With his HAL-like 2001 voice Big Brother is a pretty demanding bloke.
“I’m residing in here, you’re out there, so this is my house now,” laughs new housemate Angela.
“This is my house Angela,” BB insists. “My house.”
If he had an Orwellian 1984 foot, he was firmly putting it down. “MY. House.”
Seven is also demanding viewers put aside their expectations of Big Brother of old, and welcome the new. Almost everything is revamped: the house, the voice, the nominations process and most especially the format and the pre-produced model. All purists to the Diary Room.
It’s a pimped, neon house near Manly, complete with living green walls, sustainable timber and toilets flushing with rainwater. Who knew? Sonia Kruger, who hosted three seasons on Nine, becomes the link to the past, greeting housemates in a warm, if low key arrival at the front door.
First to arrive is 21 year old Kieran, who describes himself as “Adelaide’s worst driver.” No sooner is he in the house than he is given a secret mission to high-5, nickname and “massage” each housemate upon arrival. If he fails there will be no bedroom access on Night 1. While this deal is being negotiated, cameras are already onto the next arrival: woodwork teacher Zoe. With dual information now hitting the viewers’ eyes and ears at the same time, it’s pretty clear: this will be a fast and furious BB. Strap in.
10 more housemates come thick and fast: Footballer Daniel, Ian in a Hawaiian shirt, Allan with the tiger parents, Mat from Broken Hill, Marissa the former aerobics queen. I can’t keep up. I’d forgotten BB was always a challenge for viewers and editors alike.
A handful get extra screen time… Kieran with his challenge, Angela with her early demands, Daniel with his snoring, Allan with his competitiveness, Talia with a hint of unresolved sexual tension… producers are playing the long game as they steer storylines.
First impressions are important in BB as they are in life. The sheer numbers mean some are initially under the radar, and there is minimal exchange on social issues for now. All roads lead to the challenge, a mighty physical tournament involving huge swings in the basement. This is no mere challenge to stay awake all night, or to remain chained to your housemate. This is a power play in which the winner will get to choose the 3 housemates up for nomination. It will upend the social hierarchy and become a double-edged sword for the winner.
BB even narrates the challenge like Jeff Probst, accompanied by a tense reality soundtrack. After 3 are shortlisted for Eviction we follow with an extended scrambling as housemates negotiate alliances and threats. A nominations ceremony, conducted by Sonia Kruger via monitor, is also the Tribal-you-have-when-you’re-not-having-Tribal.
As one housemate asks, “Can we just keep all three? I’ve just learned everybody’s name.” Sorry, this is BB not a Kumbaya choir.
Narratively, the editing also leans upon Survivor, by favouring one worried housemate only to surprise the audience with another evicted. Expect this blindside with some regularity? However I really have no idea who voted for who, nor why they made their choices. It’s important to know their true emotions as revealed by votes. Like it or not, the gameplay overwhelms the social aspect, despite the extra airtime.
I also have concerns several non-Anglo housemates are presented as either unlikeable or as villains early on. Hopefully this will shift as the series progresses. That said, Angela is a producer’s dream with her demands…
BB purists will be challenged by the shift in the story balance, while Seven may have its work cut out to win over an older audience more attuned to cooking, renovating and talent auditions.
If you’re missing Survivor, BB is one flashy substitute.
Once there is more time to get to know these housemates, where they stand on social issues and form friendships (or not), then Big Brother will very possibly sucker you in, whether Live or not.
Big Brother continues 7:30pm Tuesday, Wednesday on Seven.