So, it’s another first for Big Brother 8 – a professional actress (Thaila Zucchi) has been put in the house for a week under the pretence that she is a visitor from the Australian BB (similar to the housemate cross-pollination with the Big Brother Africa house in BB4).
This revelation marked the start of ‘fake week’, either a fresh, ingenious twist on the format, or a sign that reality TV is spinning off its bobbin.
It helps to think about the challenges that the producers have faced in recent years. They have to constantly think of new directions for the show, firstly because of the demands of audiences, critics, and their own creative careers. However even the heart and soul of the format (the simmering domestic disputes) relies on being able to pile the pressure on housemates by keeping them in a state of stress, fear and paranoia. The housemates can’t be allowed to take comfort in the fact that things will be the same as previous series.
The producers’ mistake was to use the international exchange artifice – every savvy BB contestant knows that Big Brother doesn’t repeat his gimmicks, and some of the housemates called the hoax straight away. Furthermore ‘Pauline’ wasn’t in the house long enough for any of the housemates to form any meaningful relationship with her.
But despite this rather faltering start, it seems to be a wise prediction that future series of BB will go further down the path of mixing reality and drama. This isn’t just because of the drive for innovation or conflict already mentioned, but also because the audience is becoming more sophisticated. We all know that Big Brother was never ‘Real’. After all, the most ‘Real’ part of it, the streaming, is incredibly dull. We all know the characters are edited, and we can all see that there are ‘story editors’ on the production credits. More than this, we don’t really mind, as long as the entertainment keeps coming.
This indifference to ‘Reality’ was demonstrated with the pioneer of reality/drama, Laguna Beach on MTV, a show that claims to follow the real lives and loves of rich kids living in Orange County. But pretty soon internet gossip revealed that the plots were decided by producers, and the kids were told to have specific conversations with each other. The show only got stronger because, do you know what? Whatever we may say, audiences prefer excitement and glamour to authenticity.