WLTI Bonus Point #11 – Who Watches the Watchers?

Written by: Chico Alexander


When met with the question as to who is going to occupy the Big Brother House this year, this is the answer with which we are supplied.

Used to be during the days of old, CBS would have no problem trotting out the latest army of summer shut-ins for its ultimate guilty pleasure, an inside-the-house battle for control amongst a group of like-minded and like-bodied control freaks. The CBS PR department would be particularly giddy during all-star seasons.

But when the game is taking the next step forward, with improved interactivity and now high-definition changing the way we watch the watchers, the identities of our players remain shrouded in a secrecy not seen since a former beauty queen and a New Black Panther came into the house in 2000 and promptly bored the ever loving fool out of America.

The answer as to why we do not yet know who the players this year are can easily date back to the cluster that was last year.

In 2013, the cameras rolling at the Radford Studios captured:

– racist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted comments made by SEVEN house guests either in passing or directed to the competition, both on aired and streamed footage.

– at least one death threat.

– several instances of on-camera bullying.

– jokes (jokes?) about owning child porn.

– a disclaimer disavowing CBS of the hand that they themselves played: “Big Brother is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the HouseGuests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a HouseGuest appearing on Big Brother, either on any live feed from the house or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”

– Les “Mr. Julie Chen” Moonves’ weak-kneed reaction to the above: “Big Brother obviously is a social experiment… and clearly that’s what’s happening this year. I find some of the behavior absolutely appalling personally. What you see there unfortunately is a reflection of how certain people feel in America. It’s what our show is, I think we handled it properly. A lot of it makes us uncomfortable…. We did not comment on some of the racial things being said until it started affecting what was going on in the household. There was a lot of chatter about it on the Internet and I think we’ve handled it the way we should have.”

“Big Brother”, the child of reality Titan John de Mol, has never been averse to controversy stemming from its always-on nature. We’ve had the scientific explanation of how a battle with genital warts can lead a man to lay waste to a living room. We’ve had the inter-social exchange between an over-sexed female and a man brandishing a knife. We’ve learned the precise trajectory that a microphone can be thrown into a pool for maximum damage of both property and placement in the game. And all of it was captured live for the cameras on television and the Internet. You know, when there wasn’t a picture of an aquarium blocking out the good stuff.

But last year, with a cast as diverse as they were and somewhat oblivious to the fact that comments made in the house are broadcast live to a viewing audience, things came to a head. The line between reality and reality TV was blurred. Actions made in the context of The Game had real-world repercussions that snowballed over time. Legal was in a veritable firestorm with the amount of flare-ups that they had to quell.

And all for the sake of being on TV, it seems.

Last year was awkwardly unwatchable, and don’t think for a second that CBS didn’t know this. The network, after all, is a money-making enterprise. Bottom line is dollar signs. Anything that may threaten income has to be controlled, from what information gets out to the pressers to when it is eventually released.

And so far, one week prior to the June 22 premiere… Deafening silence. It could be that CBS is keeping tight-lipped to protect the livelihoods of the participants. It could be extra rounds of vetting in order to ensure that the cluster of last year is not repeated.

But all it takes is one skeleton in your closet to start the NEXT real-world avalanche. And don’t think CBS doesn’t know this.

In the meanwhile, we continue to wait for word on the gang looking for their 15 minutes. They will be moving in within a matter of days, but until then – and perhaps not until the premiere – they will do so under a cloud of darkness.

One that will be brushed aside once the cameras start rolling.

POST-SCRIPT: between the time this column was written and the time it was published, CBS did release the names and faces of the contestants for this year’s “Big Brother”. Both can be seen here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/big-brother-16-houseguests-revealed-713024

Follow Dino “Chico” Alexander on Twitter @dinoralexander. E-mail him at chico@8threestudios.com

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