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Entries in Caleb (13)

Wednesday
Sep242014

Guide to the #BB16 Season Finale

What Derrick has wanted in this game, Derrick has eventually gotten. Now he wants the grand prize. It's difficult to think of a scenario in which he wouldn't get the required five jury votes. The only apparent obstacle to a #BB16 win for Derrick is Cody, who would have to do two things:

  • Cody has to win part 3 of the final HOH comp, giving him the power to evict one of the two other remaining house guests.
  • And Cody would have to be disloyal to Derrick, recognizing that he (Cody) has a better chance of winning if he takes Victoria to the final two rather than Derrick. (The jury would reward Cody for his comp wins and for being a generally likable guy; they've never been enamoured with Victoria. But Cody versus Derrick? The jury has more reasons to vote for Derrick.)

Cody certainly has a great shot at becoming the season's final HOH. He hasn't shown any willingness this season to make big moves when he had the power -- but evicting Derrick would be the biggest move of all, and doing so would be absolutely essential to Cody's game. Will Cody do it? In a predictable season which revolved around Derrick, which produced no competing alliances (like #BB15's allies of Amanda vs. allies of Helen), and in which the producers' twists resulted in no significantly-changed outcomes, will Cody finally treat viewers to something unexpected in the #BB16 season finale?

We find out tonight (Wednesday, September 24, 2014) at 9:30p Eastern during a live broadcast (tape delayed on the west coast). Here's how the show might play out.

- Julie's brief show intro.

- A couple minutes of clips from the entire season.

- Julie talks about what's coming up during the 90-minute finale while they show the final three sitting in the living room. For at least the third year in a row (I didn’t research further back than #BB14), the finalists consist of two men and one woman.

- The conclusion of Part 1 of the three-part final Head of Household competition (recorded last Wednesday night live on the feeds, and a portion shown in last Friday’s TV episode), with related clips and Diary Rooms. As usual, it was an endurance comp. Victoria lost early on; Derrick and Cody discussed for a few minutes who would have the better chance of winning the next part, and then Derrick dropped off the wall. So Cody won part 1.

- Part 2 of the HOH comp (recorded last Friday), again with clips and DRs. Footage of part 2 has not been aired yet. You know from the Ticker graphic at right that Derrick won over Victoria, likely ending Victoria’s chance at winning any monetary prize. Part 2 is typically a combination physical / mental comp, e.g. hunt for objects representing each house guest, then place those objects in a specific order requiring accurate memory.

- Clips from the past few days of the three house guests posturing and/or scheming about who will be taking whom to the final two. (Cody has a seemingly unbreakable alliance with Derrick. Victoria also believes she has an alliance with Derrick, but only an HOH win would have cemented any real power for her. My dream that Victoria had been throwing every competition all season long to surprise us in the three-part final HOH comp was ... Yeah, maybe in some other universe.)

- Dr. Will returns to host the jury's "round table" discussion. We'll see jury reactions to Frankie's and Caleb's evictions. (Or does the Dr. Will segment happen slightly earlier in the finale? At any rate, Dr. Will, winner of #BB2, makes an appearance with the #BB16 jury.)

- Part 3 of the final HOH competition between Derrick and Cody airs live -- everything is live from this point on. It will be a memory quiz of some sort, and the winner is guaranteed at least second place in #BB16 and a $50,000 prize.

- The HOH winner will evict one of the other two. Derrick and Cody have a “final two alliance” called the Hit Men, so the expectation here is that they will remain (blindly) loyal to it and evict Victoria, regardless of who becomes HOH.

- The evictee leaves the house and is interviewed by Julie.

- Julie introduces each of the jurors as they reenter the studio and talks with them a bit. Julie reveals that Victoria (unless something highly unexpected happens) is the last evictee.

- The jurors chat with the final two.

- The finalists each make one last “why I deserve this” speech.

- Each juror steps forward to say a word or three to the finalists ... and to cast his/her vote. In previous years, the juror inserted one of two keys (each key has a finalist's name on it) into slots in a box to vote; not sure whether they will have come up with a different way to vote this year since they had revamped the weekly nomination “mechanism.”

