Mix Up

Why does Big Brother insist on these half-and-half casts? Vets and Newbies, Coaches and Newbies, siblings of past players—these aren’t fascinating dynamics. If you wish to bring returning players back into the house, do an All-Stars season. Otherwise, just do a fresh new cast. Both of those things work.

Apparently, the fans Allison Grodner hears from disagree with me on this. In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Grodner stated, “I think our audience ultimately likes to see a little bit of both or an entirely fresh cast.” Really? Are people clamoring for half-and-half casts? I suppose it’s possible, but are we going to pretend that the Big Brother community doesn’t collectively salivate every year at the prospect of an All-Stars season?

Nevertheless, I can see why Veterans vs. Newbies would be appetizing to people in theory. The Big Brother season is an serious investment, both emotionally and temporally. And unfortunately, the harvests aren’t uniformly bountiful. But by judiciously reaching into the vault of legends, you might be able to guarantee consistent value without depleting your resources in one All-Stars season. And maybe, just maybe, we could have the best of both worlds. We could have the comfort and familiarity of old friends without the stasis, the jittery excitement of new friends without the risk. We could be standing still and venturing into the great unknown at the same time.

But it never pans out like this. Half-and-half casts create an imbalance in the game, yielding prosaic alliance lines that extend into jury. And since it isn’t a true half-and-half—since the Vets are always outnumbered—the show has to compensate for this by favoring the Vets in virtually all of the significant twists.[1]This casts a shadow of foul play over the entire season.

On Sunday, Big Brother introduced the Roadkill competition which has the makings of a neutral twist; however, there is a problem. In order to maintain secrecy, each houseguest must compete individually. Consequently, the competition is impossibly long. The first attempt at editing this devolved into a silly, incoherent montage. Not only does this detract from the drama of the competition, it also presents that hideous question of skulduggery: If I can’t see individual results, how do I know that the outcome is honest?

Luckily, there is an easy fix for this: stream Roadkill on the live feeds. This is salvageable.

“I don't know how we got so lucky to be in this house with this particular group of people.”—Da’Vonne

Indeed, the major problem with Veterans vs. Newbies is the casting. The experience gap exposes and amplifies the ineptitude of the newly casted players. It baffles me that Big Brother continues to cast these jabronis who obviously do not watch the show. I know Robyn Kass and company are pretty adamant about casting recruits, but is it too much to ask that they understand the schedule or the rules of the show they are casted on?

This is a omnipresent issue with the show, but this year they’ve really outdone themselves. Jozea, Victor, and Paul announce their targets to the entire house: The first week, they tell the reigning HoH (Nicole) that they are coming after her and the Veteran compatriots. Meanwhile, Bridgette, Natalie, and Bronte form an alliance right in front of Tiffany, a houseguest who still hasn't been identified as Vanessa Rousso's sister by half of the house.[2] Big Brother presents all of this as a joke, and, sure, it’s funny. But it’s laugh-before-you-cry funny. It’s a funny diversion from the fact that the competitive gameplay is next to nil.

I suppose this is why we all jones for All-Stars. While it’s true that not all the All-Stars are strategic specialists, at least we weed out the pretenders who don’t know how POV works. This isn’t the inconsequential drama you get from watching Jozea announce to the masses, “We own the house. Bitch fuck wid it, you get out.” This is the drama you get from people moving in the night—like ninjas.

I'm grateful that Big Brother finally abandoned the dreaded Battle of the Block, and I must admit that the alcohol supply has been commendable so far, but we cannot lose sight of the most important part of the game: the cast.


[1] Rachel Reilly benefited from Pandora’s Box, Elissa Reilly was gifted the fan-elected MVP twist, the BB13 Vets were half-protected with Golden Keys for the first four weeks, the BB14 coaches were ineligible for eviction for the the first three weeks, and Brendon Villegas (BB 13) was voted by America to have a chance to win his way back into the house and successfully did so by defeating Lawon in a competition. It also bears mentioning that in BB14, Frank Eudy, a Newbie and eventual winner of the America’s Favorite prize, had his certain eviction nixed by the Coach reset.   

[2] They haven't watched enough Big Brother to know the most eminent player from the most recent season.