‘Big Brother US’ launches new online-only fall version

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

‘BB: Over the Top’ ready for action

By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief

Big Brother US, the long-running spinoff from the UK original, just concluded its 18th season on September 21. The 19th—officially named Big Brother: Over the Top—began on September 28. Saving the BB19 moniker for next summer’s season, this new experiment will take place entirely online, with no episodes airing on television.

Big Brother is a reality game show in which contestants live together in a household without any access to the outside world. The house is filled with cameras and microphones, and episodes of the regular seasons are cut from the mountains of footage obtained from these.

Each week, the Head of Household competition decides who will run the house for the week. The HoH then nominates two other houseguests to be evicted. A veto competition follows, and whoever wins, nominee or not, can replace one of the nominations with another contestant. By the end of the week, the houseguests vote on who to kick out, and then compete for the next HoH. Whoever is the last houseguest standing wins $500,000. Although BB18 lasted 13 weeks, OTT will only last 10.

CBS offers “live feeds” to viewers who pay for CBS All Access. With this, viewers can see what the houseguests are doing at any time during the day. That’s where Big Brother comes in. Taking inspiration from 1984, the show is all about surveillance and control. The houseguests can’t bring books except for religious texts, they can’t sing songs, and there are no TVs to watch Netflix on . Each week, some houseguests even become “have-nots,” who can only take cold showers, sleep in uncomfortable beds, and eat specific food.

Since anything they do can be seen by audiences, previous seasons have seen houseguests losing their jobs and relationships due to their behaviour, such as season 15, which was notorious for racist comments made by multiple houseguests.

With OTT, the surveillance elements will be turned up to 11. The live feeds, being the only way to watch the season, will feature fewer blackouts. All competitions will be shown, and some Diary Room segments—where the houseguests relay their plans and opinions to the audience on the show—will be shown live.

The audience also has much more control than any previous season of the US version. They will receive one eviction vote each week, and nominate a third houseguest for eviction weekly. They will also vote for the winner instead of leaving the decision to a jury of evicted houseguests. In a twist first introduced in BB18, the audience will also be able to vote for care packages—each containing a different power—for their favourite houseguests.

The cast for this season includes a twist—sisters Alex and Morgan, who auditioned separately. It also contains BB17’s Jason Roy, who was voted in over season 18’s Jozea Flores. The other 10 houseguests are a wide mix, and seem a little bit more like regular people than those on the average TV season.

All of these changes will create an entirely different dynamic that will heavily aid the online format. Where last season’s live feeds were often dull, due to the houseguests tendency to lay around instead of trying to entertain viewers, the addition of the audience vote each week will hopefully have houseguests trying to be as entertaining as possible.

Although some were scared that the popular vote would make it so nice houseguests would stay and more interesting or “villainous” houseguests would get the boot early, the fact that it is a pay-to-watch format ensures that viewers will be more invested in the strategy side of the game as well.

Although many Canadians found workarounds in previous years, CBS All Access is not available outside of the US. However, if you really want to get your fix—and pay for it legally!—you can use a VPN, and sign up for All Access using an American Express gift card. All Access also gives you access to every previous season. The first month is free; subsequent ones are US $5.99. Whether it succeeds or crashes, this should prove to be a very interesting experiment.