A few weeks ago — Monday, June 20, to be exact — I once again had the opportunity to participate in "Big Brother" Media Day. Or as I like to call it: the best day of the year. That's saying a lot, right? Well, it's true. As a "Big Brother" junkie, there truly is nothing cooler than being able to participate in a trial run of the competition, days before the actual houseguests begin playing the game in front of millions of rabid fans watching at home.
And -- because I'm assuming anyone reading this is a fellow "BB" junkie -- I've decided to share a few insider secrets. Trust me, what you see on TV is real. But there were a handful of things that caught me by surprise.
So, in honor of "Big Brother's" Season 13 premiere, check out these 13 things you probably didn't know about the show.
(1) House size
Have you ever been to a live taping of a TV show? Like "The Price Is Right" or "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson"? The sets are tiny. Onscreen they look huge, but in reality they tend to be minuscule. Not the "Big Brother" house. It's by no means a mansion, but I was surprised by how spacious it is. That said, I was trapped in the house for only one day with 10 other professionals. Fourteen houseguests (the typical number of competitors) could make for cramped quarters, especially if they're as annoying as Season 12's Rachel or Season 6's Ivette.
Houseguests fear being put on this gruel-like substance after losing a food competition, and I don't blame them. It's revolting. And despite what you may have heard, it's nothing like oatmeal. I love me some Quaker Oats, and this isn't that. At last year's Media Day, an evil Head of Household (who'll remain nameless) put me and three other houseguests on slop. It was torturous. Even worse? Watching our fellow players enjoying real meals and tasty beverages. Luckily, it was only for the day. I can't imagine how awful Chicken George felt, during Season 7, when he committed to eating that nastiness for 60 consecutive days! Anyway, this year, I was happy to find a Slop Pass under my seat in the living room at the beginning of Media Day. But soon after, I was told to pick a fellow houseguest to put on slop. I selected Richard, the only nonmedia contestant in the house. Am I as evil as Dr. Will Kirby? No! I just assumed that Richard -- who won the online "Big Brother" Ultimate Fan contest and was flown in from Lake Placid, New York -- would want to experience what it's really like to play the game. Come to think of it, that does sound like something Dr. Will would do!
(3) Fierce competitions
They're harder than they look. I was stressed out and sweating bullets during the Head of Household competition this year and last. Both years, I barely missed out on winning the coveted prize. But the Power of Veto competitions are even more difficult. I'll let the following video speak for itself. Yes, that's me in the blue shirt falling on my face into a shallow pool of water. Yes, it's embarrassing, but at least I was playing to win.
Within 30 seconds of entering the "Big Brother" house -- both years -- I forgot about my microphone pack and the hundreds of cameras mounted on the ceiling and behind the walls. The mics are unobtrusive, and camera crews are never seen. As a result, you don't feel like you're being heard or watched at all times, which, of course, isn't the case. Big Brother is always watching. Because you forget about the constant surveillance, you let your guard down almost immediately. In my case, I started talking smack -- behind houseguests' backs -- like it was my job!
Yes, it's just Media Day. We all know it isn't real, and we're aware that there isn't a $500,000 check on the line. But playing this game will make you a little crazy and a lot more paranoid than you'd ever imagine. The fact is you can't be everywhere at every moment. You don't know what's being said behind your back. You're never sure about your alliances or the other alliances in the house. It's nerve-racking, and if I were a real houseguest playing the game, I'd definitely need to book a vacation in a padded cell upon my eviction.
They're unsettling even when you think you're safe from the chopping block! Once my former co-worker and current Comcast Xfinity employee Brian won the HoH competition (by barely beating me, not that I'm bitter about it), I was convinced that my key would be the first pulled during his nomination ceremony. It wasn't. As if I weren't already a wreck after narrowly missing my chance to become the HoH?! Anyway, my key was eventually pulled, but the wait was excruciating.
There's a lot of it. Some of the Head of Household, Power of Veto, and food challenges are incredibly elaborate. They all take place in the backyard. Where can't you be while the producers are setting these things up? The backyard, which is exactly where you want to be when people inside the house are driving you insane. But the sliding doors remain closed as long as the black shade is covering the glass. What do you do when you want to escape but can't? Well, there's always chess, which is located upstairs, outside the HoH bedroom. Other than that, napping and driving yourself crazy seem like the only other options.
This may sound ridiculous, but after two 12-hour Media Days over two years, I've left the "Big Brother" house with a handful of new friends. Don't get me wrong; I didn't leave liking everyone. I did, however, bond with a few of them, who will hopefully become lifelong friends. I can honestly see how houseguests can become the best of friends or lovers (gasp!) over the summer.
(9) The Power of Veto
The Power of Veto necklace -- which my pal Patrick (from People magazine) earned after killing it in the PoV competition with his TV Guide partner, Rob -- is heavy! The Power of Veto holds a lot of weight; it can be a game changer, so it only makes sense that it weighs a ton.
(10) The Diary Room
It can be intimidating! You're grilled by an unseen producer while stuck in a small, stuffy room. It's definitely a great place to unleash some anger and frustration (without having to face the consequences), but it's also very easy to get confused with all the names of the houseguests swirling in your head. While casting my vote to evict a contestant this year, I made the mistake of saying the wrong person's name! Hello, that's a huge mistake. To make things worse, I didn't even realize it until I had left the Diary Room and the next houseguest was in there casting her vote. Had this been the real game, my faux pas could have proved fatal for the wrong person!
Editing makes a huge difference. However, unlike other reality shows, "Big Brother" offers a 24/7 live feed. None of the houseguests can really complain about the editors making them look bad to the viewing public. If you're a jerk and we see it, you're a jerk. But after Media Day, the members of the press receive a DVD of their footage. Unfortunately, it's only 25 minutes long, and a lot of what transpired doesn't make the final cut. Scheming, backstabbing, paranoia… a lot of those intriguing aspects of the game weren't included in the DVD. Unfortunately, you and I will never see the juicy details of what really went down in the house on Media Day.
(12) Julie Chen
The hostess with the mostest is nowhere to be found. Last year, she was busy with her "Early Show" duties. This year, she was busy with her new daytime gig, "The Talk." I was very disappointed. For some reason, I love her and the creepy delivery of her signature line, "But, first …" Anyway, I will forever assume that Julie is a remote control-powered robot (aka the Chenbot) until she shows her face on Media Day. CBS, are you listening? Next year, she'd better be in attendance!
(13) How much fun it is!
As I mentioned earlier, Media Day is my favorite day of the year. I've visited many sets over the years and participated in many cool reality show competitions, but there is nothing like this show. Hopefully I'll be invited back next year and given the opportunity to win that elusive HoH title. And hopefully Season 13 of "Big Brother" will be as addictive as ever.
The new season of "Big Brother" premieres Thursday, 7/7 at 9pm ET on CBS.
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