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Has Big Brother 22 been cancelled? And Love Island?

Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter’s west coast TV editor, Lesley Goldberg, reported that, this summer, CBS “will be without new seasons of Big Brother and Love Island, neither of which had been shot before the world stopped.”

That seems to indicate that Big Brother 22 and Love Island, CBS’s two summer reality competitions, had both been effectively cancelled. But that sentence also doesn’t make sense for either show, and CBS has not said anything about either show on the record—or did they?

Big Brother's living room, decked out in a wilderness lodge design for season 21. Will there be houseguests here for BB22 this summer?
Big Brother’s living room, decked out in a wilderness lodge design for season 21. Will there be houseguests here for BB22 this summer? (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

While open casting calls for BB22 were cancelled, applications were still being accepted electronically, and were due April 3. That process seems to have proceeded normally, with casting director Robyn Kass complaining on Twitter that the “application has been open for 6 months, yet every year we get flooded w[ith] emails the day after the deadline from people pleading to still apply. Sorry, it’s the same deadline for everyone applying on line.”

After The Hollywood Reporter’s story was published, a Big Brother fan site that I’m not familiar with, bigblagger.com, posted a story that says “CBS still intends to air the 22nd season of Big Brother this Summer, Big Blagger has learned.”

The story had these two sentences:

Asked about the future of the show, a CBS representative told Big Blagger:

The situation is still fluid but the intention is for Big Brother to return this summer.

Here’s what’s particularly strange: Those two sentences have since been deleted from the story, although Google’s cache of the article still includes them. Metadata in the article’s code shows that it was published 2020-04-07T22:22:46+00:00, and modified on 2020-04-08T17:28:39+01:00.

Why would CBS give an on-the-record statement to a fan site but not to a Hollywood trade publication?

Yesterday morning, I reached out to the three CBS publicists assigned to Big Brother, asking if that statement was indeed from them or CBS. They have not yet responded. Since then, the sentence attributed to them has disappeared.

Meanwhile, the original source, The Hollywood Reporter story, just doesn’t make much sense as it’s written. It says CBS won’t air either show, “neither of which had been shot.”

Except both shows are basically filmed and aired in real time, and have live episodes. In a normal year, neither show would have been filmed already. (I e-mailed its author, Lesley Goldberg, for clarification about what that means.)

Julie Chen on a skateboard, Big Brother 21, BB21
Julie Chen posted this photo of herself to Twitter, immediately prompting Big Brother fans to scrutinize it for clues about BB21’s twist or theme.

There is, of course, considerable pre-production work involved for both shows, and that would have been underway by now. In mid-March, I talked to one person who works on Big Brother who said some pre-production work was continuing remotely, though that may have changed now, almost a month later.

Of the two shows, only Love Island season 2 had a premiere date: May 21, with plans to air it six nights a week at 8 p.m. ET.

Because Love Island is filmed in Fiji, just like Survivor (the country offers a 45 percent rebate on productions filmed there), it is dependent on international travel resuming. That makes it seem very likely that it won’t premiere on May 21, the date that CBS expected to start filming season 41 of Survivor, though that has now been pushed back after Survivor shut down production completely.

Could Love Island air later in the summer, if international travel resumes, say in June or July?

Love Island, CBS

Both shows could be on the air much faster than Survivor, because there’s such a quick turnaround time between filming and airing an episode, which is something that’s already been built into their production models.

Big Brother is even more flexible than Love Island, because its set is in California, on CBS’s lot, just waiting for houseguests to move in and start spewing racist and misogynistic things on the live feeds.

The house isn’t move-in ready, though: every year, it gets its annual remodel. Last year, production designer Scott Storey told me that while some parts of the space, like the passageways used for camera crews, cannot change, he does significant remodel work sometimes, even tearing down and moving walls. (Read more here: How Big Brother’s set is designed: an interview with production designer Scott Storey)

Up until season 15, Big Brother premiered in July, as late as July 13. I would also not be surprised to see a fall season of Big Brother, especially if scripted shows can’t resume production this summer, and Survivor isn’t able to resume production in time to get season 41 on the air in September.

Both Love Island and Big Brother involve lots of close contact between people—like all TV shows, and especially those reality series where people are confined to a small space. That could be the biggest obstacle to their return.

Perhaps there’s a reason why CBS would decide definitively at this point that neither of its tentpole summer reality shows will return in summer 2020. But the network is saying nothing on the record, and there are so many unknown variables at this point. But I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of them as some of the first shows that return.

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  • 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. Learn more about Andy.