October 29, 2013 2 Comments
I recently wrote about the differences between Big Brother Australia (BBAU) and Big Brother USA (BBUS), focusing mostly on fundamental game differences and the appearance of both shows. Now, after watching all of the BBAU series to date, I decided to compare and contrast both countries’ Big Brother offerings a little bit more.
For those who haven’t read Part 1 above, I am an American who watches BBAU on delay via Youtube. BBAU is not aired in the United States on any US TV channel. Both shows, although sharing the same name, are largely different games. On BBUS, contestants (called ‘houseguests’) vote to evict one of their own while Australia, like many other countries who air BB, rely on a public vote. The US show is more competition-based and includes something BBAU doesn’t have: Head of Household (or HoH). The winner of the HoH competition earns the right to nominate two houseguests for eviction, among other luxuries.
Picking right up where I left off in Part 1, the likelihood of houseguests obeying Big Brother seems to be major difference between the two series. On BBAU, the houseguests largely followed instruction when told not to talk about something. On BBUS, however, obeying BB is more of a suggestion, not a requirement. On the BBUS live feeds, houseguests are forbidden from talking about production, diary room sessions or people who have not signed a production waiver. Houseguests are not allowed to sing, either, regardless of if it is a real song or made up. Yet, when houseguests do many of the aforementioned no-nos (it happens quite often), they are told to stop typically without any real consequences. Perhaps the largest example of houseguests disobeying BB was in series 11 (2009) where houseguest Chima refused to go to the diary room after throwing her microphone pack into the pool following a game twist which rendered her Head of Household nominations null and void the week before. The video clip shows Chima blatantly refusing to go to the diary room after multiple requests from production, leading to her expulsion from the house.
Eviction episodes on both shows are polar opposites. Time and time again, on BBAU, the houseguests uncontrollably wept when a houseguest was voted off. Tully and Mikkayla were notorious for sobbing as the houseguest left the backyard eviction door. On BBUS, evicted houseguests are typically maligned by the majority alliance in the house due to houseguests (not America) having the sole eviction votes. Instead of the entire US cast crying, most are high-fiving, cheering and insulting opposing-side allies of the evictee when they are evicted. I think the differences in this case boil down to the differences in the BBAU and BBUS games. Since BBAU housemates don’t vote each other off, the US element of ‘one-upping’ the opposing alliance by voting out one of their members is absent in the Australian game.
Housemates on BBAU are not allowed to talk about nominations. Several houseguests this year were penalized for doing so. BBUS, given the inherent changes in game format, encourages nominations talk. Watching BBAU for the first time this season, it puzzled me as to how good the show would be with banning nomination talk, however I was pleased to see that the Australian show carried its own weight in the topic’s absence. However, for one week only, BBAU housemates nominated face-to-face and with it, Big Brother allowed nominations to be discussed. I thoroughly enjoyed this ‘hybrid’ of the BBUS and BBAU formats. Nominations caused lots of drama and kept the show interesting, at least for this US viewer. But I can see how allowing continual nomination conversations could take away from other things going on in the house, so I don’t fault BBAU for not allowing it otherwise.
One element of BBAU 2013 I thoroughly enjoyed was the Nominations Chamber, a room which had a soundproof booth where houseguests would make their nominations in front of the entire cast. It was such a difference from the typical nominations ceremony on BBUS, where the HoH would nominate two houseguests in the house dining room while pulling a key out of a box. But what I didn’t like was how BBAU retired the nominations chamber in the later weeks of the season, save for one week where houseguests’ loved ones helped them nominate from the chamber. The lack of structure and location of the nominations process took away from the game, in my opinion.
The lack of structure in the BBAU schedule was also a downside of the show. Several times throughout the 2013 season, Nine Network moved around the order of the episodes. For example, the eviction episodes were on Monday or Wednesday, depending on week. The ‘Late Night Feast’ episode, which centered around the weekly party dinner, was scrapped late in the season. Showdown, which originated this year as a separate episode complete with play-by-play from several people, were cut in lieu of a narrated portion of a regular episode. Although the changes didn’t largely affect me as an international viewer who sees it on delay, I can imagine it was confusing for the Australian public.
Although the daily catch-up BBAU episodes were fun and enjoyable for me, I typically disliked the eviction episodes. Although I believe host Sonia Kruger is a great BB host (on par with BBUS host Julie Chen), the BBAU eviction show format is tiring. Perhaps the show, at 90 minutes, is just too long. Most of the show is filler with contrived segments on topics such as ‘will the showmance survive?’ or ‘who is the biggest threat?’ About 3-4 minutes of taped diary room sessions typically fit the bill with these segments. Another segment includes drawn-out conversations with nominated housemates’ families. They are all a waste. I typically skip them while watching. BBUS’ eviction episodes are 60 minutes, including one catch-up segment, an ‘interaction with the house while live’ segment, a segment where houseguests vote to evict, then finally the eviction and evictee interviews with Chen followed by the HoH competition. BBUS evictions are more ‘to the point’ and dramatic than BBAU evictions. One area where BBAU trumps BBUS in this area, however, is that BBAU tends to more thoroughly interview evictees, while Julie Chen interviews the US evictee for about 2-3 minutes before the commercial break.
As a US viewer, intruders were a fairly new concept. BBUS has never had an intruder enter the game at a later time as seen on BBAU. The closest BBUS had was in series 5 (2004) where twins were playing the game as one person, switching places in secret every so often. Later in the game, the secret was revealed to the house and the other twin was allowed to enter the house to play the game individually. However, even with the novelty of intruders on BBAU, I feel they entered the game way too late (week 9 of a 15-week season). The intruders this year, except for Boog, were largely very boring — a stark contrast to the very interesting pre-intruder BBAU 2013 cast. Intruder Nathan even walked off the show less than two weeks after entering the house. Why waste our time with boring housemates? I see enough boring houseguests (the majority of the cast) every year on BBUS!
The inclusion of showmances, or romances between housemates, on BBAU was largely different than BBUS. On BBUS, showmances typically form and the participants are a large force to be reckoned with. They also seem to egregiously flaunt the relationship to the point of making their fellow houseguests (and viewers) sick at the constant smooching and (quite often) X-rated nightly activities, as seen on the BBUS live feed. The BBAU showmances, largely Ed and Jade with a few random interactions among other housemates, seemed tame and more modest in comparison. Perhaps it is because Ed likely doesn’t want to be with Jade after the show, but showmances are not as large of a part of the show as it is in the American series, at least not in the 2013 series.
Overall, I still stand by my original article in saying that BBAU is much better in all aspects than BBUS. However, several things about BBAU annoyed me a little bit. Regardless, I’m looking more forward to BBAU’s 2014 season than next year’s BBUS show. We’ll see what next year brings…