Big Brother is the world’s most popular reality TV show. Having been repackaged and aired in over 70 countries and comprising (by my count) 213 different seasons, not counting the other Endemol reality projects that are basically like Big Brother, there’s an international attraction to watching a bunch of morons locked in a house with one another until there is no one left. For some reason, however, the US version hasn’t been the ratings blockbuster and source of fascination that the European and South American versions have been, and I think I know why.
The international versions, most of the time, have the viewers vote on who they want out, while the American version uses Survivor-style self-elimination to attempt to produce more drama. The American Big Brother fails to provide the one thing that makes people interested in Big Brother throughout most of the Western world: nudity.
That’s right, in addition to audience participation, the foreign Big Brothers (at least in Europe and Australia) routinely have people getting naked, having sex, drinking too much, and generally being entertaining as all hell. The American contestants are usually pretty bland, the live feeds are carefully controlled to keep the shower-cam action to a minimum, if at all, and I think it’s safe to assume there’s not nearly enough liquor in the house because nobody does anything fascinating in an attempt to get public attention/affection. They’re bland and uninteresting people.
Part of this is related to the unnecessary home viewing audience. Why should people bother putting on a show and being interesting when the whole goal of the American version of the game is to not attract too much attention, plot with your fellow contestants, and vote other housemates out? If you get attention in this style of game, which just means you’re going to end up out on the street rather than rolling in dough. It discourages the contestants from being remotely interesting!
Thus the launch of Big Brother After Dark, on the Showtime family of networks, gave me a little hope. Surely these people would be more interesting without the restraints of broadcast network standards, right? Sadly, no. he houseguests actually end up being less interesting, because there’s nobody around to edit around all the boring, trivial chatter.
I think it’s time to take a cue from Big Brother Australia. Give the house guests a reason to act up and act out, give them contests that get them naked (or at least in skimpy outfits), and give your target audience of mouth-breathing perverts something to watch. It won’t make the houseguests any more entertaining with their clothes on, but at the very least it might spice up Big Brother After Dark. Three hours of boring people chattering about nothing isn’t my idea of riveting television.
Big Brother’s ratings aren’t bad now, but they could always be better, and Brother has always been the weak sister when compared to American Idol, The Amazing Race, Survivor, and America’s Got Talent. That’s because, on Big Brother, the contestants actually don’t do anything! No singing, no dancing, no rat-eating… there’s nothing inherently interesting about people sitting around a house.
If I wanted to watch boring people sit around the house, I’d watch my home videos.