- We might have a visit from non-jury house guests (those evicted early in the season).

- Then the big moment arrives: Julie reveals each juror's vote ... and the #BB16 winner is announced! Five votes are needed to decide the $500,000 grand prize winner.

- The winner comes out of the house and is embraced by family, friends, and fellow house guests. (And the runner-up comes out, too.)

- Finally, Julie reveals America's favorite house guest, winner of $25,000. We are hoping Zach wins since he so often was the unwitting pawn who helped Team America score some dough. But it’s difficult to imagine that the producers’ stunt casting of Frankie, with his pop star sister’s millions of fans, won’t have caused the ballot box to be stuffed here.

That’s how tonight’s live season finale might go. Thanks very much for reading Big Brother Gossip again this year! We all appreciate that you’re here.

I’m working on at least one more post for this season, coming in the next few days, which compares Big Brother Australia 2014 to what I’ve seen in #BB15 and #BB16. Please stay tuned! Meanwhile, what are your overall impressions of Big Brother 16? What would had to have happened for somebody else to win? Did the season unfold as you expected? Comment below or @uselesstraffic.

Sunday
Sep212014

Another Shade of Reality: Utopia

What say we review Utopia from a disgruntled Big Brother viewer’s perspective? No? What, do you think #BB16 is providing worthwhile live feed viewing today? Okay, gotcha on that one.

This post is long, I admit. But if you’re reading this during business hours, stare at your screen and furrow your brow such that colleagues who wander by will assume you’re very busy with important things.

Consider the very basics: Why do we watch television?

Highly watchable characters, whether or not we like them as people, are what draw us to television. When we identify with characters, we just have to know what happens to them ... so we never miss an episode, whatever the show.

This show's format worked so remarkably well that its characters were interchangeable.TV has also given us formats which are so compelling that we tune in episode after episode even with only tenuous personal connections to the people.

It’s just a few days from the Big Brother 16 season finale ... and I honestly don’t care who wins. The people I especially wanted not to win (Devin, Frankie, and Caleb) got evicted, and the people I half-heartedly followed (Donny and Zach) are long gone as well. No house guest emerged as my favorite this season, and I’m wondering if watching amounted to wasted effort.

What makes any show worth watching? Likable characters and/or compelling formats. Or vice versa. Plenty of shows are highly watchable when central characters are well-written even if they’re people we’d avoid in real life.

It was easy to get invested in Walter White.Think of Breaking Bad's Walter White. This guy was an underpaid under-appreciated high school chemistry teacher with a wife, a kid, a junky car, an ordinary middle-class house in suburbia, and a life savings of only a few thousand dollars. Who among us can't identify with Walter? It made him likable and compelling from the very first episode -- enough so that we wanted to follow his (mis)adventures to the very end, even as his misanthropic selfishness vanquished his humanity.

Or think Tony Soprano. Despite being ruthless, evil, and utterly devoid of moral restraint in the running of his business affairs, Tony's struggle with mental health, his love for his children (misguided though his expressions of love sometimes were), and his intense desire to achieve and gain more (more wealth, more respect, more recognition, more validation) gave us a personal connection to his ... I'll call it his unique humanity. We laughed and cried with him. We rooted for him. We wanted him to win.

You didn't have to like Tony Soprano or his crew. But you couldn't not watch.Or how about compelling formats? Law and Order aired for 20 years and spawned numerous successful spinoffs despite having a revolving cast who played characters with little depth. The format itself proved compelling and long-lasting: Investigate a crime, catch the bad guy(s), take them to court, and reveal the winner (the cops & attorneys or the accused).

Popular daily game shows -- think Price Is Right and Jeopardy -- are similarly compelling because we understand the format and, by playing along, feel like we're part of it.

We have written much here at Big Brother Gossip about why #BB16 was disappointing. House guests who outright failed to play the game (including some who barely understood what was happening), predictable competitions, ridiculous twists which served only to make a tired format even less compelling, stunt casting, etc. #ExpectTheExpected week after week.

