The Year That Was

Yep, I can't believe 2014 is almost over, either.

Yep, I can’t believe 2014 is almost over, either.

So here’s what happened in “Big Brotherland” in 2014, or at least in the English speaking nations.

Derrick Levassur won this year’s US version of the show, and did so in a dominating manner perhaps not seen before. He won a 7-2 vote over runner-up Cody Calafiore, who could have evicted Derrick in the round of three, but chose not to, making what many believe was a $450,000 error. The show was longest in US BB history going 97 days, and provided plenty of controversy thanks to fifth place finisher Frankie Grande, brother of singer Ariana Grande.

Derrick was not the only American to win a Big Brother this year. Across the pond on the second Celebrity Big Brother of the year (they hold one in January/February and one in August/September after the regular UK season ends), actor Gary Busey won the fan vote over pro boxer Audley Harrison. This made Busey the first American to win a season of the show anywhere other than the United States.  British comic Jim Davidson won the year’s first Celeb competition, which will be returning when 2015 begins.

In the regular UK season, Bolton’s Helen Wood, best known for being part of a sexual threesome that included UK soccer legend Wayne Rooney, won out over rival Ashleigh Coyle to win the final vote. Wood was warned for transgressions throughout the season, including the use of abusive language referring to the 18 year old Coyle, but was never ejected. As part of this year’s “Power Trip” theme, fellow housemate Pauline Bennett gave Wood a pass to the final night in the season’s first few days, so Wood never had to face a public vote for eviction.

Canada’s season, played from March to May this year, was won by Jon Pardy, winning the US style jury vote over Montreal’s Sabrina Abbate. Pardy made a controversial move in the final three in evicting his pal Neda Kalantar of Vancouver, but the move proved crucial in winning the final vote. A third Canadian season is in the works for 2015, and will get a network upgrade by airing on Global TV instead of Slice, the show’s home of the first two seasons.

Finally over in Australia, a season known for going over 100 days just went 80 this year, won by fitness trainer Ryan Burke, who won 36% of a three-way final vote. He just squeaked by Travis Lunardi who had 33% of the vote, and Skye Wheatley, who had a 31% share of the ending tally.

What will 2015 bring?  Stay tuned!

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16 After 16

So much for my prediction last month that we’d see a Big Brother soon without live feeds, as CBS has launched their own Netflix-like network called CBS All-Access. For as little as $6 monthly subscription, you get over 6,500 episodes of shows CBS owns the rights to, plus every Big Brother episode going back to season one in 2000.

Which gets me to this month’s topic:

Since it doesn’t look like there will be another All-Stars season anytime soon, I thought I’d share with you my “Dream 16″ of the first 16 seasons, and show you what my All-Star season cast would look like.

A few ground rules first. I’m picking 8 men and 8 women, and if I have to channel my inner Grodner, I’d keep the game simplistic as possible. No highfalutin twists here, just the basic game everybody knows, although I’d throw in a one-off twist during the season at a random point and give the fans their choice of what twist from the past to employ.

Here’s my candidates, and a brief description of who I’d choose:


Eddie, BB1: (Like George from his season, I’d think he’d excel at the BB2 and beyond era.)
Will, BB2: (How do you not put him on the all-time list?)
Drew, BB5: (Skilled tactician during his season.)
Mike Boogie, BB2/BB7/BB14: (Just as capable and smart as his buddy Will.)
Dick, BB8: (Would drive the others crazy, and that alone would be entertainment enough.)
Dan, BB10/BB14: (Only contestant to play multiple seasons and not be evicted or quit.)
Ian, BB14: (The brains of any major alliance that the “dream game” would have.)
Derrick, BB16: (Right up there with Dan and Will as an all-time great.)


Lisa, BB3: (The first female winner would schmooze her way into contention.)
Danielle, BB3/BB7: (A great competitive schemer with drive to match.)
Jun, BB4: (Would probably make deals with the least likely candidates.)
Janelle, BB6/BB7/BB14: (Probably the greatest female competitor in show history.)
Maggie, BB6: (Underrated villainess who won her season with relative ease, and every show needs a villainess.)
Daniele, BB8/BB13: (Dick’s daughter was also a great in her own right.)
Jordan, BB11/BB13: (How would she do without Jeff?)
Rachel, BB12/BB13: (How would she do without Brendon?)

