big brother
I can’t believe I’m watching!


As a general rule, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.

I’d better clarify.

I like eating frozen peanut butter cups, Twilight, and Survivor.

And you all remember how I feel about Zac Efron and Baywatch.

I just don’t feel guilty about it. Life’s too short and I’ve got other things to worry about.

But I have recently tuned into a piece of pop culture that I can’t help feeling guilt about: Big Brother.  For the uninitiated, Big Brother is a reality competition television show.  A group of idiots are locked together in a large garish house for nearly one hundred days.  They are cut off from the outside world—no television, newspapers, or internet.  They grow increasingly stir crazy, claustrophobic, and insane.  Each week, the contestants vote to evict someone from the house.  The last man or woman standing wins half a million dollars.

It’s ridiculous. And glorious.

And I’ve lost some respect for myself for loving it.

While the show is in its nineteenth season, this is the first time I’ve watched, so I’m still learning. There’s a whole slew of new terms to learn—head of household, have nots, and the all-important power of veto.  There’s also the “backdoor” strategy, which they talk about a lot and which I’m still not sure I understand.  There’s a den of temptation with a big snake inside.  Each episode the contestants play in a crazy competition that manages to humiliate them.

In addition to the show, there’s what they call the “live feeds.” See, the show is happening in real time—the contestants are in the house right now, and each week someone is evicted live on television.  So in addition to the show that airs on television, CBS airs raw live footage 24/7 online.

There’s this whole geeky subculture around the live feeds. People watch them obsessively and know what’s happened before the show actually airs.  There are podcasts and Twitter feeds constantly updating you on the happenings in the house.  You can get the behind-the-scene story on the latest blindside or nomination.  You can see who’s a villain and who’s a hero, despite what the editing of the television show portrays.

In fact, the amazing thing about Big Brother is that you don’t really have to watch the show at all.  By show, I’m talking about the one hour produced segments that air on CBS three times a week.  (And let’s get this out of the way right now…three times a week is way too much.  The main reason I stopped watching The Bachelor and Dancing With the Stars and still watch Survivor is that Survivor knows it’s better to leave me thinking, “I want more!” rather than, “will this show—and the accompanying commercials—ever end?”)

But with the live feeds (which for the record, I have not watched, and refuse to—not because I wouldn’t love them, but precisely because I would), you have an online army dedicated to letting you know the latest developments as they happen.  Once you watch the show enough to know what everyone looks and sounds like, you can follow along without watching a minute.

It sounds crazy, I know. It is crazy.

I might get sick of it—probably will, knowing me. I’ve got a track record of passionately following shows through half a season right before I forget to ever watch them again.

But for now, I’m loving it.

And on second though?

I don’t feel guilty at all.