Could a new American reality show shake things up for CBS’s Big Brother? That’s exactly what we’re wondering about Fox’s new Utopia. Isolated from the outside world on several acres in the country, 14 people from wildly diverse backgrounds are trying to build a new society from scratch, starting with only a barn, plantable land, a $5000 start-up budget, and no modern amenities (at first, not even a toilet). There are 24/7 live feeds (some free, some paid) and televised recap episodes on Tuesdays and Fridays.

But there are no competitions. There is no grand prize. There will be no winner. That, to me, makes the format questionable. So are the people likable? Is there something which makes this program compelling? If you’ll pardon the Big Brother pun, the jury’s still out.

Utopia's five acre compound.The predominating feeling I had after watching Utopia’s first two episodes was that irrational anger does not make for good entertainment. It was anger loudly on display by unlikable people. It was puzzling, actually. When you find yourself amongst a group of strangers with whom you know you'll be spending some time, aren't you usually on your best behavior for a while? I found myself wondering if Utopia's producers engineered the conflict (a la Big Brother), misguidedly thinking it would make for better TV.

In your face! The majority of the men were arguing, sometimes violently, in the first day they were there.It didn’t. In fact, for me, the conflict had the opposite effect: I might not stick around to find out if anybody is likable / relatable (as Walter White was) or at least compelling (Tony Soprano). Absence of conflict would be off-putting too -- but until we find a reason to watch a show, its characters should avoid motivating us to change channels.

So if the people are (potentially) repelling, is Utopia’s format compelling? Not yet sure about that, either.

Utopia is somewhat like a "My Summer Camping Trip" home movie, albeit one obviously produced with professional-grade video cameras. But who wants to watch camping trips in slow motion on TV? They tried to create drama over the notion of running out of money, but viewers won't care. (Name for me, please, one viewer anywhere who thinks they will be allowed to starve on national television. They've already aired paramedics and doctors visiting on multiple occasions.)

Utopians celebrate newly-run electricity in the barn.Utopia had a beginning ... but there's no discernible middle or end on the way in a few weeks or months for viewers to look forward to. That's a huge problem. We are conditioned by Big Brother (not to mention scripted TV and another major televised competition thing which seems to be catching on -- I think they call it football) to earn the reward of a "winner" when we invest viewing time. And characters (or teams) to root for or bemoan along the way.

There are no Big Brother- or Survivor-style competitions on Utopia. Watching people plant gardens (or not), milk cows, raise chickens (or argue about dead ones), and sit around outside is dull. (Big Brother's annually-repeated predictable comps are dull for different reasons. But each has a beginning and end, loser and winner, enabling viewers to feel like they've accomplished something in the watching.)

It also occurs to me that there is a basic dichotomy between Utopia and the TV network on which it's airing. The Utopians, we are told, are there to build an ideal society from scratch. They must set aside their many differences ultimately to come together in harmony toward common goals.

Hanging around outside.But if there is a major television network (family of networks) whose brand image is the antithesis of societal harmony, which one immediately comes to mind? Right. Fox is entirely about dividing the country, not about bringing us together. Fox fosters the lack of basic civility in our national conversation and then they televise it and profit from it.

Why on earth is this show on Fox? Shouldn't it be on a channel like TLC, Discovery, Oprah Winfrey Network, PBS, or any channel known for documentaries? TLC was once known as "The Learning Channel" before it veered into quasi-reality faire such as Kate Plus 8, Extreme Couponing, Sister Wives, and LA Ink. If they could possibly clear time by canceling drivel like Toddlers & Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo, each of which destroys human dignity in its own unique way, TLC might have a theme-fitting show in Utopia -- one whose premise, at least, is worth consideration.

Indeed, I do find a few redeeming qualities to Utopia. There are people from all walks of life (city, country, presumed varying levels of education and access to money), and many ethnicities are represented. The conflict I've seen so far seems to have been based on their controversial behavior and differences in ideas or their implementation, not on personal backgrounds. That's an important silver lining to Utopia's odd drama.

I like that religion and faith are represented but also that secularism and atheism are there too -- and that while these Utopians are clearly welcome to discover new expressions of spirituality (there was a Christian baptism, for example), the disinterested seem to remain welcome members of the tribe.

