Dog Day Afternoons

The five remaining houseguests get a visit from a dog named Izzy on September 9th, 2014.

The five remaining houseguests get a visit from a dog named Izzy on September 9th, 2014.

With 10 days left in the longest season in US Big Brother history, the show seems desperate to regain online viewers that have found Utopia, while the FOX show of the same name has online viewers but some legitimate ratings problems.

No one went home this week, so Derrick, Caleb, Cody, Victoria, and Frankie still all have the chance at winning the $500,000 if they are the last houseguest standing on the evening of September 24th. Derrick still has the chance of being the first unnominated houseguest in show history should he get thru these last few days and HOH cycles without seeing the block. Meanwhile, it looks like Frankie might be in trouble and thus the next one going home, barring a great escape from the block these next few days.

I don’t give the show enough credit sometimes, and it’s easy after 16 seasons to sound jaded. But I will say this: bringing in Izzy the dog was a very nice touch. It is well documented how canines can be therapeutic to be with, and sure enough, the dog brought back some of the humanity in the houseguests and made them normal people for a little while. The only shame is that the dog couldn’t say, and that Frankie couldn’t be evicted.

Speaking of Frankie, there was a mass appeal online from Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber to campaign for Frankie to win America’s favorite houseguest, and the $25,000 prize that entails. Typical shenanigans from this bunch, really. Early in the season, Frankie’s fan base and what that would mean for the show was overrated, as Frankie didn’t get picked on Team America (and the abortion that has become) right away. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mr. Grande has the “Miss Congeniality prize” on lock already, while he sits in there, almost eliminated from the big money. You can shout “unfair advantage” all you want, but CBS and production wanted this advantage to exist all along and are party and parcel to it, so it might help to go to the proper source to levy complaints.

The jurors coming into the house the following day was “cheap pop” designed to give TV ratings a boost, and I wasn’t all that wild about bringing them in for a meaningless luxury competitions that wound up throwing Victoria and Hayden $5,000 bones, respectively. How many times are they going to let evicted houseguests in the house? Just didn’t make sense on a few levels.

Meanwhile, Utopia debuted on FOX, and while the initial ratings were good, BB’s ratings on their debut night were even better. This is why I urged caution about Utopia, considering how many reality shows on that network have been spectacular failures. With “pioneers” shuffling in and out by the day, I’m starting to think that Utopia will be lucky to see the start of 2015.

That’s it for this week, more next Sunday!

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The Week That Will Not Be

Christine Brecht and Nicole Franzel discuss things early in the BB16 season, which seems a long time ago now...

Christine Brecht and Nicole Franzel discuss things early in the BB16 season, which seems a long time ago now…

Nicole (once more) and Christine were the two evictees in a week so quiet, not even a double eviction could liven up.

How bad have things gotten? They brought Jeff and Jordan in from seasons eleven and thirteen, so that Jeffy could finally pop the question to the BB11 victrix.  There was also the curious case of a mystery button, which everyone pressed without knowing the consequences of hitting said button. We know what the consequences are: that the nominees Frankie (who won a record 5th HOH comp late Thursday night) put up will be annulled, and that an entire fresh round of play will take place on the CBS broadcast Wednesday night.

People will be discussing Christine’s play in the house long after season sixteen ends, in all likelihood, as she was roundly booed exiting the house. Even Julie Chen, who usually shies away from such critiques, questioned her game play in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. I’ve exchanged tweets with Christine’s husband Tim during the course of the season, and he’s gone out of his way to answer the tweets the viewing and social media public has had for him. Let’s let Tim and Christine handle their problem, because their relationship is theirs to define, and not anyone else to define.

Meanwhile, it appears that Utopia has stolen most of Big Brother’s thunder, and I would not be shocked at all if the new FOX show puts up a huge number against CBS’s Big Brother later tonight, even with the Jeff/Jordan engagement announcement and falderol.  Utopia is basically season one of Big Brother, but with the pioneers calling the shots for the most part, taking place over a year’s worth of time with a house mostly unbuilt. I would still emphasize caution before we crown Utopia the new king of all reality shows taking place inside of a house, but what former BB exec Jon Kroll and his fellow co-executive producers have put together has been quite impressive.

