Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern

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The reason Big Brother is my favorite reality show (side note: every time I say that, a little part of fifteen-year-old me dies) is that it offers the most opportunities to match up what ACTUALLY happened and what the show says happened. I think a lot about the representations of "reality" on BB, because it's the only one where it's possible to side-by-side it. With Amazing Race, you know that they're manipulating things for drama, but it's really hard to know WHAT, because the forty-two minutes are all that you have. You have to put lots of things together to get a coherent story. For example, the show always makes it seem like lots of teams are coming in right on top of the other, but because every team leaves exactly 12 hours after they get in, after episode (x+1) you can see how the timing actually worked on episode (x).

(Most people don't bother to do this, obviously, which is the basic divide in types of reality TV viewers, which is not unlike the split in Lost fandom between "people analyzing different timelines" and "people distracted by shirtless Sawyer.")

The cool thing is that, due to new social media, the lines between shows like Big Brother and shows like The Amazing Race are blurring, big-time. CBS and both upload "missing scenes"- fully edited glimpses into either confessoinals or camp life, if not both, usually between a minute and a half and eight minutes long- totalling between ten and twenty scenes per week, not counting interviews. Ethan Zohn, Jenna Morasca, Ashley Trainer, and Stephen Fishbach all have columns at various websites. Eliza Orlins can't get though five minutes of an episode without posting to her twitter about it. Jeff Probst's blog, designed to give an "inside look", is almost more interesting based on what you can get reading between the lines, filled in by obsessive fans (I count myself in those ranks) who know entirely too much about these people's lives. This week on Rob Cesternino's podcast, he and Jonny Fairplay dished gossip about the most recent episode for one hour, thirteen minutes, and forty-eight seconds- almost twice the length of the episode itself. And then there are the current Survivors themselves. Between Facebook and Twitter, they're everywhere, and they're not quiet about it. My personal favorite was Jessica "Sugar" Kiper, the first person voted off this season, tweeting that "I was never attracted to Colby,and J.T.slept with me pregame and told me we'd stick together.That edit really confused my friends & fam." But there's been plenty of gold from all sides.

Here's an example of the kind of conversation you have with me if I find you on IM while I'm watching the show, reflecting on the show, and then catching up on my Survivor gossip:

I like how Voiceover!Probst tried to claim that Russell outsmarted Parvati. You know she's a boxer, right? She could kick your ass.

25 minutes into ep 3 of Survivor HvV, Candice has already had more screentime than she did for ALL OF COOK ISLANDS COMBINED.

Nooooooooo, Randy! Don't throw your buff in the fire! HOW WILL YOU SELL IT ON EBAY NOW?

EXCITING GOSSIP: The reason Rupert targeted Steph last week? He apparently got to do Survivor promos from post-Pearl Islands through post-Palau, at which point CBS tapped her, the new most popular character. and he was all "THAT USED TO BE MY SPOT. ROAR :( "

(Fairplay and RobC give their Rupert imitation by saying whatever it is, and then adding "ROAR" or "GRAR")

ALSO. You know how the entire episode was evicting Parv v Randy, and then it was 9 votes Randy, 1 vote Rob? Apparently that was almost 100% wanting to fuck with the producers. Probst didn't ask Randy a question til an hour and a half into the tribal, and Randy was like "Thanks for talking to THE PERSON GOING HOME" and then said to enjoy the edit.

James's luxury items? HIS OLD IMMUNITY IDOLS. Of course they are!


Fairplay on his FvF Buff: "I went to throw it in the fire in solidarity, and then I remembered they're going for like $500 on EBay."

"And then you get a million dollars?" "Only if you're Rupert or Colby."

JFP on Probst: "Tribal council is his time, and that's his time to fuck up your game!"

FAIRPLAY: "The only good Boston Rob stories I've ever heard are from Jenna Lewis."
CESTERNINO: "And a lot of them end with him passed out."

Fairplay is friends with Randy in real life. For some reason I am completely delighted by this.

FAIRPLAY TOLD THE FULL COACH PYGMY STORY. CBS apparently did not include all the cannibalism and rape.

Courtney's imitation of Russell is basically the BEST THING EVER.

THINGS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO EDIT INTO THE EPISODE: Apparently the tribe thought Randy got rid of the machete. Oh, CBS, why so sloppy?

In an older podcast, RobC talked about how he thought social media was really improving the fannish experience, and I couldn't agree more. The best thing about all-star seasons, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the way the text becomes inherently self-reflexive. Rob refers to being on "the buffoon tribe" and it's an explicit reference to something he said before. When Jerri says that she can state, from personal experience, that the villains' shelter isn't actually the worst shelter ever made on Survivor, it's a clear reminder of Rupert's rock shelter on the first All-Stars season. Jerri's reaction to Coach taking down Colby isn't just a response to their budding relationship on s20, but also to her interactions wtih Colby on 2 and 8. People talk about seasonal alliances (most commonly Palau- Steph and Tom- or Micronesia- Amanda, James, Cirie, and Parv) and it's hard not to start drawing the mental maps.

If you're interested, castaways on s20 who've previously been in tribes together:
  • Colby and Jerri (Ogakor, Australia, and Mogo Mogo, All-Stars)

  • Sandra and Rupert (Drake, Pearl Islands)

  • Jerri and Rupert (Saboga, All-Stars)

  • Rupert and BRob (Chapera/Moga Moga, All-Stars)

  • Steph and Tom (merged Koror, Palau, and also their original pre-tribal alliance)

  • Cirie and Danielle (Casaya, Panama)

  • Parvati and Candice (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

  • James, Courtney, and Amanda (Fei Long, China)

  • Parvati, Amanda, James, and Cirie (Malakal, Micronesia)

  • Randy and Sugar (2nd switch Fang and Nobag, Gabon)

  • Tyson and Coach (Timbira, Toncantins)

  • JT, Tyson and Coach (Forza, Toncantins)

Or, for season by season breakdown:
  • Australia - Colby and Jerri

  • Marquesas - Boston Rob

  • Pearl Islands - Sandra and Rupert

  • All-Stars - Colby, Jerri, BRob, and Rupert

  • Palau - Tom and Stephenie

  • Guatemala - Stephenie

  • Panama - Cirie and Danielle

  • Cook Islands - Candice and Parvati

  • China - James, Amanda, and Courtney

  • Micronesia - Parvati, Amanda, James, and Cirie

  • Gabon - Randy and Sugar

  • Toncantins - Tyson, Coach, and JT

  • Samoa - Russell

And what's interesting here is that this doesn't actually include who knows who because of the incestuous social circle that is reality television in general, and CBS reality in particular. There are a bunch of references during the episodes about possible past-season alliances (the "Micronesia Alliance" seems to be the biggest concern), but what's carefully edited out is the references to the ways that these people know each other in a social context. Just look at Facebook, or at Twitter, or MySpace. Hell, just look at the guest list on any given night at Les Deux or Dolce. There's this really interesting double-play going on, where All-Star seasons acknowledge that these people have been on previous seasons and know each other's televised personalities, but pretend that that interaction hasn't brought them into this bizarre pseudo-fraternity where there are actual real-life interactions on the line. For all that I laugh at Lex's "stack of greenbacks" speech from the first All-Star season (and will continue to laugh at it, to infinity), it's the natural result of superficial relationships becoming real and then being forced back to superficiality again.

Reality TV is a sociological goldmine, is basically what I'm saying here. And that's what makes it fascinating.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have about a million Sporcle quizzes on reality television to do embarrassingly well on for this Saturday night. I have the most exciting social life EVER.
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