It is refreshing that there is a greater (if less than total) acceptance of the human body. Many Utopians have found a European or dare we say aboriginal comfort with the notion that at times clothing is neither warranted nor practical, e.g. when swimming or when neither the climate nor the specific activity requires its protective qualities. American society is paradoxical and puritanical about nudity. We are completely desensitized to death and violence in media ... but simple non-sexual, non-lewd nudity makes people crazy.

Example: Do you remember that when Titanic arrived in movie theaters, Americans made far more of a fuss over their children seeing a momentary glimpse of Kate Winslet's breast than they did over their children seeing graphic depictions of the horrific deaths of a thousand people? I digress, but get your priorities straight, people.

Regardless of Utopia's harmless nudity, media pounced on it as controversial. Fox undoubtedly welcomed the publicity.And although I complain that Utopia is basically "televised camping," the outdoor environment is nice. The setting itself provides a welcome departure from the endless city streets / urban decay / guns / screaming sirens / death / destruction that usually fill primetime television.

I am not convinced that Utopia’s format is fundamentally flawed or that the show will not find a following if Fox sticks with it long enough. But neither the show’s first few episodes nor the network on which it’s being aired bode well for Utopia’s longevity, in my view. Although DVR viewership has helped, ratings haven't been kind so far. Repeats on other networks had more viewers than new Utopia episodes, and Fox could dump Utopia when its baseball coverage disrupts the schedule next month (if not sooner).

Reality fans who like the “isolate people outside of the real world” genre might be stuck only with a 2015 edition of Big Brother’s tired format.

More Utopia reading: A writer got to visit the Utopia compound before the cast arrived. Also, Slate.com’s Utopia review delves brilliantly into the initial cast and the conflicts of their first few days.

Big Brother Australia just started its 2014 season a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying it. What could CBS learn from #BBAU? I’m planning to write about that here some time. Share your thoughts about Utopia in the comments below or @uselesstraffic.

Wednesday
Sep102014

Big Brother Season 16, Episode 35 Results

Caleb won HOH after the Wednesday live show, and this time it counts. That is the one and only thing which happened during the last six days which wasn't meaningless, insulting drivel.

By saving the "Rewind" twist for this late in a season so thoroughly dominated by one house guest who has never even been nominated, CBS pretty much hocked a loogie at all Big Brother fans, both new and long-time. Why would you tell viewers in advance that there will be absolutely nothing happening for a week which will affect the game's outcome?

Do you think the remaining house guests are interesting enough to watch just because it's fun and we like them? It isn't and we don't.

Why should anybody have bothered to watch these last Sunday and Tuesday episodes? Honestly, why should anybody bother to watch any more #BB16 at all. Except maybe the finale.

Executive producer Allison Grodner, you should be ashamed! The international editions of Big Brother are so much more imaginitive and entertaining than your show. I'm still a newbie ... but determining that, say, Big Brother Australia is superior to the CBS version requires only to watch one episode on-line. Your "most twisted season ever" has been exactly the opposite. Dull, predictable, boring. You re-use so many competitions from previous years that the #BB16 house guests know exactly what's coming. The "Rewind" twist might have stirred things up, but you brought it on about four weeks too late.

Oh, and please skip the gimmicky former house guest interviews and engagements. You wouldn't need filler if your formula wasn't broken!

By the way, this isn't Scott writing this -- it's John. My fellow contributors Scott and Ash are the "A team" around here. But what's left of this season is not deserving of the efforts of Big Brother Gossip's starting players. They have more than earned a respite from this nonsense.

Déjà vu all over again.So I'm just providing the results of the Wednesday live episode, not a play-by-play recap like Scott writes. In a nutshell, here's what happened:

  • Julie called for a live eviction vote. But just as Derrick was about to enter the Diary Room, a klaxon sounded and the lights flashed.
  • Julie explained to the house guests that the last week was meaningless, Victoria and Cody were no longer on the block, and the game would rewind to last Thursday's HOH competition ... which would be repeated. The very same "Seed Saw" comp. Derrick would again not be eligible to compete (since he was outgoing HOH last time around).
  • Cody will have to wear the dino-costume again since he was still wearing it a week ago.
  • The repeat "Seed Saw" competition began during the live show and was in progress as the episode ended. When the live feeds came back about 45 minutes later, we determined that Caleb won HOH.