Derrick seems to be the overwhelming favorite to win still, but I wouldn’t count out Victoria or Frankie’s chances, either.

More next week, as we draw closer to finding out who wins BB16 on the 24th.

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New Kid In Town

Godspeed to you, Donny.  You made the feeds fun this year...

Godspeed to you, Donny. You made the feeds fun this year…

It’s now the 73rd day in season sixteen, with 24 days left to go. This week, it was Donny who made a tearful retreat to the jury after being voted out by 5-0 count after a couple of flip attempts in the last 24 hours. Donny is now member number four in the nine person jury, leaving seven in the game. He was easily the houseguest with the most integrity, undeserving of some of the treason that was talked about him in the guise of getting him out. He bagged $28,000 and landed a gig on the “Bold And The Beautiful” CBS soap opera in a cameo role, and I hope you will join me in wishing him well in his post-BB life.

In all honesty, I watched the feeds probably a grand total of a half and hour this week, outside of the HOH competition. Just not the same without Zach, and now without Donny. It is a cast where all that’s left are shades of grey, with the exceptions of Nicole, who got a second chance in the game and will be assured of being kicked out a second time unless a miracle happens between now and eviction. She and Christine began the week as nominees, put up after Caleb won yet another HOH comp, the yearly “fill up your (blank) before anyone else does” event. Christine won the POV competition, removing her from the block, and will put someone else on it come Monday.

I found the newest creation of Big Brother inventor John De Mol, Utopia, more interesting this week than the stagnant bore season sixteen has become.

Like BB, Utopia is a show about people living in a house, having to deal with each other and their differences. The difference with Utopia is it’s an open ended show, with a monthly eviction process, no winners, and a season that will last one full year. In the first couple of days alone on its live feeds (two of which are available for free, more can be purchased for $4.95 a month), Utopia has produced a series of controversies that has led to one “pioneer” (as opposed to a houseguest) getting booted even before the show began, another pioneer being hospitalized, and another put on trial for some drunken and disorderly conduct. The show has some serious upside potential, but let’s remember that FOX has had what seemed initially to be brilliant show ideas before only to turn into ratings disasters, so let’s wait a bit before declaring Utopia the new Big Brother.

Not to be outdone, there’s a fresh controversy emanating from the Big Brother house in Studio City with the irksome Frankie’s controversial comments yesterday, joking about raping Victoria. While comments such as these have been commonplace in previous seasons, none of these remarks have ever come from a houseguest who was been “stunt cast” into the show in its history. It will be interesting to see if Frankie’s remarks get aired on the CBS show; if they do not, it may be fair to declare the show is playing favorites, something some of us have sensed for a while. The scandal will likely blow over much like last year’s racist crap did, with about a 10% chance of Frankie’s remarks sticking around to haunt him or the show in some fashion.

Rape is not OK. Talking about rape is not OK. Enough said.

Thursday will mark the second double eviction, where the remaining seven houseguests will be reduced to five.  I’ll be back next Sunday for another recap and some more analysis. Have a safe remainder of your Labor Day weekend!

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Expect The Expected

Christine, Cody, and Nicole back on July 26th.

Christine, Cody, and Nicole back on July 26th during happier times, waiting for a POV competition to get underway.

As the sixteenth season passes to two-thirds through mark, the power structure in the house is one step closer to ridding out everyone but their own once the game reaches the final six.

Zach was the latest casualty of this very one-sided war going on in the house this season. What started out as a festive practical joke by the Team America alliance as to who was stealing items owned by various houseguest somehow morphed into a “blame Zach” party, leading to his eviction. If Zach had just a touch more maturity, I think it’s quite likely he could have won this season. Instead he proved a perfect pasty for Derrick and Frankie to use as a shield for Team America and for the purposes of advancing in the game. Hopefully he’s given a chance to compete in an All-Stars season if they ever do another one in the future, and if that occasion arises, I think you’ll see a much more mature Zach Rance.

