CBS Gave Big Brother Producers Unconscious-Bias Training After One 'Overstepped'

Big Brother 21 2019 Kemi Fakunle stares into camera CBS

Big Brother 21 has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons -- from bullying and racist "jokes" to PETA getting upset at the use of live animals in competitions.

Now CBS has revealed how it handled a specific incident from earlier in the 2019 season, when a producer asked the only black woman in the cast, Kemi Fakunle, to act and speak in a stereotypical way.

Before being evicted from Big Brother 21, Kemi told her fellow houseguests that one of the producers in the Diary Room asked her to wag her finger and say something she wasn't comfortable saying (via Reality Blurred):

I think I’m portrayed as a bitch. 100 percent. They were like, Oh, why don’t you, like, wag your finger and be like, 'Uh uh girlfriend.' I’m like, 'I don’t even talk like that, so maybe try again, Christine.' And she was like, 'Oh, I mean, I just thought that was an option.' Why are you trying to -- I literally don’t talk like that, so, like, what are you trying to do?

During CBS's TCA panel, which CinemaBlend attended, CBS Senior Executive Vice President for Programming Thom Sherman was asked about that specific incident, and other times this summer that Big Brother edited out violent and race-related things said by white men like Jack Matthews while airing something negative from Kemi.

Here's Thom Sherman's response to the part specifically related to Kemi and the producer:

Well, in the case of Big Brother, a producer, we learned that a producer, in an attempt to get a soundbite from one of the houseguests, overstepped. That producer was reprimanded, received unconscious-bias training, as did all of the producers on the show, and we don't believe that an incident like that will happen again.

Sad that it even happened once -- was this even the first time? It does suggest this is why so much bad behavior has gotten a pass inside the house and been edited the way it has.

CBS President Kelly Kahl was also at TCAs and was asked why bad behavior doesn't always make the TV edit and is only seen by whoever happens to catch it on the live feeds:

In terms of how people are represented, the vast majority of time we are very happy with how they are represented. Most people who have been on those shows speak very fondly of their experience. I’m not sure how much better we can edit that show. There are thousands of hours condensed down to 42 minutes per episode. We are not able to show every single thing on the show. We strive to show a good representation of what happens.

I have to disagree. There's so much more CBS can do to make sure the producers give Big Brother a fair edit, better reflecting what happened that week on the live feeds. Live feeds watchers are the ones who monitor the show day by day. It's not like, say, Survivor, where there are no live feeds, and since Big Brother airs three times a week, it's hard to argue they don't have the airtime for a more balanced edit.

I just went into detail about 5 ways I think CBS can fix Big Brother after the disappointments of 2019. I'm glad they at least have "unconscious-bias training" as an option, although odd that it's Season 21 and that kind of thing is still happening.

Big Brother airs at 8 p.m. Sundays, but with Love Island now playing during the week -- and coming back for Season 2 -- Big Brother airs at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday on CBS.

Gina Carbone

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.