Upcoming schedule:

Sunday's episode (Sep. 14, 2014) starts at 8:30p.

Next Tuesday (Sep. 16), there be a special eviction episode. (It won't be live.)

Next Wednesday (Sep. 17) will be live with another eviction.

There will be an episode on Friday (Sep. 19) but no episode the following Sunday (Sep. 21).

The only thing left after that is the live season finale on Wednesday (Sep. 24) at 9:30p.

If #BB15 last year when I was new had been as much of a yawn-fest and as poorly-produced as #BB16, would I have stuck around? Hell no! I am astonished that the ratings have apparently held up this year. It is disheartening, to say the least. I hope that Grodner (or some future executive producer) changes the formula before the show tanks ... because it will, sooner rather than later. And ... that's all I've got. Comments welcome below (or don't bother, since this season just isn't worth it) or @uselesstraffic.

Wednesday
Sep032014

Double Eviction #2 Episode Guide - Expect the Expected

It's not just that the show and feeds have been dull and predictable this season. It's that I still haven't found any house guests to root for. It would be easier to deal with a house so mind-numbingly controlled by one person all season (Derrick) if I simply could find a reason to call somebody my favorite and then cheer him or her on.

Hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t think it will. That, along with everything which fellow contributor Scott wrote in his brilliant piece on Wednesday (see “Big Brother 2014: What went wrong?”), makes me wonder if the best seasons of this show happened years before I began watching.

Thoughts on the remaining house guests and final-three predictions in a moment. First, a guide to #BB16’s second double eviction episode:

1. Recaps for 10-12 minutes. 

2. Julie will chat with the house guests and we’ll see Nicole’s and Victoria’s repeat “save me” speeches. (Extra propz to either of them if they would simply stand up, say “Hi Mom & Dad!”, and sit right back down.) Julie will also mention, to feigned surprise, that it’s a double eviction night.

3. Unanimous eviction vote (yawn) and Julie’s interview with Nicole by about 25 minutes after the hour.

4. An HOH comp lasting three to six minutes. (If you Expect the Expected, as we all now do for #BB16, the winner will be Frankie, Cody, or Christine.)

5. Strategizing for a couple of minutes, and then nominations.

6. POV comp.

7. Strategizing again, veto meeting, and potential replacement nomination.

8. “Save me” speeches, the second elimination vote, and Julie’s second interview of the night. And then Julie signs off.

(Remember that the next HOH competition will take place off the air.)

Last year, mainstream news media coverage of #BB15 controversy led me to sample the show for the first time, and Helen quickly became my favorite.  I’ve been trying to get on somebody’s team this year but I’m just not feelin’ it. Donny almost became my favorite but his game naïveté lasted too long. Here’s my take on everybody who’s left.

Caleb. Thank heaven that he’s (mostly) over Amber. (Maybe Zingbot ... er, Kathy Griffin helped on that count. “You think she’s drop dead gorgeous. She just wants you to drop dead! Zing!”) When he’s alone with the boys, though, too often he falls back into behavior which seems to indicate he thinks of women not as people (much less respect-worthy equals) but rather only as mindless objects for pleasure. After being everybody’s #1 target in the weeks after Devin’s departure (and pulling off a string of predictable comp wins which kept him safe), the house seems to have forgotten how much they once hated Caleb. That’s Big Brother, I guess, and I admit that he did become a savvier player after Amber’s departure. But I am astonished that he’s still here, and I’m honestly worried that some bad luck for Derrick (such as getting evicted during tonight’s double, unlikely as that is) could make Caleb an actual frontrunner. I can’t stomach the thought of Caleb winning.

