Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I Call Shenanigans On Big Brother, And Almost Shenanigans, But More Likely Just BS, on Rockstar

Miss Tori and I will be going out to dinner in a few minutes. I'll put up as much as I can, I just wanted to get the claim out there.

Big Brother first. Two people get nominated each week for voting off the show. There is a competition for a veto, which you can win and use to take yourself off the chopping block, or take someone else off the chopping block. The veto challenges come in various forms. Some are physical challenges, like the mini-golf game. Some are mental challenges, like remembering details about the house, the game so far, or your fellow contestants. Then there are the will challenges. We'll get back to them in a sec.

I can understand that, given the occasional exception of someone who has completely broken down over missing his family and wants to go home, most people on the chopping block who are concerned about their position and want to stay in the house and keep playing the game want it with a generally equal intensity or passion. I don't think you can really say that one contestant "wanted it more" than the other person facing eviction. When they're on the block, I mean.

During a challenge, I suppose it's possible to argue that one or the other person did want it more, and that's why he won the mini-golf, and the other guy lost. I don't buy that argument. A guy who plays crap golf might lose to a guy who, knowing he won't get voted out no matter what, doesn't give a rat's ass, but can putt like Tiger Woods (remind me to tell you an Olympics story on this subject later if you're interested). So I think it's clear that it's possible to lose a physical challenge no matter how badly you want it. I hope you'll also accept that this holds true for the mental challenges as well.

Now let's get back to the will challenge. A will challenge is one that if you want it bad enough, you can win. Remember when Chicken George was up on the block? During the veto challenge, he faced down Kayser all the way to the end.Shave your head? All you have to do is say yes, and George did. Nothing physical or mental there. The final test was how many days you would be willing to eat slop. I seem to recall that there were sixty days left at that point. You could bet one day, all the way up to sixty days, hoping that you picked a number higher than the other guy. George won by not taking any chances at trying to outguess Kayser. George bet all sixty days. He wanted it bad enough, and he got it.

So what? Well, we have seen over time that Chicken George, and I love you George so try not to be too offended, cannot win any physical or mental challenge, unless someone throws the competition. So what? Well, let me just say that some houseguests are more popular than others. Some are more well liked. George has a lot of fans. He was on the block, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would be voted out. Everyone knew it. The only way he would not be voted out was if he won the veto and took himself off the block. It was early in the season. Lots of viewers like Chicken George. Some of them might not keep watching once he was voted off. Can you see where I'm going?

Oops, dinner time. We'll continue this later. Ok back again.

Where I'm going is here: Big Brother did not outright keep George on the show, but they did set up a veto will challenge that Chicken George could certainly win if he wanted it bad enough, as opposed to a physical or mental challenge that he would certainly lose. In other words, they didn't exactly fudge things to certainly keep him on the show longer, but they did fudge things so that he would not certainly be voted off. It's pretty clever actually. Of course the show would lose credibility if they just dumped someone else instead of Chicken George. They have to make it look like it's a real contest, and not a staged one. I think they went halfway, turning an impossible situation for George into a possible one. Is it really just a coincidence that a will challenge comes up the one time when a popular houseguest is on the block who will lose any physical or mental challenge? Maybe.

But then, when Janelle is on the block this week, guess what happens? Give yourself a gold star if you said another will challenge. Janelle is hugely popular. You either love her and pray that she destroys everyone else in the house, or you hate her guts, and pray that someone, anyone, will destroy her. She is a polarizing figure. Polarizing figures are good for ratings.

Let me set the stage. On the block we have James and Janelle. At this point, like when Chicken George is on the block against Will, we know based on what is going on in the house that James will not be voted off, no matter what, and that Janelle will be voted off. Like Chicken George, Janelle must win the veto or she will leave the house.

I will grant you that Janelle is smart and physical (mmmmmmm, physical), and that she is a threat in mental and physical challenges. However, her victory is by no means certain. Danielle spends all the time leading up to the challenge calling James the "Veto King." Unlike George, Janelle does not face a certain loss if the challenge is mental or physical. However, like George, she ended up with a veto will challenge that she could certainly win, if she wanted to badly enough.

