Big Brother 2: An Argument for Bringing Back the TV Voters
by Susan Schechter
In every other version of Big Brother around the globe, the viewers continue to vote on which contestant should be voted out each week and who should get the grand prize at the end. As we all know, the producers of BB2 in the U.S. changed things this year. But should they have done so, or would this season have been better with the viewer vote?
Of all the Big Brother shows around the world, all of them, except the current American version, have one thing in common: Television viewers pick who gets eliminated every week, after the houseguests nominate their own.
I always thought this was a good idea, it keeps the houseguests in suspense, and it keeps the decision on who gets eliminated out of their hands. The viewers then "play god," not the contestants (though some of the American contestants this year are not just playing god, but appear to actually believe themselves to be gods).
It has been said over and over again that the good folks at CBS, who at one time brought forth such classics of Americana like MASH and All in the Family, are to raise their ratings. I am sure that the big four American networks are having their ratings hurt by such networks as Nick, A&E , and MTV. Not to mention how many people I personally know who have upgraded to premium cable so they can watch The Sopranos. Gone are the days where television only got 13 channels and no remote. My basic cable package here allows me 80-some channels of viewing pleasure, which is a far cry from Pink Floyd's classic line "I have 13 channels of s**t on the TV to choose from." I am sure that years from now, some Generation X-er will be writing a doctoral thesis on television viewing habits on those born between 1958 and the present, when mothers started to go back to work and kids were being raised by the electronic babysitter. One of the conclusions they will almost certainly come to is, unlike those from my parents' and grandparents' generation, the kids brought up between 1958 and the present (which includes me), have little to no attention span. They get bored easier. Why not? You get bored, change the channel! Even my favorite first run TV show, The Simpsons made fun of this numerous times, such as when Homer fell asleep during a funeral and said. "Change the Channel Marge."
Now I do not want to go into the sociological aspects of this, that is for someone wiser than I, working on a dissertation. (Or maybe I might do it as a future New York Times bestseller.) But I will state, with this in mind, I think this is why the brass at CBS tinkered with Big Brother.
Keep in mind, those who work in the television or any aspect of the media industry live and die by the ratings. And last year's BB was, to put it bluntly, very boring. I kept watching it because it was so boring I figured it had to get interesting at some point. It never did. I kept watching, and I could have had a better time watching paint dry. And the viewers also spoke; it did crummy in the ratings (some must have opted for watching that paint dry instead). So the folks at CBS decided to spice it up. Nuff said.
By having the houseguests voting on who gets booted, it's created a lot of rivalries and back-stabbing in the house. There was an episode last year where every member was up for evicition, since they all got 2 votes. No one knew who would be booted. It was up to the audience; hence the real shock on Josh's face last year when Britany got evicted. In fact, in some countries, having the houseguests discuss how they will vote can cause banishment, as it did for Nick Bateman in the UK.
Reading the logs of the live cam feeds, it is clear that several of the houseguests do not know how disliked they are by the viewing audience. Someone like Mike, who thought he was the "star" of the show and the others just walk-ons, would have had his comeuppance quickly (instead, he had to wait until he was voted off by his fellow houseguests and then checked out the Internet to see how much he was disliked). The first vote would have gone to evict Nicole instead of Sheryl. Most likely Autumn's would have been evicted as she was, but it would have made great television to have the American audience pick between Shannon and Will. And does anyone know how that would have really played out?
Take this week's eviction for example. It could easily have still been Kent and Will nominated by the group as a whole, just as Hardy did. My gut feeling, (although it was wrong in a previous article because I didn't feel Hardy would nominate Will), is that Kent is on borrowed time. This is a shame, since I really have grown to like this Southern Gentleman. I think if it was the American audience deciding, Will would be evicted, because Kent has been growing on us while Will's admissions of being a big liar probably wouldn't go over too well with the viewing (and voting) public. Of course, Will probably wouldn't even have made it this far if the viewers had been voting from the start.
CBS tells us that in the finale, the houseguests will also decide who wins. Yes, that is an interesting spin, but again, shouldn't it have stayed with the audience to decide? I know in last year's house, I thought for sure that Josh would win instead of Eddie, I thought Eddie would come in second. In the British version of BB that just ended, things looked like they could have gone either way at the end for either Helen or Brian. I know at one point, one of the British booking agencies thought it would be Dean, who came in third. Having the players pick the winner works well for formats like Survivor, but the good folks who came up with the BB concept in the first place had a good idea to let the viewers pick which one they like. Considering there is not that much to like in the remaining contestants, it would be an interesting finish. Instead, we will have the contestants deciding who gets the final prize. Depending on who the final two are, that could end up being almost as interesting, or it could be as unsurprising as most of the votes to date have been.
Susan Schechter works for a multinational Financial Markets/News company as a Research Analyst/Biographer covering the UK, Australia and other Commonwealth countries.