Why did the first American version of Big Brother do so poorly while the British versions have done so well? Will this year's changes in the U.S. impact the ratings? We've already seen increased conflict, but is that necessarily a good thing? What is so different about these two countries and their TV viewing habits?
Last year I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by the BBC Radio after the final episode of Survivor. One of the things the presenter asked me about was “How could a reality TV show do better (ratings and viewer wise) than the “Who Shot JR” episode of Dallas, or the final episode of M*A*S*H?
I said it was a phenomena – and it became part of the American Zeitgeist from 2000.
Other callers agreed with me, and said how they could not wait for the UK version of Survivor to be filmed. And we all know where that is. The Survivor currently appearing on British television has the second worst ratings to ever befall a programme on telly. (A good piece of trivia: The worst show in the British ratings was their version of That 70’s Show).
Which leads me to the purpose of this piece: Producers shouldn’t mess too much with the formula of a television show.
It seems to me the American Brother producers, writers, and directors took a cue from the British Big Brother version and spiced things up like their counterparts across the pond. Last year’s British BB had snogging and sexual innunedo. The American version had no chemistry between any of the house guests. Let’s face it, the only interesting house guest last year was Britany, and her muliticolored hair. The real interesting guests, Will Mega and Jordan the Stripper, were the first to be voted off. Last year’s British BB House had a gay (lesbian) member who finished 2nd. This year, the American version has a token gay guy. The current British BB (see photo above) has a house guest who removed her towel for the cameras. This year’s American BB house had a topless gal in the hot tub. Hot tub? Surely that was not there in last year’s house.
So here we are, the British Big Brother is once again burning up the ratings – and BB2 seems to be doing, well, the jury is still out on this one. Considering the poor ratings on last year’s Big Brother, well, this year’s BB should do better in the ratings. The houseguests are handsome, and buffed, in great shape. All seem to be bubble heads though (with no disrespect to Bubble, former houseguest of the British BB). The one with the highest IQ seems to be Will, and he is turning into a malevolent puppet master -- or at least a houseguest as evil as Nasty Nick Bateman from the British BB1. I shall shed no tears when his gorgeous body is booted out of the house. I fear once the interesting house guests are gone, we will be stuck with guests as boring as Jamie and George were last year. And then no one will be watching.
Maybe the producers should have added some chickens, or better yet – realized that what plays in England does not necessarily play well in the U.S. After all, my two most favorite Britcoms in the world, Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf, died in the American ratings when they were re-done for American audiences.
Or maybe the producers at CBS should have realized the average Englishman only gets five channels to choose from and we have much more.
Susan Schechter works for a multinational Financial Markets/ News company as a Research Analyst/Biographer covering the UK, Australia and other Commonwealth countries.