In this veto will challenge each participant had forty points. There were ten "prizes" the participants could take. Good prizes, like $5000 or a plasma TV, can be taken at the cost of some points from your forty point beginning total. Bad prizes, like making yourself ineligible for next week's veto challenge or making the houseguests sleep on army cots and take cold showers for a week, add points to your total. The person with the most points, wins the veto. During the contest, you cannot see what the other participants are doing. You claim a "prize" by clicking on your Jeopardy-style clicker before anyone else when each "prize" is announced. Unfortunately, with all the need for Big Brother drama, the editing and quick cuts among the players and even into the confessional rooms, there's really no way for us to know who is clicking first, and who Big Brother tells us clicked first. And the participants who are right there can't see what the others are doing, so they can't tell if Janelle really did click first on this or that punishment to get more points for herself.

Now, because these bad choices that give you points either punish you or punish the other people in the house, there is a strong disincentive to taking them. "Ha, ha, ha! I made you eat slop for the week and I got the veto so neener neener" is not one of the ways you make friends and influence people. No, the only person likely to win is the one who wants it the most. I think we've shown that the one who wants it the most in this situation is the one who knows she will certainly go home if she doesn't win it. That's Janelle. We've also shown that in will challenges, the person who wants it the most actually does win, and always will. Actually, maybe we haven't exactly shown all that, but the case has been made and I'm willing to go out on a limb with it. I am asserting that two popular houseguests, at great risk of going home, conveniently found themselves in challenges in which they could certainly win if they wanted to. I am asserting that we don't know, and can't know, if the buzzers were manipulated in any way that helped Janelle click in first. I guess all we really know for sure is that an extremely popular woman that fans of the show love to watch is safe from elimination this week. Big Brother, I call shenanigans on you.

Rockstar is another story. On Survivor, let's say you start off with sixteen players. You eliminate one per week. Your three hour finale involves the last four survivors. My simple math tells me that I will have twelve regular episodes, plus a three-hour finale. And my advertising guys go out and sell the hell out of these shows, making all kinds of crazy money for my network. They sell twelve regular episodes, plus a three-hour finale. My show is in production, and some weeks or months later, it actually goes on the air.

Now, I saw Late Shift. I know that networks don't like having to give back money on ads they've already sold. Tommy can make all the history he wants by dumping two people on one episode, but are we really supposed to believe that this is some surprise that the network didn't know about? I mean, per my Survivor example, it seems reasonable that even before this season bagan airing, all the ads for all the episodes were already sold. If you get rid of two people in one week, my simple math tells me that that means one less episode will now be airing. Sure, they could fill it with a best of show, but if you've got enough material for a best of show, wouldn't you like to keep the original number of episodes, and add a bonus episode to make even more ad money? You're going to tell me that Tommy can just cancel an episode of Rockstar and force the network to refund all those ads (and Lord knows, the show has plenty of ads)?

I think the network had to have known about this ahead of time. I think they at least approved it, or maybe even came to the guys asking them to cut one episode because the network had a special of some sort that they wanted to run at some point in the future. The cut-two-people-at-once then leads to the notion that the show already knows who is cut ahead of time, and the "redemption" songs to stay on the show are just a way to fill time. Whoever's going home, is going home. They try to make it all drama and big surprises. "The person who is in the bottom three . . . will be revealed after the break." "And now for the bottom three, Johnny . . . you . . . are . . . in . . . the . . . bottom . . . three . . . maybesomeotherweekbutthisweekyoucantakeaseatyou'resafe." I suppose there's some network playbook that says this sort of stuff equals drama, but for me, it equals the sort of thing that makes me want to not watch the show, no matter how much I like the music. Please give it a rest. Just play it straight for us.

I understand they want to create drama. I can understand, and even forgive, the notion that they know who they will cut even before the redemption songs. We get more performances of great songs. Just don't tell me that cutting two people at once was some big out of nowhere surprise. I think only the contestants have the standing to call shenanigans in this instance; therefore, Rockstar, I call BS on you.
the Rockstar BS: pretty sure it's built into the schedule. They did the same thing last year.

I'm only surprised it didn't happen earlier.
So did I miss it, or was I hearing things, when I thought Tommy or one of the guys was saying how this was historic or unprecedented or never done before?
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