Big Brother 21 has been rough. The 2019 summer season has seen a lot of controversial comments and bad behavior, coupled with a frustrating lack of action from the producers and CBS. Here are five relatively easy ways the show can course correct, in some cases right now and in others next year for Big Brother 2020.
Shake Up The Casting
First of all, two sets of houseguests in the majority alliance already knew each other going into the Big Brother 21 house! Christie Murphy dated Tommy Bracco's aunt for seven years, and Kathryn Dunn and Holly Allen knew each other from the pageant circuit, among other places. They're not part of any themed twist. It just comes off as lazy casting. With thousands of fans applying every year, Big Brother can and should do better than instant secret advantages like that.
Also, the first four players from BB21 to leave the house were some of the few non-white houseguests -- David Alexander, Kemi Fakunle, Ovi Kabir, and Isabella Wang. Jackson Michie set a tone by banishing most of minority houseguests in that Week 1 twist, including Latina plus-size model Jessica Milagros, but also Cliff Hogg III, the only older houseguest. Fans noticed the trend and were not happy. Cliff was also evicted, although he managed to win his way back into the game before going home. The others were not so lucky.
I'd like to see more diversity, but I don't just mean race, ethnicity, and sexuality -- Big Brother 21 has actually had more representation on that front than many past seasons. I also mean age, backgrounds, body types. Stop mostly recruiting beautiful 20somethings who clearly haven't watched the show and just want to be Instagram famous. Someone like Cliff, at 54, is immediately at a disadvantage, even though most fans really seem to love "older" houseguests. (Remember Donny 42, of Big Brother 16? He won America's Favorite Houseguest on a season filled with favorites.)
We also love more quirky houseguests like Nicole Anthony. Big Brother should look at who is popular in BB21 -- the people who are either gone or being targeted -- and cast more people like them next year and fewer like the fraternity/sorority like couples dominating the 2019 season.
Strictly Enforce Existing Rules
Jackson Michie outraged live feeds watchers by appearing to blow off slop eating rules while he was a Have-Not. That's the kind of thing that frustrates viewers, including past Big Brother players, because it shows a disrespect for the game. In Big Brother 2017, Matt Clines repeatedly broke house rules as a Have-Not -- eating regular food, taking a hot shower, and sleeping in a normal bedroom -- and in his case Big Brother gave him an extra penalty vote. Matt explained later to EW that he did what he did specifically to get a penalty vote to make sure he was evicted instead of his showmance Raven Walton. However, he was evicted unanimously so the penalty had no weight. So it really wasn't much of a punishment.
In Jackson's case, there hasn't even been a weak punishment, and it doesn't look like Big Brother even showed what he did on TV. It's possible Big Brother could give him a penalty nomination for violating house rules but since his week as a Have-Not is over, it seems unlikely. There's no point in having rules if they are toothless or not even enforced, it just adds to viewers' sense of unfairness and bias in favor of certain houseguests.
Establish New Rules To Curb Bad Behavior
Big Brother 21 has been ugly with bullying from several members of Gr8ful and The Six Shooters alliances, and racist comments from Jack and Jackson. It's not against BB21 rules to be prejudiced or obnoxious. More often than not, production will just "talk to" houseguests about their behavior -- and maybe the network will make a statement condemning the actions -- but that's where it seems to end.
If there are no three strikes or other rules in place, then the words are empty and houseguests fall back into their default setting habits, trusting that the TV edit will protect them. Big Brother 15 was infamous for racist and homophobic comments, with some houseguests losing their jobs for it. Last year, BB20's JC Mounduix got in trouble for inappropriate touching, this year some fans wanted Bella expelled after her fight with Kemi, and many fans would be happy to see Jack gone for threats or other comments. It's frustrating when nothing seems to change year after year. On that note...
Don't Be Afraid To Expel More Houseguests
Big Brother U.S. has only ever expelled four houseguests in 21 seasons so far, but I'm all for taking a tough stand and chucking more out the front door. Usually, production would prefer to just warn the houseguests about behavior -- like threats, bullying, problematic comments, even some touching -- rather than throwing them out. It has taken extreme physical behavior, or repeated blowing off the rules like Chima Simone, to get thrown out.
If Big Brother wants to keep dramatic people on the show for ratings and attention, there's no better way to create drama than throwing someone out. It would be big news. If the actual threat of expulsion was more real, it would force houseguests to watch what they say and do on the live feeds and not just hope that the producers cover their butts by editing out certain things for TV. TMZ shouldn't be taking the lead in policing problematic behavior on Big Brother. If the network really wants to live up to its "CBS Cares" slogan, prove it by making a point to throw out houseguests who break rules, make threats, say racist "jokes," etc.
Air A Fair Edit On TV
Big Brother is weird for many reasons -- it airs three nights a week, has its own language like HoH and PoV, and streams 24/7 live feeds for subscribing fans (when the feeds aren't down for mysterious reasons). So there's a divide in the BB fandom between live feeders and casuals who only watch the TV edit. Reality TV is infamous for deceptive edits, and Big Brother live feeds viewers are front and center to watch it happen when something important goes down on the feeds and then doesn't make the TV edit. It's maddening.
Some houseguests routinely get sympathetic edits even when they've done nasty stuff on the feeds, while others seem to have every bad thing shown and even amplified on TV. For example, CBS showed Kemi making a threatening comment on TV, seeming to give her a villain edit, but left out Jack making a threatening comment about her, Jack and Jackson using the n-word, Bella putting her hand on Kemi during a fight, and Jackson cheating on slop. At least they did show some of the bullying in the house.
It reminds me of what Big Brother 17 alum Audrey Middleton recently tweeted when sharing a news story on how Big Brother 21's edit of Kemi, Jack, and Jackson has been disgraceful. Audrey felt exploited by the show to come out as the first transgender houseguest, adding this about the editing:
Yikes. I still want to watch Big Brother, but she's right that it might take a ratings drop to really force any strategy changes. Ratings do seem to be down from Big Brother 20 last year, so maybe that will be taken as a sign.
What would you like to see Big Brother change moving forward, or do you want the show to stay as it is?
Big Brother airs at 8 p.m. Sundays, but with Love Island still playing during the week, Big Brother airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday on CBS.
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Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.