The Case for the Big Brother Australia Model

I am crazy about competitive reality television shows: Survivor, Big Brother, MTV’s The Challenge… but lately, competitive reality shows have been disappointing me. With this season’s Jeff-heavy Survivor saving pathetic castaways and this past summer’s horrible Big Brother U.S‘s attempt at a comeback after BB15, I am turning to other countries’ Big Brother franchises to make me happy, including this year’s Big Brother Australia.

Big Brother Australia‘s model is great because it allows for both strategy and fun. It’s less predictable and more interesting. To me, watching four episodes a week is not enough. In contrast, I could not keep watching TV episodes of BB16 after Hayden’s eviction. Here’s why other Big Brothers should look into adapting some aspects of the Big Brother Australia model:

  • The importance of social interactions/thought-provoking conversations

I love family dinners on Big Brother Australia. Getting housemates in a huge group setting allows diverse characters to have interesting discussions. In this year’s Big Brother Australia we’ve gotten stories of people like Jason, who has not been well-received by his parents after coming out. Or Priya, who moved to Australia from India and has a calm, confident way about her. Or even one of this year’s whiniest characters, Leo, who recently described how he used to deny that his mother had a female partner in public by saying that the partner was his aunt. These are stories that I want to see play out. I don’t want to watch three people spend ten minutes coming up with a silly alliance name for an alliance that is not even real (I’m looking at you Bomb Squad, Detonators, and The Rationale).

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  • Unedited diary room sessions

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to BBUS is that the diary room sessions are scripted as hell. The only person I could watch without problem this summer is Jocasta. Nothing is as forced and grating as production’s one-liners being fed to every single housemate. It makes the show seem ingenuous and cheap. There is no emotional depth in the diary room apart from Zach’s”What am I doing here?! He’s going to save children in Africa! Give him the money!” tears in his diary room sesh. Unedited diary room sessions (used in Big Brother Australia) that are fresh, with a good cast, will translate into funny bits sooner or later. Pauses are okay. Regardless, confessionals are all about telling the viewers at home what you’re really feeling–not what production wants you to feel.

Maybe you’ll even get a Skye falling off the diary room chair:

  • Housemates can’t speak about nominations

Big Brother U.S. is boring because there is a lack of blindsides. The only real blindside that was fun to watch this summer (because the receivers were so shocked) was Hayden/Nicole vs. The Detonators. In Big Brother Australia, people are not allowed to discuss who they will be nominating, so it makes players weigh out who will likely get points vs. who they should give points to. Many times nominations reveal so much, not only because they can’t talk about it with others before the fact, but because housemates don’t just tell us who they are nominating, but why! Strategy, popularity, and chance play a large role in nominations: always making the process fresh and many times, unexpected. You won’t see boring unanimous voting.

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  • The representation of women

Women on BBUS don’t survive. In recent BBUS seasons, women alliances always fail (this year: in the first six evictions, five women went home). While housemates on BBAU can’t speak about nominations, viewers know how much the women support each other. The friendship between Skye/Priya/Aisha is wonderful to see and it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back.

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It kind of gets old when the only thing you see is Zach, Cody, and Derrick talking smack about all the women. Can you imagine these men on a public vote? They’d have no idea what hit them.

On another note: this epic conversation Penny had in the diary room, uninterrupted, about having your period in the Big Brother house. This is something we wouldn’t see in other popular versions, even including Big Brother Canada.

  • The public vote/ the audience’s importance 

The fact that public opinion is not a factor on BBUS may be the reason why I left this past season. It’s hard to root people that you hate watching. As much as people believe that the people at the end are the best “game players,” the jury votes not only based on gameplay but oftentimes because of likability.

BBUS‘s interaction between the public and the game brought us Team America this year. While the concept was good, the people we chose (especially Franky) ruined the concept ten times over. The tasks were unimportant and ridiculous and they got the most exciting housemate (the only one left to root for), Zach, in trouble.

The public vote in Big Brother Australia gets rid of people whose time seems up. I am rarely upset when people go on BBAU and evictions are satisfying.

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Big Brother Australia is a social experiment. With every year, BBUS has become a narrative executed by production. I’m not saying BBAU is perfect, but BBUS might look to BBAU if it wants to appease fans for consecutive lackluster seasons.

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