Emmy makes Big Brother wait

With the Emmy’s going on tonight, there’s not much going on at the Big Brother house.

Or is there?

Candace Murphy’s watching the live feed and talks about what’s going on. Also, for those who want to fill in the blanks, “Big Brother” offers a recap show tonight. What were your favorite moments from the show?

In the meantime, here’s the column I wrote about visiting the Big Brother house in July:

THERE HE WAS, just a few feet away from me, singing and dancing around the room all by himself while he busily packed his bag in anticipation of moving.
As I edged closer to the two-way mirror, the tattooed rocker turned to check himself out in the mirror and suddenly I was nose-to-nose with Evel Dick.

Spooky.

Watching CBS’ “Big Brother” is one of the guiltiest of pleasures, but actually going into the “Big Brother” house to lurk along the “camera cross” that weaves around the domicile and enables the cameras to keep close tabs on the inhabitants is, well, mesmerizing.

And makes you feel just a little bit sooty.

This is the eighth season of the reality show, which began with modest ratings in July before picking up steam in the last few weeks.

In a summer that has shown weak ratings all around the remote, “Big Brother” has actually started to show some life, with ratings in the all-important 18-49 demo up 33 percent this week. The show’s finale will air on Sept. 18.

In addition to the broadcast show, the premium cable/satellite network Showtime Too offers nightly live coverage from 9 to midnight. That feed is edited only for slanderous statements, and, for cost considerations, music that Dick or someone else might hum.

Do you have any idea what they get for a few bars of “Happy Birthday to You”? Well, that’s another column.

A few weeks ago, “Big Brother” producer Allison Grodner took five TV critics on a grand tour of the “Big Brother” house. We wore black so that the housemates couldn’t see us behind the mirrors. The house is located on the CBS lot, and it’s not so much a house as a warehouse.
Inside, some bleary-eyed editors keep tabs on a bank of monitors 24/7. They mark the most interesting story trends, which they weave together for the thrice-weekly telecasts. Although the editors say they don’t have favorites, they obviously appreciate people like Dick, who is always offering some fireworks, and crazy Jen, the Hollywood nanny who’s crazier than an inbred Chihuahua.

The reality show, in which reality plays a very small role, follows the housemates around, recording their every move — and that includes a potty cam that Grodner assures has such poor quality you really can’t get any detailed shots.

In our peek around the place, there was a narrow escape from seeing one resident emerge from his shower.

The roommates are given surreal “tests” that range from Queen of Hearts croquet to hanging upside down on pendulums. The group also must earn its food in contests and can be reduced to eating something known as “slop.”

So, of course, we asked Grodner if her team could whip up a little slop for us to taste. It’s not really all that bad, especially if you grew up with a mom who couldn’t quite make a proper bowl of oatmeal. The unflavored multigrain hot mash might not be too bad with a dollop of brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

Grodner says her team literally lives in the building, devoting its entire life to the show while it’s on the air. The team eats, breathes and lives the experience, which is not unlike monitoring zoo animals.

This year’s theme for the house is “Alice in Wonderland,” so the props have kind of a whimsical feel about them. Inside the house, there are doors so small you have to stoop to go through them, big and small beds that look like you just entered the home of the Three Bears and a giant tea cup in the yard where the people can just hang out.

The only place the housemates can see real sunlight is in the yard, where the roof has been cut out of the warehouse. There’s a little pool and other toys for them.

As we walked around the narrow dark hall, which looked and smelled like a Halloween haunted house, we peered in to see Jen snoozing at 6 at night. It was like waiting for the bear to wake up at the zoo. You almost wanted to tap on the glass to see what would happen.

The “front” of the house, where the evicted guests go to be interviewed by Julie Chen, has mock stained glass, faux topiary and statues.

“I get the hot sheets every day, where someone logs the hot quotes, the headlines of what happens. It’s like a soap opera,” Chen says. “On Wednesdays, we go over everything and see what questions we want to ask (after the eviction).”

Chen calls the show “performance art,” which is as close as you can get to describing what happens in the house. Each person is consciously putting on a show for the audience — and for their fellow housemates.

This season, the twists included putting in Eric as “America’s Player,” which means he gets instructions from people logging onto the Web site suggesting he do certain things, such as give Jessica the silent treatment, or to make sure a certain person (Dustin, for instance) gets put up for eviction. The other twist was having three couples in the house who were once close and are now on the outs. One pair was Dick, at 44 the oldest resident, and his estranged daughter Daniele, 20.

“I want to see Dick stay in the house because of the relationship with his daughter,” Chen says. “And Jen is just fun to watch. I would like to hang out with her because she’s just fun and I would be very disappointed if Jen was voted out.”

1 Comment »

  1. Candace Murphy said,

    September 16, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Oh. My. God. Sue, you have outed me. That was a PRIVATE conversation!!!

    Well, it is fascinating what with all the action on BB8 ending for the most part on Thursday, and this father/daughter duo having to stay in the house, with absolutely nothing to do, until Tuesday. They’re earning their money, these two. And honestly, can’t BB up the prize money? After taxes, the winner doesn’t get much. You couldn’t assure me of a win and coop me up in this house, with these people, and as a capper, have me spend five days alongside a pouty daughter who’s a poor sport unless she wins, and then she’s magnaminous and tells people she loves them.

    Not like I watch the show closely or anything.

    Sadly, though, Evel Dick has slowly descended into insanity today, taking his boredom and frustration out on first the washer that appeared to not be working, and then giving up and hosing down the backyard for no apparent reason. He later moved to a long soak in the hot tub with a Marlboro Red, every once in a while chuckling to himself. Which was rather creepy. Then he got out of the hot tub, sat down on in the backyard and screamed, “WHAT WAS THE SCORE OF THE JETS GAME?” He went on to rant that the first they he wanted to do when he got out was to sit down with a (expletive) newspaper. Good news for those of us in this business. Through it all, Dani has slept – apparently pouting from a bad night last night when the pair got questions from the jury, and Dani, thinking her dad is going to win, supposedly accused him of campaiging against her (his daughter, mind you) and then pouted in bed. She has amazing fortitude.

    But really, I’m only casually watching this stuff. I swear.

    Oh wait! Dani is up and about! Must return to the live feed….

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