It says a lot about how far (or how low) reality television has come when realizing CBS’ Big Brother can be considered in the upper echelon of the genre.
Contestants parading around in as little clothing as possible, audiences shocked at people actually getting intimate in a house filled with cameras… that was almost 10 years ago. Boy, the things that pass for reality television today!
But it also says a lot about Big Brother when after 11 seasons and counting, it has stayed above the pile of garbage and still finds the Tiffany network it’s home when it could just as easily have dove head first into the heap.
At the heart (loosely used) of the international Big Brother franchise is the voyeurism, being able to watch a group of adults confined in a house with zero communication to the outside world. An experiment on human relationships, almost like lab rats.
For the various international versions, putting on a good face for the public will get you the big prize. But what the American Big Brother has successfully done is turn the format into a survival of the fittest-type competition which has definitely helped save the stateside franchise after the lackluster first season that used the original BB format.
So now at the heart (again, used loosely!) of Big Brother US, it is a voyeuristic look at a group of adults in a house with zero communication to the outside world who are in a survival of the fittest and sneakiest-type battle for half a million dollars.
All the talk of producer manipulation aside, Big Brother is still an intriguing source of 24 hour drama (which can conveniently be edited to three hours a week for television). Sure that diary room can sure instill some paranoia and funny thoughts into the houseguests’ heads, but that’s all part of the
fun experiment. Messing with these people, getting reactions from them, making good TV.
For anyone who follows the 24/7 live feed online, it is even more interesting seeing how the editors can make things seem completely opposite of what really happened inside the house. So for all those of you who poo-poo the Survivor and Amazing Race contestants who blame the editing on making them look bad, just watch Big Brother‘s live feeds and then the television episodes and you’ll see that maybe those editors really are that tricky.
But that’s all part of what sets Big Brother apart even ten years later. The out of control craziness, the drama, the competition, all the things you watch reality television for, but without the stench that lingers after watching other lesser shows.
That’s what Big Brother US does right and a good example of when modifying a format from across the pond can work.
Big Brother US and all other Big Brother franchises, however, also show why the Philippines’ own series fails. Miserably and annoyingly.
Pinoy Big Brother on ABS-CBN in the Philippines strips away everything at the “heart” of the format and instead has been turned into the world’s first “celebrity search.”
The network and series producers have and probably never will admit it, but the Philippine Big Brother has been reduced to a network tool for finding and making celebrities to make money off of.
The public participation aspect from the original Big Brother format is now just a ploy for the network to mine even more text revenue from an already overtexted country.
There’s no isolation involved when the house gets celebrity guests every week and regular communication with the outside world.
Instead, the series is used to build up new celebrities, and this is important to point out. Celebrities, not actors, not singers, but celebrities. Because as soon as these housemates get evicted from the house, they are thrust into countless scripted television shows, hosting gigs, record contracts and more, regardless of whether or not these people have any discernible talent.
As long as they gain fantards a fanbase, they’ll get plenty of work, even more than established actors and singers … until the next season of Pinoy Big Brother comes along of course. At which time, they’ll get thrown out with yesterday’s has beens.
Pinoy Big Brother is basically a bastardization of the format. A format that lends itself to being an entertaining escape all its own.
The Philippine version in turn helps spotlight those qualities that make Big Brother, when not crapped on, that not-so-guilty pleasure that has survived all these years.
It’s not as high brow as its network siblings and far from being as trashy as the majority of reality television giving the genre a bad name, Big Brotherhas undoubtedly secured it’s spot as one of the best sources of summer television entertainment in the United States.
At the very least, it doesn’t make me want to smash my head against the TV after I watch it. And that’s really all I ask from my TV viewing.