More next month…talk to you all then.

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What Was Learned

Jeff Probst, Julie Chen, and Kevin Frazier in one of Julie's many selfies this year.

Jeff Probst, Julie Chen, and Kevin Frazier in one of Julie’s many selfies this year.

What did I learn watching BB16?  Not a heck of a lot, really.  But I’ll share with you three points:

Was Derrick The Best Ever BB Player?: Kind of hard to say, really. It was a boring season because he was laps ahead of the field. Was Memphis and Jerry in BB10 better than Cody and Victoria were? For that matter, were Nicole and Monica from BB2 better than Cody and Victoria? In retrospect, the answer is easy. But BB2 didn’t have Power of Veto, and neither BB2 or BB10 had four nominees for a majority of the season as BB16 had. Derrick would definitely be in my “All-Time 16″ and would have his face on the “Mt. Rushmore” of US Big Brother players (with Dick, Dan, and Dr. Will the other three), but a comparison between himself and the others would be a comparison of apples, oranges, mangoes, and grapefruits. Wouldn’t be fair to any of them.

Stage Casting Here To Stay: As much as I disliked Frankie and how he had the effect on the houseguests as an antichrist depicted by Nostradamus, I have to admit the format of the last three seasons works, ratings wise. I don’t see it going away, and I think you can count on someone’s relative or offspring making it on to BB17 next year.

Worth noting is the “Hailey Jones” notes from last year, because the exact same thing wound up happening this year as was the case last year. On BB15, a stunt casted houseguest (Elissa) and a controversial houseguest (Amanda) paved the way for the winner, although “Jones” got the winner incorrect (it was Andy, not Amanda as predicted). This year, a stunt casted houseguest (Frankie) and a controversial houseguest (Caleb) went out back to back, paving the way for Derrick’s win. Coincidence or luck?

A Down Year For Production And TV: Notice how there were more “holes” on the live shows and in the production of the feeds this year, and how some in the production end of the show openly cater to TV viewers and not feedsters. For instance, one of the HOH question-and-answer competitions couldn’t be finished before the live show ended, causing a “cliff hanger” for the feedsters and the TV viewers, whether it was planned or not.

I’ve been saying this for a while, and I think this happens eventually: expect a season to air sometime in the future (maybe 2015, maybe some time beyond) with either limited live feeds or no live feeds at all. The show wants to wean new audiences onto the franchise, and wants old time live feeders to quit the show cold turkey, and CBS thinks they can do that by bringing in someone’s brother, sister, relative, son, daughter, father or mother onto the show every year. Killing off the live feeds also only gives the side of the story they want to share, and it’s something the other CBS reality shows do anyway.

Time to take a bit of a BB hiatus with not as much news coming in. Catch you all next month!

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Derrick The Dominator

Donny Thompson looked a little shocked to take the $25,000 prize for being America's Favorite Houseguest, September 24, 2014.

Donny Thompson looked a little shocked to take the $25,000 prize for being America’s Favorite Houseguest, September 24, 2014.

It’s only been a few days since the grand finale of the sixteenth season of Big Brother, and I am already wondering if there will ever be someone as dominanting as the Rhode Island police officer, Derrick Levasseur.

Derrick was only nominated by default on the 97th and final day (a new record) after losing a tiebreaking HOH comp question, with Cody then making the interesting choice to evict Victoria and make the final two an all-Hitman affair. Had he chose to evict Derrick, even though had he kept Victoria to the end, polling suggests he could have won. The finale falderol and hype was a moot point, as Derrick took 7 of the 9 votes to win with only Jocosta and Donny dissenting. Derrick also won $75,000 in bonus money on top of taking the $500,000 grand prize, making him the all-time money winner for a single season, if not overall, in show history with a whopping $575,000.

Don’t spend it all in one place, Derrick.

Donny took $25,000 of his own in taking the Favorite Houseguest prize, much to the dismay of the seemingly peeved Frankie (which delighted me no end). Frankie, as usual, tried to be the star of the show even on finale night, claiming he “knew” Derrick was a cop and arguing with Caleb in the taped jury deliberations hosted by Dr. Will Kirby. In the final HOH competition where Cody and Derrick have to guess what insights the jury have, Frankie refers to Cody as a “beast mode coward” for voting to evict him in the final five.

