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Big Brother’s huge, game-changing twist for BB23? Teams. Again.

Big Brother 23’s big opening twist is to return to something that’s been used on three previous seasons of the CBS reality competition, starting in 2009: teams. But there is some change to how those teams will work on BB23, including a twist that will actually connect to the decor of the soundstage house, which will have a beach plus casino theme.

Teams were part of the competition in seasons 11, 14, and 18, although each of those seasons involved returning houseguests in some way. They were also part of Big Brother Canada 9 earlier this year; it began with two teams, though its team captains were selected by viewers, which won’t happen on the CBS version.

BB23 Big Brother 23

Of course, because this is Big Brother, they’ll abandon this format and introduce other twists—and probably dumb ones, like the twist Grodner describes in an interview as a “double or nothing offer from Julie that they won’t be able to refuse.” If they can’t refuse it, then is it actually an offer?

The cast will move in to the house live on July 7, during BB23’s premiere, meaning that, rather than play catch-up, Big Brother feed-watchers will be able to watch the game play out and relationships develop, at least until the producers cut the feeds to cover things up.

Why teams are returning to Big Brother

Paulie Calafiore, Ride the Rocket, Big Brother 18, BB18
Paulie Calafiore, Cody’s brother, during the Ride the Rocket challenge on the premiere of Big Brother 18, the most-recent season to start with the houseguests competing in teams. (Photo by Bill Inoshita/CBS)

Details about the change in format come from Parade‘s Mike Bloom, who interviewed Big Brother producers and showrunners Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan ahead of CBS’s official announcement. Grodner said that returning to something they first introduced in season 11 back in 2009 makes the show “current”:

One of the new approaches is certainly to bring back team play, and as we are doing this season, but in a bit of a different way. But honestly, we try always to remain current and evolve with the times. And in some ways, Big Brother has always been a bit ahead of the time, especially when it comes to technology. We’ve always been a live streaming show, and we’ve always used social media and the interactivity of fan involvement. I feel like we were always a little bit ahead of the curve. And that’s what we strive to continue to do, to make sure we’re staying current in terms of the types of people we’re casting and the types of twists.

Besides the lack of returning players, the show will change up how the teams are selected, and also add an additional challenge. Here’s my read of how BB23’s teams will work:

  • The 16 contestants will be divided into four teams
  • Houseguests will enter the house in groups of four, and compete in a challenge. The winner from each group becomes one of the four team captains
  • The team captains will be able to see 90 seconds of pre-game interview footage to help them choose their teams
  • Teams will last for one month

During the first month:

  • The winner of the HOH competition will earn immunity for their team
  • The new Wildcard competition will be played by one member of each team.
  • The Wildcard winner has the ability to choose immunity for themselves, but that comes with a punishment for their team
  • The veto competition will presumably play out as usual

The return to teams after four seasons without them seems to be driven in part by the large alliances that have dominated the game in recent years. Here’s what Meehan and Grodner told Bloom about their rationale:

Meehan: There were a couple things. It’s been a little while since we’ve done it. We like how it challenges the players in a different way, especially towards the beginning of the game. It also changes up the whole dynamic. There have been a couple of seasons of these large alliances bonding very early on and not swaying. We think that the team dynamic will force you to play the game in a different way and not allow that to happen as easily.

Grodner: Right off the bat, you’re going to have some close relationships with your teammates, and these are smaller groups. There’s a feeling that can really twist up the gameplay from what has been more expected over the past couple of seasons.

As Hamsterwatch pointed out to me, it also gives the producers “a comp for Sunday shows,” which gives them something to structure the episode around. After all, BB23 will have three episodes per week over three months to fill.

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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.