Zach’s eviction also brought up the forgotten Renom Rule, a loophole brought up on social media most of Sunday and Monday. Four seasons ago in the 42nd day of BB12 (August 13th, 2010), Brendon Villegas had plans to put Britney Haynes on the block during one eviction cycle, and told Britney his intentions outright. Producers told Brendon that his planned nomination of Britney would have to be nullified, and as it turned out, Ragan Fox and Lane Elenburg wound up being the nominees that day.

The feedsters forgot a couple of important points in their save-Zach hysteria:

First, it was Caleb who initially told Zach he would be the replacement nominee, and not Frankie, who was then the HOH. Secondly, the rules about HOH’s telling houseguests if they are being nominated had already been violated by Devin Shepherd initially, as I had mentioned back on July 6th. The rules only seem to matter when the show wants them to, plain and simple, and they have the discretion to disregard violations as they seem fit.

Nicole won the right to re-enter the house as a houseguest later on during the show. It’s unusual to see a buyback competition in consecutive seasons (in fact, it’s never happened before in show history), but it again goes to show the laziness I suspect is taking place at the executive level of the show. We were told this would be the twistiest season ever, and it is another promise that has proven to be dead on arrival. The one thing our favorite show needs is, ironically, the very thing that is the least likely to take place: a regime change at the top.

And by the way, whatever happened to endurance competitions?

Either Nicole or Donny had to win HOH or POV to send the power structure scurrying this week, but neither event took place. Cody won HOH and then POV Saturday night, which likely sends Donny out of the game and keeping the prodigal Nicole alive for now for a last chance at a significant turning point in a season that hasn’t really had any to this point.

How dominant has Derrick been? He’ll likely get to at least Day 71 before facing the threat of being nominated for the very first time, and it wouldn’t be impossible for him to go the whole season without being nominated at all.  Jason Guy and Danielle Reyes went to the final three before being default nominees in the 78th day of season three with neither of them winning their respective season, each falling to winner Lisa Donahue. An impressive run in a season which has had four nominees in eight of its nine HOH cycles, regardless of what you think of the Rhode Island policeman.

More next Sunday…see you then!

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Puppet Masters

Several houseguests draw Skittles candies to see who gets nominated, August 15th, 2014.

Several houseguests draw Skittles candies to see who gets nominated, August 15th, 2014.

It’s the 59th day in the Big Brother house, in what will be the longest US season in show history, both in terms of duration and the boredom it has given live feeders. Nicole Franzel was the latest casualty of the tidy house Derrick has been running, although she has a one in four chance at a return this Thursday.

I had high hopes that once we got past the jury level that the game would get more interesting with the power structure slowly turning on each other. After the frenzy driven of a double eviction and Frankie’s revelation (which he planned before the season ever began) that he’s a media mogul and Ariana Grande’s sister, things have once again slowed down to a veritable crawl once again. The house seemed united to get Donny out of the game this week, but in a twist of fate that proved more karma than anything else, Donny and a unhelpful Christine won the last Battle Of The Block (hopefully ever), meaning Frankie could enjoy his second full-time and fourth overall reign as HOH, and Donny once again fights to live another day.

If this were a NASCAR race, Derrick would be leading everyone by three laps with 40% of the race to go. That wide a lead is not insurmountable considering the Rhode Island cop could always run into bad luck despite being so dominant in the social game and perhaps the weak play of everyone surrounding him. The true test will come in the 38 days left, where mental fatigue will come into play in earnest.  Plus all these days are opportunities for him to fumble the ball, or for others to figure him out and evict him.

