meal and playing a Hasbro game—which was a curious decision since feedsters are as suggestible as TV viewers, many of whom fast-forward or mentally tune-out commercials anyway.
And they also blocked:
- the end of the have-nots’ time away from food, when hungry houseguests forage and feast greedily;
- the new HOH getting their photos, goodies, and video from home;
- tasks assigned by Big Brother;
- and any chatter that skirted offensive or sexually explicit topics.
And once again for emphasis, booze deliveries. Canada doesn’t give it to them often but when they do, they give them a very lot, but we don’t get to watch. There were at least two fall-down drunken parties this season that were blocked from feeds this season.
Sure, BB Canada feeds are free and you get what you pay for, but Canadian feeds blocks have become so excessive you have to wonder why they don’t eliminate feeds completely as some other countries have done.
It’s clear their main—perhaps only—priority is the air shows, and while they go out of their way to prevent us from seeing events they want to save for those air shows, we find out from conversations and retells what happened anyway, usually immediately when feeds return. And that brings me back to Arisa’s “thank you” to the fans and “this is your season” on the premiere. It wasn’t the TV viewers who revived the show from the dead: it was the feedsters. TV viewers didn’t even know it was sick. And while Arisa is a fan and feedster herself, interactive on social media with us, as well as being a competent professional and personable host, the producers and decision-makers treated us worse than ever this season even though we saved their show.
As a whole, the cast was rather lackluster, especially compared to prior Canadian seasons, and the overall dynamics were more dull than explosive, or even interesting most of the time. The sixth season made the Canadian casting formula a bit more transparent than it has been in the past, with definite “types” and throwbacks to prior cast members, although it still is more diverse and less typecast-y than BB USA.
A lot of Big Brother fans were in the cast this time, and that can lead to too much getting along and not enough divisiveness, since fans understand the importance of a good social game and careful jury management.
Of eleven evictions votes to date, five were unanimous and three more fell shy of unanimous by just one vote. That doesn’t make for very good TV or feeds, although we do like to see fans on the show, so that’s a very real casting dilemma. But Canada’s production contributes a lot to this by assigning regular teamwork tasks and arranging get-along events. That just doesn’t work well when one of the main draws of the whole Big Brother setup is the tension of the overall competition, egged on by cabin fever, paranoia, and in-game lies.
After this fiasco, Big Brother Canada needs to be reimagined
I wrote back in 2016 that BB Canada is a kind of hybrid between the USA version and the format all other countries use, where the cast nominates among themselves, and viewers vote to evict and ultimately decide the winner, with multiple tasks assigned along the way.
I’d take that a step further after this fiasco of a season to say they really should consider using the international format going forward. The gametalk and strategy they put on the air shows is brief anyway, usually skewed and often highly inaccurate, while the competitions have always been fresh and compelling to watch, thanks to the talented Trevor Boris and his team.
Canada tasks and teamwork events are creative, imaginative, and downright fun, and there’s a huge potential for more of those in the international format. The game twists, which Canada’s also been creative with, are nearly always unfair in the context of the game as it’s set up, and often downright wrong. But international BBs have had some unbelievable twists that Canada could really exploit and come up with mind-boggling new ones if they went all-out with them in the international format, where fairness and game integrity don’t factor as highly as they do in the elaborate chess game of the USA format.
The important-for-TV colorful competitions could continue for food and shopping budgets or other rewards as they are in other countries, with punishments or lost privileges for failing, rather than to determine who gets the powerful HOH position. They could even keep the weekly veto competition for one nominee to win their way off the block, and they could continue having weekly Have-nots (determined by competition), and any number of other things.
And not to worry, drama and strategy fans, there’s always plenty of drama when you coop up 12 to 18 strangers in a box for ten weeks, all with a goal of getting the cash at the end, and there is strategy involved in making nominations in international Big Brother—at least when doing them wisely.
I’ve always figured Canada uses the USA format because Global also airs Big Brother USA in summertime, and maybe they figured that audience wanted a second helping. But they don’t do it well anymore, and the way they’ve virtually slapped feedsters in our collective faces has left a sting many of us won’t recover from soon.
If the show does come back for another season, I hope they consider some serious revamping, whether it’s through minor adjustments or changing up the format completely. But at the very least, they need to treat their fans better.