Big Brother 4 Producers Flirt with Bad Tasteby O'Sean Aieghlans -- 07/09/2003
As Big Brother viewers now know, this fourth season of Big Brother is going to be different 'with a twist' as third-year producer Arnold 'Show Skin' Shapiro revealed on Tuesday night's opener, once again hosted by Julie Chen. While it hardly seems just a 'twist' but a whole new show the jury is still out on whether this new show will be worth watching. For one thing, it needs to be renamed. I would suggest calling it Big Ex.
This year's Big Brother is going to be filled with stuff we already are familiar with, such as Heads of Household, food competitions, peanut butter and jelly, lockdowns, and backstabbing freaks. Well, at least we can trust in something. But now we have ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends to contend with. Perhaps it's just me, but I wouldn't be surprised if Shapiro and his co-producer Allison Grodner are married (or were married). Their own personal vision of hell, which they seem so eager to share with America, has shaped this show until it has turned into a kind of perverted version of what life must be like in Los Angeles: Lots of air conditioning, tanning lotion, and nothing at all to say to each other, especially when you know them already and have already heard everything they have to say.
The crestfallen faces on the houseguests, when they realized that their 'ex' was now with them in this house of horrors was sad, though laughter could be heard from the National Enquirer-buying crowd which wants to see photos of circus and carnival oddities and regularly watches Jerry Springer. A glimmer of recognition across the face of exercise instructor Erika showing that, in fact, she realized that she had been had by the producers and is now to be laughed at was tragic/funny/juicy/in bad taste (circle the item that fits your viewing habit). Erika did not even say hello to her ex, she appeared so disturbed. Is this supposed to be fun?
And Allison, a very blond 21-year-old, seems no happier. As she so poignantly indicated through tears to a fellow houseguest, this just might be the worst possible thing, this ex showing up and ruining all her fun. We can't help but agree with her. How the producers could believe that taking attractive people and torturing them is what we want to see is beyond me. The guys seemed a bit more game... or was it just that they were feeling a bit more mischievous, knowing they could torture their ex on national television by either revealing things that were too personal, or flirting with someone more beautiful than the ex? But getting back to Allison there may be another reason that she does not want to share the summer with her ex. Maybe she is co-dependent. Maybe the guy brings out the worst in her, maybe the breakup made her feel suicidal in fact, the whole thing could be a personal hell. What is the interest in this? These producers are perverted. Didn't we learn anything by the knife-to-the-throat lesson from previous BB seasons?
But just who is this show about, anyway? Which ones are the houseguests? Are they the eight people who first entered the house or those who are called the 'Xs' ? Are the Xs 'extras' or full fledged participants? If it were me, I have to admit, I would be questioning my purpose in life upon finding that I was the 'ex' on the show and not the principal player. Ask yourself those who dare would you rather be the person on the Jerry Springer show who gets surprised by the person joining you on stage, or the person doing the surprising? It's all irrelevant, because everyone seems to be in the house to stay until they get kicked out.
Ah yes, the kickouts, nominations and rejections. Well, the air came out of the tires right away when the houseguests made a pact to vote off everyone who was an 'X'. With the Head of Household factor, that is unlikely to happen, but having an alliance five minutes into the show is yawn. The producers headed off this boredom by revealing that: there are neither gays nor nary a virgin on this year's show. No gays, no virgins, almost everyone knows each other already (not only knows each other but decided they weren't worth sticking around for), so wow, this is going to be interesting.
The Shapiro team has a strange if very American way of never being satisfied with the Big Brother formula, as if they are hoping beyond hope that this little twist or that will make the show a blockbuster. Get real, Shapiro, it is not going to happen. While gold coins may be falling into your lap, no one is going to be carrying you around on anybody's shoulders so stop the tinkering: too much tinkering has broken many a toy.
Here are some suggestions for next year's show 'twists': 1) Try filling the house with free-ranging tarantulas and rattlesnakes, that'll be good for a thrill; 2) Half the houseguests could be ex-convicts or those out on parole; 3) Fill the house with three king-size beds so everyone is forced to sleep with each other.
Oh, yes, it's true everything may work out alright in the end, just like at the end of the Jerry Springer show the credits roll and we move on. But that bad taste in the mouth? Even after spitting out its cause, that bad taste has a tendency to linger for a long time.
This article was written by O'Sean Aieghlans, a critic-at-large of the overall reality television scene. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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