#1 TV show, Wednesday, 8/17/16
5.91 million viewers
Another class session in my reality TV education. While I had never watched Big Brother, I was of course familiar with its basic premise: A bunch of strangers live in a house together under constant surveillance. The most striking aspect of the show upon viewing, at least compared to the relatively earnest Bachelorette, is its tone. I don’t know if the series was always like this or if it turned into a self-parody over the course of its eighteen years on the air, but it’s cartoonish. The house is done up in bright solid colors like the set of a Nickelodeon pre-teen sitcom. The contestants all mug and bust out the crazy eyes in their to-camera testimonials. The competitions involve lots of oversized props and blaring sound cues.
Speaking of competitions, I could barely follow the Byzantine grindings of the elimination process that wound through this episode. There were contests and meetings and vetoes and lots of agonizing about being “on the block,” but ultimately nothing seemed to actually happen. About halfway through the episode a robot called “Zingbot 5000” showed up to slam each houseguest with a sub-roast insult, then announced that it was running for president and had everyone compete for points by flinging beanbags at a giant map of the U.S. I was going to make an Electoral College joke here but really I just can’t believe how complicated and strange this all was. I feel like I’m describing a dream I had.
I’m still not sure how one is supposed to engage with this stuff. Are we intended to like these people? Identify with them? Laugh at them? Identify with some and laugh at the others, regardless of who? Does it matter? I need to go to a viewing party and conduct interviews or something.