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 TV Bites With Neena Louise

Big Brother? Oh, Brother!

by Neena Louise

I awaited CBS's newest reality show Big Brother with anticipation. Having seen the originating Dutch version, I couldn't wait to see how the American version compared. My, how disappointed I am.

The first show was almost entirely consumed by a tour of the "house" with a terminally annoying Guy Smiley-like host pointing out every damn thing...like we hadn't seen/heard/read all about it in the pre-program hype-o-rama. The "big build-up" and exploitive hugging-and-kissing-of-loved-ones that went on before the participants entered the house was nauseating, but, hey, first show. It could be forgiven.

The next few episodes showed promise as the dynamics of the group enfolded - conflicts arose and the participants became real people. I still thought all the pre-program stuff and Julie Chen had to go, however (Julie Chen is amiable and a true professional, but no one is tuning in to see HER, for heaven sakes!). I almost deemed this a "show to watch".

Then the live show that determined which of the houseguests were nominated for banishment aired. It was so horrible, I was aghast that I was wasting my time watching such absolute CRAP. I mean, a live audience?? A boring rundown of the website (by someone who will, apparently, be a regular guest)??? A SHRINK??? What the HELL? I had to look at the clock and make sure it was, indeed, evening, and I wasn't watching a morning talk show with all those talking heads that talk, talk, talk. There was so little footage of the actual houseguests (which is really the only thing I wanted to see), that I spent most of the hour flicking back and forth between a movie and Big Brother.

But I wanted to vote (where the public can vote for which of the two nominees for banishment they want ousted). I had visited the much-publicized website earlier that day to find out how the public would be voting, but found no mention of it. So I watched to the bitter, painful end. I was outraged to discover that the vote is being held via a 900 telephone poll at 99 cents a pop. EXCUSE ME? What is this? Simply a blatant cash grab? Or is CBS convinced we're all so dishonest that if it were free, we'd vote again and again? Or is it just that CBS has not yet leapt into the '90s and realized Web voting has replaced 900 telephone polls? Sheesh!

I've caught pieces of Big Brother since this disastrous episode, and have found it hasn't improved with time. Between the sloppy editing, silly "challenges" and boring diatribes expounded by some of the participants, it has gone from the "possible show to watch" to the "only if there's nothing else on" category of my TV watching.

I can't help but compare Survivor to Big Brother. Survivor is a ratings bonanza and it, too, has a host and mini pre-show. The difference is there's very little interaction between Survivor's participants and the people that make the show happen (at least not on camera). Considering both Survivor and Big Brother are CBS productions, I marvel at the difference in quality (though whether either can be classified as "quality programming" is questionable). In the rush to clone, I think CBS missed a few huge DNA links and created a dumber, sicker copy.  
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