Whatever, Frankie.

People will say that BB16 was the dullest season ever (mainly due to Derrick’s dominance), but it did well with such labels thrown at it by quasi-dissenting fans. Ratings were up a little bit from last year, perhaps proof that however controversial the “stunt casting” of the past three seasons (with Willie from BB14 and Elissa from BB15 being cast, respectively), the format works in getting butts in front of televisions, even if they do not watch the live feeds. I would not expect the show to go away from stunt casting someone’s mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, or brother next year either.

If it ain’t broke, or if the executives at CBS do not think it’s broke, why fix it?

The show has been renewed for two more seasons at least, meaning Big Brother will be on CBS until at least 2016 and that the future of the show has never been better. As much as some of us complain during the summer, at least we will have more to say these next two years.

Next week: a look at what I learned this season, with monthly blog entries the first Sunday of each month beginning in November until BB Canada time rolls around.

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Requiem For A Scheme

Derrick passing some time, September 19, 2014.

Derrick passing some time, September 19, 2014.

Derrick, Cody, and Victoria are this year’s final three, with Frankie then Caleb evicted in the house in fifth and fourth place, respectively.

Frankie played the role of the entitled, stunt casted houseguest to the hilt. He admitted he was Ariana Grande’s brother when his back was against the wall in the midway point of the season, but had nothing left to reveal when his turn to leave came up. He’s probably destroyed the stunt casted houseguest for future seasons, which probably isn’t a bad thing when all is said and done. Many found him and his narcissism very annoying, and I agree with those assessments.

Caleb got off to a rocky start with a reputation that preceded him into the house way back in June, then a puppy love/hate relationship with early evictee Amber had many viewers question the wisdom of putting him in the house to begin with. When Amber left, the “beast mode cowboy” went on a pretty good run to propel him to his fourth place finish. The indecision Cody was racked with early in the game whether or not to get rid of Caleb early fell away when Cody once again had such a chance when only four houseguests remained, perhaps nullifying the opinion of many that Cody was too timid to play this game.

Derrick, whether he wins or loses, has had one of the more legendary visits to the Big Brother house in show history, as previously documented. He can set numerous precedents statistically in the game depending how the final night goes. If he wins the last part of the quasi-double elimination HOH always played when the house is down to three, he becomes the first houseguest of the 195 who have played to have not been nominated in a season, via default (as is the case in the final three) or otherwise. He could also make the final two and lose to either Cody or Victoria if the jury turns against him, which has a fair chance of happening. I’d have no problem with him winning the game, as he was laps ahead of anyone in the house this year, by design or not.

Victoria will break Spencer’s record from last year for nominees with her 10th nomination (again, by default) Wednesday night, something I thought last year would never be broken. Then again, there were four nominees for the the first part of the season and a portion of the second, so someone racking up that many noms was possible. If Victoria makes the final two, she will be a more undeserving runner-up (and the $50,000 going with it) than Ginamarie was last year. All she did was get nominated over and over again, kind of Big Brother’s version of a 1970’s boxer named Chuck Wepner, known more for the punches he took than what he threw.

When it comes to Cody, two previous Big Brothers in recent history come to mind as to what his fate might look like. I think, much like Ian Terry in season 14, he’ll have to play perfectly in the final HOH competition against to Derrick to win. Like the second season of Big Brother Canada, he may have to do something he’d rather not do to win the big pile of cash: eliminate his closest ally, much like Jon Pardy did to Neda Kalantar a few months back. To me, Cody might also be remembered for telling Frankie he’s not Jesus Christ, with a colorful metaphor thrown in to boot. I wouldn’t blame Cody if he took Derrick out if he wins the last HOH. You play to win. You don’t play to be the best friend of the winner.

I know to many it’s been a pretty ugly, boring season, especially with Frankie’s antics. With Utopia doing so poorly in the ratings, Wednesday night’s finale on CBS will probably bring back the fans to watch one more time until the house goes into mothballs until June of 2015 when BB17 starts.

I’ll be back to share my thoughts on the finale next Sunday, and share what I learned watching the season the week after that on October 5th. After that, it’s a post the first Sunday of each month until BB Canada 3 begins.

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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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