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 EW.com 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 EW.com 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:
( Bad language, no segues, and EVERYTHING I LOVE ABOUT MY STUPID SHOWCollapse )
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 or seasons togetherCollapse )
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.