‘Big Brother 6′: Bigger, Better, More Fragrant
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) At the end of production last year on the fifth season of CBS’ summer reality series “Big Brother,” the house — actually a series of linked temporary trailers — on a studio lot in the San Fernando Valley was demolished to make room for a new CBS office building. For Allison Grodner, who executive produces the show with partner and fellow executive producer Arnold Shapiro, it didn’t come a moment too soon.
Each summer, the house plays host to contestants who live in it minus contact with the outside world for three months, scheming and planning and conniving in hopes of staying in long enough to win the $500,000 grand prize. Shapiro and Grodner have produced the second, third, fourth and fifth seasons so far, all in the same location.
“I can tell ya,” Grodner says, “after five years, that house that was torn down stunk. It was awful. No one wanted to go in. A lot of it can be attributed to Marvin’s stinky feet last year, but when we had to put the houseguests on lockdown outside to go in to clean things up or set things up, I mean, people would go in with masks. It was horrible.”
“Big Brother 6” launches its thrice-weekly airings Thursday, July 7, on CBS. The Thursday episode, with host Julie Chen, is the live edition of the show, featuring the weekly eviction of one of the housemates. Pre-taped episodes air on Tuesday and Saturday. As always, cameras and microphones monitor the houseguests 24 hours a day, both on television and continuously on the Internet.
At the premiere, fans will get their first look at the new home of “Big Brother,” a two-story, loft-style house built inside a soundstage on the same lot. (There’s still an outdoor back yard and large pool.)
“We’ve got a whole new space,” Grodner says. “It doesn’t smell yet. We’ll see how long it takes. It’s got high ceilings and just gives the whole thing a different look. We’re able to look down on them, get different perspectives, and it gives us more space to do bold decorating statements as well.
“That’s pretty much all I can reveal right now about the house, that it’s a very bold, colorful design. Our chief engineer, who’s been with us forever, is responsible for putting together the initial construction design for this and making it work for a two-story inside a soundstage, (making something) that’s livable, that can sustain the weight and the wear and tear, which is very different from a regular sitcom set. This has to be functional.
“It has high ceilings, big walls, balconies, lots of ways for people to keep an eye on each other, lots of new nooks and crannies for people to scheme and hide, not from us, but from each other.”
Strangely enough, enlarging the set seems to have had a corresponding effect on the cast.
“There are a lot of very tall people here,” Grodner says. “That works. We actually have the ceilings to contain tall people. Whereas in past years, I have to say, not that we’ve stopped ourselves from putting tall people in the cast, but we’re always worried about the bigger people, wondering how they would be able to fit into these rooms, bend with the lights and cameras.”
While fans enjoy the drama inside the house, Grodner says there’s no lack of drama behind the scenes.
“It’s a whole other story that we’ve only touched on in the media, but it’s an amazing little city that goes on behind the scenes at ‘Big Brother.’ For us, it’s summer camp. We get a huge return with our staff and our crew. It runs like a top. It’s very well-planned, with up to 200 people working on the show behind the scenes.
“I’m here 24 hours a day as well, with everyone else, getting my hands dirty, eating my peanut butter.”
With her new space to play with, Grodner got to do something she’s wanted to since she and Shapiro took over the show. “When we took over ‘Big Brother 2,’ we added the head-of-household component and therefore the head-of-household room. The way it was with the original set, we had a limited amount of space to work with.
“I will say, this year, the head-of-household room is very special. I will go so far as to say it’s sort of the penthouse suite. We’re excited by that because we really were able to design it from the ground up instead of having to shoehorn something in. You earn that, you win it, it’s a powerful position to have, so the space should be deserving of that power and that prestige in the game.”
Last season, Grodner and Shapiro introduced the twist of having identical twins in the house, pretending to be the same person — a twist, Grodner says, imitated by the Australian edition of “Big Brother.”
“The twin twist gave them one of the highest ratings they’ve ever had on the show. The twins went in and switched out every day, which isn’t something we did. That was a very bold move on their part. They were caught on the seventh day, and it was the most-watched show they had. It was high drama.”
Asked how “Big Brother 6” will top last year’s twist, Grodner says, “Every season is different. There will always be surprises, twists and turns, and we will guarantee that again this summer.”
‘Big Brother 6′: Bigger, Better, More Fragrant