Frankie won POV last night in a competition that marked the return of the comedy stylings of the Zingbot along with the BB debut of comedian Kathy Griffin. If I’m Zach, I’m watching my six here. There’s been acrimony in the “Zankie” alliance in recent days, and I’m expecting Frankie to get in the kill shot while he can by backdooring (in a game sense) Mr. Rance, much like Christine couldn’t avoid the “glory of the kill” (to coin an old Star Trek phrase) on Nicole when she had that chance last week.  In the end, there are some who play honorably and there are some who play to win the $500,000 in the end.  Frankie and Christine seem to be interested in the money, not any sense of fair play.

I just hope if Frankie asks Zach to commit a homosexual sex act on him in exchange for staying in the house, Zach turns him down if that is truly how he feels.

Finally, I’d love to comment about Robyn Kass’s tweet over this week past, which she said…

kassremark

….but CBS and production are doing such a good job this season without my advice, I think I will refrain from making such comments.

ZING!

Talk to you all next week!

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A Grande Stand Play

A pensive Zach Rance sits in the living room before the double eviction on August 7, 2014.

A pensive Zach Rance sits in the living room before the double eviction on August 7, 2014.

Historians of the reality TV genre may have reason to look back at the events of the late evening on August 8th, 2014 in the Big Brother house. It was on this night that Frankie Grande, cornered and apparently doomed unless he won one of two contests over a two day period, won a Battle Of The Block under what even fellow contestants are calling suspicious circumstances. Then, he revealed his hidden identity to the cast as an explanation as to why he had been such a devious player, and that he is the brother of the very popular (at the moment) pop star Ariana Grande, playing the game for charity.

Even if the BOTB competition had been setup well in advance and above board (and not changed at the last second so that an individual can win for the team), why would Frankie promise to make these revelations ahead of the comp if he didn’t get approval from production before hand, and regardless of the outcome? Furthermore, why would he do so at this point in time with two comps left to go to seal his fate, knowing he can only play this kind of card once? The show has now become (or probably should be) a laughing stock, a personal commercial for all things Grande. While the houseguests are contractually obligated to continue on to their eviction and/or jury sequestration, has CBS and the powers that be forgotten that we the fans are not under any such obligation?

They sold out long time fans of the show who were LIVID on social media the past 36 hours or so, all in search of that teeny-bopper money and a younger demographic. It is beyond disgusting that this one houseguest has basically been permitted to become a walking commercial, and is now allowed to accept “bribes” from the other eight to remain in the game just a little bit longer. Want to see Justin Bieber, Caleb? Keep me in the game for a while. This will allowed to go on and on until the season ends. You watch.

Here’s the kicker to all of this: the announcement was so well coordinated, the CBSTweet twitter page even mentions it at 10:13pm Friday night, Pacific time. That meant production was most likely in on the whole thing.

cbstweet

At that very moment, Frankie had already begun his revelation to Derrick, Cody, Caleb, and Zach. Frankie had revealed who he was on the feeds by 10:05pm. Eight minutes later, CBSTweets is posting about something that “may” happen that already has happened.

1013pmaug8th

There was one blessing in disguise in all of this: the houseguests who were his closest allies in the game most of the way are now repulsed by him almost to every last contestant, including Christine Brecht, the reigning HOH in the eighth cycle. (It should be noted that Andy Herren won the eighth HOH competition, and wound up winning season 15. An omen for Christine, maybe?) So, with an unhelpful Caleb and with Frankie going solo to win his way off the block (and Caleb along with him), they are safe another seven days, and the other houseguests may have found other targets by then.

And as usual, the POV competition brought another sharp turn with Zach winning, removing himself from the block, and putting either Victoria, Derrick, Cody, or Nicole on it come Monday. After a brief and loud series of quarrels over the past couple of days that led to Frankie’s revelations on Friday night, the two mended fences the following night, and all was well in the world of Zankie once again.

