Archived Story

Reality TV show hooks a reluctant viewer

Published 9:29am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom

Normally, I don’t watch reality TV shows. They are so fake, fake, fake.

Seriously, the producers do so many things off-camera, such as instructing the bachelor or bachelorette on “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” to speak in certain ways or do certain things that it is clearly not people being themselves. It’s not reality. I catch parts of these shows when my lovely wife watches them. I wouldn’t doubt it if some of the villains in the series are really actors who are paid to meddle with the cast.

“Survivor” and other shows seem producer-rigged in the same way. I’d rather watch sports, which, when you think about it, is kind of like a reality show. They both feature games. They both aren’t fictional. The TV networks have a big influence on the contests. People debate whether they are rigged. And neither one really is all that real. If you want a reality show, turn the channel to the news. Well, not cable news, though. They are loaded with spin. Let’s just agree that TV programming is hardly ever real. That’s why they call it the idiot box, right? I am off track here.

This summer, thanks to my mother-in-law, I have grown to like “Big Brother.” I admit it. It’s a pretty good show, and what’s refreshing is that what you see — at least in my skeptical view so far — is what you get. CBS even lets viewers watch the house guests 24/7 over the Internet, and even though I haven’t gone that far, I like that the viewers are in the know. It keeps producers from meddling too much.

Frankly, it’s a simple concept. Put people in a house where they have to live with each other and make them vote each other out weekly until one person remains. They are going to scheme and backstab and befriend each other, and it’s actually quite entertaining. Crazy contests are set up to decide factors such as who is head of household. The HOH gets to put two people on the block to be voted out. Another contest determines veto power. The person with the power of veto can remove one person from the block, in which case the HOH must pick another person. The house then votes on who leaves. The winner gets $500,000.

It all started when I visited my in-laws in the Chicago suburbs in July. My mother-in-law likes “Big Brother” a lot. Everyone gathered to watch. I got caught up in the trials and tribulations of the house guests and what they liked and disliked about each other. Much of it was quite immature, to be sure, but being older and all — ahem — I had my view on … pause for dramatic effect … the proper behavior.

“I can’t believe she did that.” “That guy shouldn’t say that.” “Why in the world are they aligning?”

These are the comments that float around the room when watching “Big Brother.”

Lisa and I came home from Chicago and, of course, we had to finish watching what we caught at her parents’ home. Lisa had never been much of a “Big Brother” watcher, either. Even our 6-year-old son joins us for this show.

“Big Brother” celebrated its 500th episode Thursday. This is the 15th season for the show. It debuted in 2000, but there were a couple of years with two seasons airing in a single year. From what I understand, the rules for the latest season are not much different than the first, so that consistency is good. I am surprised I wasn’t hooked earlier. I suppose I am a late-comer.

In the present season, there is a pizza delivery guy from Oak Grove here in Minnesota named McCrae Olson, who wears a maroon shirt with a gold M on it for the University of Minnesota. I am rooting for him, but he probably will be ousted Thursday. He developed a show romance (showmance) with Amanda Zuckerman, but she was voted off because she was quite a controlling presence in the house. She definitely wears the pants in the relationship between Amanda and McCrae, which people nicknamed McCranda. Amanda led an alliance that lasted weeks, but eventually people went after Amanda, and some called her a bully. Still, I liked how she protected her guy, McCrae.

There was a Minnesota girl on the show, too. She was Kaitlin Barnaby, a bartender from Minneapolis. She was perceived as a mean girl, mainly because she was aligned with mean girls. One from Texas was prone to make borderline racist comments, in the way that some folks don’t know they are making racist comments.

There are only six left alive. On Wednesday, we see the drama, and we find out Thursday who goes home. Then on Sunday, there is more drama. I cannot believe I am watching this.

 

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.