UPDATE: 8:53 AM: CBS put an end to those embarrassing record-low ratings Big Brother has been suffering this season (at least temporarily) by airing the racist and homophobic remarks made by contestants during the show’s webcast. About 6.3 million tuned in to see what the kerfuffle was all about on Sunday’s Very Special Big Brother episode devoted to the controversy; Big Brother was the only primetime broadcast show of the night to break a 2 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds. That boilerplate statement CBS has been using over the years, in re racist, homophobic, etc. remarks made by Big Brother competitors, has included a reminder that the network makes a distinction between the show’s broadcast and its webcast. But this being the summer of Paula Deen and the George Zimmerman trial, and Big Brother limping along with record low ratings, it seemed inevitable the network would air a Very Special episode about the comments made by some of the players. For those catching up: On this season of Big Brother, we’ve learned the high price of seeking fame in Hollywood by slinging slurs in the BB house; so far two of this season’s contestants, Aaryn Gries and GinaMarie Zimmerman have been sacked from their day jobs because of their racist remarks on the show, while Spencer Clawson’s employer, at press time, had slapped his wrist.
Not coincidentally, ‘Big Brother’ host Julie Chen also weighed in the next morning on The Talk – which she co-hosts. “Those things, in my opinion … felt mean-spirited. It felt ugly and it felt mean,” she said of the comments that originally ran on the show’s webcast. Chen confessed she was surprised to discover that a 22-year-old, college educated woman would make “anti-gay, anti-black, and anti-Asian comments.” Apparently Chen, who has hosted the U.S. version of Big Brother since its debut in 2000, hasn’t been watching “Big Brother’s” webcast all those years she’s been hosting the show.
“It took me back to the ’70s when I was growing up in Queens and I was 7-years-old getting bullied…I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t heard comments like that [in years].’ The year is 2013. I felt ignorant — there are still people in the country who feel and act that way?”
PREVIOUSLY, WEDNESDAY PM: CBS hit pay dirt when the Paula Deen/N-word story broke just as the network was revving up the 15th season of its Big Brother reality competition series. The network has achieved a lot of support among younger viewers for this show, in which millennials who’ve been carefully cast for their willingness to toss aside all dignity and every other noble quality shack up together in a made-for-TV house that’s been outfitted with loads of cameras and audio. Big Brother has a great track record of contestants making racist and homophobic remarks. And CBS has a great track record of issuing its boilerplate statement — like it did late yesterday — tsk-tsk-tsk-ing the contestants’ slurs and reminding us this show is a social experiment and the network is in no way connected to the contestants’ views. This appeals to younger viewers — Big Brother is the network’s youngest-skewing summer series and one of its youngest skewing of all its programs over the course of the calendar year. So successful is the reality competition series among younger viewers that the network said yesterday it’s moving one of BB’s three nights of broadcast to Thursday at 8, to make sure Big Brother viewers see many promos for the net’s younger-skewing sitcoms, airing in that very same hour during the “official” TV season.
Sure enough, almost immediately after its season debut, the Big Brother live feed, which runs online only, caught two competitors making racist and homophobic remarks about fellow housemates, sending the Reporters Who Cover Television, who are looking for ways to keep going their Paula Deen-story web traffic, screaming for joy.
Among the gems on the show so far: one contestant thought an Asian American housemate should “shut up” and “go make some rice.” Punching the Asian American competitor in the face might “make her eyes straight” someone suggested. Someone warned another competitor to be careful what they said about an black contestant at night because you might not be able to see “that b—-.” A couple days later someone referred to the Asian American housemate as Kim Jong-Un. Someone worried another competitor would get MVP status “because everybody loves the queers.” But Big Brother might have reached this season’s peak of repulsiveness — though the season is still young — when a contestant raved about the oratory skills of Hitler.
Such comments are nothing new for Big Brother. In seasons past, a competitor who worked with the United Autism Foundation referred to people with developmental disabilities as “retards” and insisted he was free to use that word because he works with “them” all day. The Season 8 winner was a fan fave for his abusiveness toward women in the house. Season 11: written up for its racist and homophobic comments — ditto season 13, 15, blah, blah, blah. And, as always, CBS at some point puts on its sad face and dusts off its boilerplate response to press questions. This season’s version reads as follows:
‘Big Brother’ is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on ‘Big Brother,’ either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.
But BB doesn’t have the corner on reality-TV racial slurs. Former MasterChef player Krissi Biasiello recently got “caught” by the Philadelphia Daily News for having posted racist tweets in the past, including use of the N-word to describe the sport of basketball. She has apologized, Radar reported in its update, tweeting, “It was never my intention to hurt or offend anybody.” That hopefully sets to rest any misconception that Krissi is your ordinary pin-headed reality-series competitor — her pin-headedness is extraordinary.