As someone who dabbled in minor TV reality show stardom (VH1’s Confessions of a Teen Idol?), I gained a great deal of insight into the creation and production of reality programming from a firsthand point of view. I also formed a few long-lasting relationships with the folks who continue to make reality show television a reality.
As luck would have it, one of my producer journeyman friends had done some time at Big Brother. With tonight’s finale looming, I thought it was time to tap him for some intel. Here are my favorite behind-the-scenes secrets.
1. Even during casting, Big Brother is controlling everything
Think you wanna audition for Big Brother 18? Here’s what to expect. You will be spied on, but not with cameras behind two-way mirrors — no, sir! One or more of your fellow “auditioners” are BB18 spies! They will not only be tasked with engaging you in serious convo, but they will also be reporting back to casting. You might even get evicted from the BB18 casting hotel before you ever see your first HOH room.
2. Being an intolerant malcontent could be your greatest casting asset
When you become a finalist in the Big Brother casting process, you are given a sheet of paper titled, “Things you should be thinking about for finals.” This list asks you to “think about the types of people that fire you up, make you mad, etc.” As much as you think you get along with everyone, you don’t. The more people you hate, the better your chances of ending up in the house.
3. Being hot is a must
Sorry, this is TV, not the circus. You have zero houseguest potential if you’re beautiful on the inside. There are a few exceptions if your personality shines, but the rest of you, get those hoodies off and get in the pool! They want to see women in short-shorts and bikinis and men with muscles. During the final casting call, you have both pool time (are you hot?) and gym time (can you keep it hot?). They also insist that if you have to buy new clothes, do that: “This isn’t a job interview,” our insider told us.
4. Even if you don’t get the $500k, you do get something
According to the actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA, being on a reality show as a contestant in a competition show like Big Brother is not a talent. You aren’t considered “talent” — sorry. That means, technically, they don’t have to pay you, but CBS does. We hear that houseguests receive $750 a week. That means there is some incentive to stay as long as you can, even if you don’t win the big $500k prize.
5. The drama is scripted out — sort of
My reality show producer friend said they make it abundantly clear that you need to have a strong point of view, be as confrontational as you can and there will be those in the house you will not get along with. On my VH1 show, there was a guy cast to be the pot-stirrer. Our insider speculated that it was intentional to pit Vanessa and Becky against each other and that he wouldn’t be surprised if Audrey was cast to “cause a little trouble.”
6. The “showmance” formula is more like a recipe
There are so many showmances on Big Brother, it’s astounding! For all the single people out there wondering where to meet someone, Big Brother seems to be it. Here’s the recipe:
Step 1: Place three hot, shirtless, broad-shouldered men in a pool.
Step 2: Add an odd number of sexy women with zero body fat in bikinis and stir.
7. Being tested for STDs is mandatory
Early on, it was in the contract that houseguests will agree to be tested, but not that they had to be. But now because of Evil Dick testing HIV positive, CBS takes no chances. Interestingly, when Dick Donato tested positive, he says he was told that he had to leave the house, which he did under a cloud of mystery at the time. CBS says they never forced him to leave the show.
8. There are people taking down your every word
This part is probably less shocking because, of course, you’re aware that you are in a house with cameras on 24/7. So, it should come as no surprise that there are also people writing transcripts of everything you’re saying. All of those weird moments Steve had alone the first half of the game, someone had to log that in! Where can I get that job?
9. Julie Chen is a dream, if only you can pin her down for a moment
Julie is one of those people whom everyone loves. Nobody who knows her or works with her has one bad thing to say — except the press. They complain that on Big Brother media days, she is so focused on The Talk and her other CBS duties that she has completely blown off interviews to promote Big Brother.
10. The house is just gross and disgusting
Think about a college frat house with 17 people living in it. Now, add endless snacking, backyard games that include mud, food, foam and whatever that gross red stuff was they dunked Liz, Steve and Vanessa in last week — all of that stuff gets tracked into the house. Our insider says that aside from the smells, there was even a season with a bad ant problem! Some of those folks are just messy anyway, not to mention that challenge where the houseguests hid those keys and tossed the house to find them. So like clockwork every Thursday before the live eviction, a cleaning crew has to come in and snazz it all up so they can happily invite America into their living room.
Those are just a few secrets to think about as you’re watching tonight’s #BB17 finale at 8/7c on CBS.