Big Brother 2012: more of the same, that’s ok

Don’t deny you were a little excited when you heard Big Brother was returning. While unconvincingly groaning “oh, not again” along with the rest of Australia, your mind was quietly doing ecstatic backflips and dancing in glee for your revived 7pm weekday obsession. In the past few weeks you may have even come out of the closet and announced: “mum, dad… I’m going to the Big Brother auditions and I’m proud!”

Most of us BB fanatics don’t have enough sideboob to be audition material, so we hit the internet and begin speculating what the new season will have instore. A revived show, new host and new broadcast channel, you can’t help but thinking Nine have something revolutionary and grand in store…

Unlikely. Last decade we learnt Big Brother in Australia is not the type of show to take a whole lot of chances; it’s very by-the-book. Much of the variation came in small tweaks sprinkled here and there – the occasional D-grade celebrity, a cheesy live games show, yet another intruder – but for the most part BB stayed ‘true to heart’ and suffered the consequences of an ageing TV format.

But that was four years ago… can we even remember the show in detail? Some fairly intelligent programming executives at Southern Star and Channel Nine know our fading memory is becoming nostalgia, and a fantastically cheap way to drum up ratings is to reboot a show with a proven formula. There’s a two part benefit to this approach: the older viewers who were hooked on the original series are drawn in through nostalgic curiosity, and the younger viewers now coming of age and want so badly to be part of the show. Take a look through the official Big Brother Facebook page and there’s a very clear theme coming through: hundreds of applicants in the 18-24 age bracket, enthusiastically declaring “I watched Big Brother when I was a kid and now I’m old enough I wanna be on the show!!!!!!” omg.

Which is another Australian BB hallmark: the bogan and barbie complex. Ditsy blonde girls who “tell it like it is”, and the “I’m just a typical bloke” bogans. These characters dominated multiple series of the last Big Brother and by all Facebook indication they’re making a comeback in 2012. They’re just dynamite for those much needed hot-tub-funny-story-about-this-time-I-hooked-up-with-this-crazy-chick-in-a-nightclub-cubicle chats that are precious footage for Big Brother Uncut. (They’re a guilty pleasure of mine as well).

That’s not to say the bogan and barbie housemates aren’t entertaining, or endearing – but you need to get the casting right. Really right. And this brings us back to the flipside of my argument: the new host Sonia Kruger told media early on in production that the new season will be character focused:

“They’re looking for people who don’t have an agenda and people who don’t see themselves as TV types. Interesting, warm, engaging people. We … want people with life experience.”

Fantastic if the production company stick to their word – this is exactly the original character driven Big Brother formula we came to love in the early seasons of the show. Casting is so important, and if done right the usual ‘same old Big Brother’ will provide the entertainment cheesy that Friday Night Live shows could not. So in keeping optimistic of the rebooted season, I say bring on the same old Big Brother, bring interesting and engaging people to our TV screens. Just make sure they have a brain.

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