Christine. Meh. As the strongest female player this year, I wanted to like her. But she’s done more to swing my feelings toward “nah!” than “yeah!” She played Nicole pretty well earlier -- not that I’m a big Nicole fan either, but I was hoping perhaps Christine would lead an alliance with the other women. But her loyalty to the Detonators will be her undoing.

Cody. He has mostly stayed out of trouble, game-wise (I’m leaving the Christine friendmance thing alone), and his decision early on to ally with Derrick has certainly proven smart. Why not root for Cody? Because he’s all talk. He whined on this week’s Wednesday episode in the DR about having wanted Frankie out for weeks. But as last week’s winner of both HOH and POV, he had multiple chances to make a big move. Did he? Obviously not. Oh, and remember back in week 4, the previous time Cody was HOH? He had the chance to get Caleb (much hated at the time by HGs and me as well) out of the house when Victoria saved herself via POV ... and Cody even said “If I put up Donny instead, my brother say I’m such a p#ssy.” Sure enough, he wimped out, and Brittany went home instead. If Cody had taken even one of these opportunities, my respect for him as a player would have increased exponentially.

Derrick. My opinion is unchanged. This guy remains an absolute master analyst, strategist and manipulator. He gets everybody to do what he wants, often without their realizing it. He sets eviction targets but ultimately bends to the will of the house. He avoids winning comps to keep from getting dirtied by nominations. (Except once when he won and remained HOH. But because Devin went home that week with much rejoicing, nobody had reason for lingering resentment toward Derrick.) He’s never been on the block. The only thing which could prevent Derrick making it to the finale would be lack of luck in some chance-based comp, which seems quite unlikely. I definitely appreciate Derrick’s game mastery. But his very expertise keeps me from actively cheering Derrick on because it’s his fault the season deserves an #ExpectTheExpected hashtag.

Frankie. Textbook case of stunt casting gone awry. Ridiculously self-centered and pompous. Although in the early weeks I couldn’t stand his on-camera persona beginning with the very first CBS show of the season, on the feeds Frankie seemed reasonably normal and likable -- enough so that I was willing for several weeks to ignore his “I’m live on camera, better amp up the flamboyancy” thing. And even for a newbie fan like me (at 13-14 months in, I’m definitely still learning game strategy), it seemed like Frankie was playing an unbeatable social game and would be guaranteed (by virtue of a deck stacked by his sister’s followers) to win fan favorite. But then the Big Ariana Reveal happened and his mean tendencies seemed to come out and stay out. So I’ve totally gone from feeling like I wouldn’t be unhappy for Frankie to win to actively wanting him out. (I also tweeted the other day my realization that Frankie is a lock to appear on All Stars. Ugh.)

Victoria. Oh, Victoria. Do you even realize that your own inability to do anything has become your strength? Although thankfully I’m no longer worried about Victoria’s mental health, I have found no reason to respect her game -- if one could even legitimately refer to what she’s doing there as “game.” On the other hand, wouldn’t it be delicious to discover during the finale (by acing the endurance and quiz comps) that Victoria has been faking her ineptitude all season? Won’t happen, obviously, but such an unexpected twist would almost redeem the season.

Tonight’s first evictee will be ... Nicole. After Monday’s POV meeting, when Caleb wimped out and put Victoria up as the replacement nom rather than Frankie, it sealed Nicole’s fate (again).

My hope for tonight’s second eviction: Caleb or Frankie.

What will probably happen instead (since we’ve all learned to Expect the Expected this season): Julie’s second interview tonight will be with Christine or Victoria.

My “final 3” predictions back in week 4 (see “Mid-July Newbie Perspectives”): Derrick, Christine, and Frankie.

My new “final 3” predictions: Derrick, Cody, and Victoria.

CBS has zero incentive to change anything now or for next year, by the way, because TV ratings remain solid. It's irrelevant to CBS what we live feeders slash hard-core fans think. As long as the country keeps providing time-slot winning viewership two or three times weekly, CBS will change nothing. Expect the Expected for again #BB17, even if it’s All Stars. Who do you really want to be evicted second tonight, and do you think it has a chance of happening? Who are you now predicting will make it to the finale? Share your thoughts in the comments or @uselesstraffic.