Do you think you understand Big Brother? PaulyAce gives us something to think about!
Our headmistress of the Joker's Message Board, Jokerette, shared with me an interesting response from one of my episode summaries. In it, a gentleman named Gary, points out that it would take a "suspension of disbelief" to believe that none of the couples could see this new twist of Big Brother 4 coming, were couples are reunited with estranged loves of their past.
Gary, in all honesty, you don't know how right you are.
What you're about to read are the opinions, information, and generalizations I've gotten from observing various Reality TV shows, but Big Brother in general. The opinions are mine, and might be shared with the various readers, but then again might not be.
You see, I think Big Brother and maybe Reality TV combine three elements into one. First, there is a small portion of Reality TV that is real. The second element is plot devices and conflicts you'd see in most TV shows, but magnified by the audience grabbing elements you see in professional wrestling matches. Thirdly, there is the exploitive side of the human psyche that draws all of us in as video voyeurs. In another era, this was best defined by the 1969 Sydney Pollock movie "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", which dealt with characters in a dance marathon in Great Depression era Chicago.
Big Brother has what I consider five elements that make the show appealing.
First, and probably most importantly, is casting. Have you ever had a love interest, or perhaps even yourself, that ever wondered what it would be like to have several people of different sizes, hair color, background, etc. vie for your love and attention, much like "The Bachelor" portrays? Much like a jury pool, if you get a good cast with wide ranges of character traits is key. Does having any of the contestants appear in "The Smoking Gun" help? Yes, and no, I guess. But put these people all together under the strain of coexisting in the same house, and naturally, conflicts are there.
The dynamic changed when Big Brother 4 came to be. Instead of individuals designed for conflict, you now also have couples at various levels of estrangement. As AmyGee, one of the Joker's chatters, pointed out to me, things get lost in the translation, namely the cast's overall intelligence. The cast is not likely to ever get in a conversation of how vegetation grows in South Africa, as Big Brother 3's Roddy Mancuso might have, had he been in this mix.
Secondly, standards and procedures of the contests have to be established and kinks therein worked out. Why? Because these conflicts from within each houseguests psyche have to be brought to the surface. The producers, in all likelihood, thru the various competitions for food and power, try to put the houseguests in a situation that best help tell the story. Look back at Big Brother 3, and when Amy Crews won the "Power of Veto" in a competition that mocked charm schools. Now, knowing as the producers must have known, that Amy was big into beauty pageants, who the hell else was going to win that game? Why? Because Roddy Mancuso and Amy were the nominees, and due to a promise Amy agreed to keep with Roddy earlier in the game, it would draw Amy into a position where she had to decide whether to keep her word or save her own hinny. Amy chose self preservation, Roddy could not hide his anger, and it threw Miss Crews into shockwaves of self guilt.
That brings me to third element, that of storylines used for presentation in the television show. I'm not going to say that some of the conflicts presented in the game aren't real. I believe they are. But there are instances where the producers present an idea to the houseguests to act out. Take for instance the "date" Eric and Lisa had in the Big Brother 3 house. Or some of the antics that went on in the original Big Brother. These were activities designed by the producers to keep these houseguests busy. The houseguests, in all likelihood, didn't think of them themselves. If they did, they'd probably have to get production credits and have SAG cards.
Then there's the way all of us Computer savvy people keep up with the show, thru the live feeds. As each year of Big Brother has progressed, I begin to wonder more and more if the live feeds are merely the cigarettes that are there to feed the nicotine habit of information we as fans crave. The focus of the Big Brother experience shifted from the Internet to television when Arnold Shapiro Productions took over the show.
Love him or hate him, Arnold understands his audience. His 1978 documentary "Scared Straight" probably inspired several prison corrections programs to reach out to schools all over America to go to the kids to try to discourage them from future lives of crime by the brutal honesty of prison life. And while Big Brother continues to be a variation of the once-a-year social experiment, the show tries to cater to the needs of the ever changing Reality TV palette. This doesn't stop critics from thinking the progression of the Big Brother series in America is actually a regression, kind of like a tooth that doesn't get proper flossing.
Lastly, there is what I like to call the "hidden game" of Big Brother. When you open it up, you are really opening up a Pandora's Box of questions that are not easy at all to answer. What goes on in that Diary Room that we don't see? Why is it the people who've made "The Smoking Gun" have never won the game? Why did Brandon Showalter get kicked out at the last second? Why haven't any of the Big Brother contestants gone on to bigger things?
These are the questions that could haunt the hardcore fan for a minute or a lifetime. If we're lucky, someday we'll know their answers. Stay tuned!