The Disappointment of “Celebrity Big Brother”

Meghan Shaffer ‘20

Culture Editor

Disclaimer: I love reality T.V. One of the best parts of my week is when I have time to take a break and catch up on the latest “Real Housewives” installment. I’ll watch any show in “The Bachelor” universe, and I’ve been keeping up with the Kardashians for as long as I can remember. So when news broke that, for the first time ever, there would be an American celebrity edition of beloved reality show “Big Brother,” I was ecstatic, as were many fans across the nation.

For those who don’t know, “Big Brother” is a competition reality show that has a new season every summer. From July to September, 20 or so people are locked in a house, completely cut off from the outside world. They compete in competitions to determine who is in charge of the house, very “Lord of the Flies,” and every week one person is voted out and evicted from the house. The last person standing wins $500,000. They do all this, of course, under the constant, 24-hour supervision of hundreds of cameras. Hard-core fans can purchase access to a live video feed so they can watch the housemates at any time of the day, without the editing that comes along with the episodes that air three times a week.

I love “Big Brother.” It’s the perfect summer show, in that you get sucked into the lives of a group of perfectly unextraordinary people because you simply have the time to care about it. The constant stress of college has taken a backseat for a couple of months and settling in to watch “Big Brother” three times a week becomes a ritual with my family as we all get caught up in the drama.

But this inaugural season of “Celebrity Big Brother” has been disappointing and not for the reasons that I’ve seen many people complaining about. Yes, the “celebrities” are not famous A-listers that anyone would recognize, but that is to be expected. No one famous enough to be a household name is going to take the time to raise their credibility by appearing on a reality show. The celebrities, in fact, have been quite enjoyable in my opinion. There’s an interesting mix of old-timers that older fans of the show would recognize, like rock star Mark McGrath of band Sugar Ray and “The Cosby Show” star Keisha Knight, and stars familiar to millenials like Real Housewife Brandi Glanville and James Maslow of Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush.” This creates an interesting power dynamic among the stars: the “older generation” feels a sense of pride and a little condescension because they’ve been around the block for quite some time, and the more recent celebs feel proud that they have stayed relevant in this constantly changing world.

The problem with “Celebrity Big Brother” is that the stakes are not high enough. Regardless of whether you think these people deserve to be labeled “celebrities,” “Big Brother” is usually made up of regular people. The reward money would completely change their lives, and they are going to fight like hell to make sure they win. The celebrities are not in that same financial situation, making it all the more easier to simply walk away when the game gets too hard. But this desire and willingness to walk away creates another problem with the viewers. “Celebrity Big Brother” will run for only a three-week period, instead of its usual three months, and it is almost at the end of that three weeks. For the celebrities inside the house the light has always been at the end of the tunnel, lowering the stakes even more. Part of the draw of “Big Brother” is watching the houseguests’ entire world become the Big Brother house. Everyone is on edge, everyone has gone a little stir crazy, and it makes for some great T.V. With “Celebrity Big Brother,” there simply isn’t the time for this to happen. Relationships among the contestants develop differently, fundamentally changing the way the game is played.

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