Were we go from this point, who knows. Donny suddenly looks done for, despite an eleventh hour miracle of the kind that saved Zach winning a week ago or Christine renoms a bigger threat. I still say the game is in a shambles at this point with Frankie weaponizing his identity, and his apology to “Rancey Pants” last night just might buy him the time he needs. Plus, if this very clear case of production manipulation takes place now, will they manipulate somewhere else down the road before the show ends on September 24th?

Talk to you all again next Sunday, a day where hopefully we are seven days closer from Frankie Grande not being rammed down our throats. I usually don’t dislike contestants this much, but Frankie Grande is the Big Brother Antichrist.

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Born Again

The Zach Rance "comic book" that aired during the POV competition Wednesday.

The Zach Rance “comic book” that aired during the POV competition Wednesday.

The New York Post on Tuesday called this season’s version of Big Brother the most boring ever. Well, it looks like the first of two double evictions of the season might have changed all of that.

The alliance in power led by Derrick, Cody, Frankie, and Christine executed some excitement in the form of a major house flip. In the first of two evictions on the live show, it appeared for most of the week that the controversial and outspoken Zach Rance was a goner. Leave it to the “Beast Mode Cowboy” to figure out that ditching Zach and keeping Jocosta would not be in their best interest, but apparently Caleb did the math that Derrick failed to do. With a 6-2 eviction vote, the attempting flip of the house was successful, and Jocosta became the first juror (as confirmed on the live show), but will also have the chance to re-enter as was the case last year. More thoughts on that later.

With the seventh eviction cycle beginning and ending all within the hour, Nicole and Hayden were not happy at being blindsided by the rest of the house. Caleb won the HOH (a competition to find ONE HOH for tonight only, the dual HOH’s return after this stage for a couple of cycles, it can’t continue mathematically beyond that), making him the first to hold the title two times on a full-time basis. He nominated Donny and Hayden, with Donny winning POV. Nicole went up in Donny’s place, with Hayden winding up going to jury with Jocosta, ousted with a 5-2 vote.

Overall, I was pleased with the live show, although I noticed how repetitive the competitions were.  The HOH competition was a classroom setting, much like the first double eviction comp of a year ago, while the POV competition was similar to one held two years ago that Frank Eudy won.  The contests were a bit different than their predecessors, but the similar sets shows what I’ve been theorizing all along this season: a lack of originality among production on the feeds and on the TV shows. That and the “twists” revealed in the hour (that most of us in social media easily figured out) plus recycling the “revive-a-juror” twist from last year shows their laziness and a TOTAL lack of original ideas.

Was Zach’s saving something the production may have had a hand in? You can make that argument about a lot of events in the history of the show, with some arguments being legitimate and some not. Personally, I think there was manipulation going on behind the scenes because the producers had motive and opportunity. If the manipulation went on and somehow failed, no one would have noticed, and the criticisms of the show being boring would have lingered. As we all now know, the manipulation (if it did happen) was successful, and now we have a lot more excitement in the house and things to talk about with each of the nine houseguests remaining at this point in time.

As double evictions seem designed to do, there are some realignments going on in the house, Nicole and Donny realize they are on the outside looking in, with Miss Franzel going to work calling out Frankie and Christine and went word to word with Zach Rance, someone who you don’t want to verbally joust with.  Nicole then spilled the beans about the “Rationale” alliance, seemingly reuniting the bosom buddies for most of the season back together like a rock band with tumultuous relationships.

Derrick is far beyond any other houseguest this season in terms of strategical intellect. Even without power, he played his fellow contestants like puppets on a string. It would be easy to say Derrick is going to go all the way and take the $500,000 jackpot at the end, but it takes a little skill to get that money. Ask Neda from the second Big Brother Canada season that. If Derrick falters down the stretch, keep your eyes on Caleb (yes, Caleb, I said that) and Frankie, who are still well insulated despite the recent attacks Nicole and Hayden put on them.

On Sunday, I’ll be back to look at the eighth eviction cycle that has already begun, and with Nicole and Christine as the pro temp HOH’s, it’s going to be an interesting week.

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