How "Big Brother" Ate My Brain: A Cautionary Tale

screaming jason

Once upon a time, I was a normal television viewer, just like you. Every season, I had my few shows that I watched religiously. I’d catch them On Demand if I missed them live, and it was no big deal. Occasionally, I’d peruse the message boards on IMDB for those shows while I was watching. After the show aired, I’d read a recap or two of the episode online. (Occasionally I’d even write one.)

But that was it. That was as far as my “obsessions” went.

Two summers ago, my friend casually suggested I try Big Brother. “Ummm, thanks but no thanks,” I replied politely. “I hate reality shows AND game shows, so this would be a double dose of awful for me. I’ll stick to my scripted television.”

not really

So, my friend ramped up her persuasion efforts. She begged! “PLEAAAASEEE!” she said.

“NO!” I responded, more firmly this time.

no oh

Next, my friend resorted to bartering. “Watch two episodes of Big Brother and discuss them with me, and I will watch two episodes of any show of your choosing and discuss them with you,” she offered.

This, of course, was an offer I could not refuse. The lure of being able to discuss Masters of Sex (a show that currently none of my family or friends had any interest in watching) with a real live human being was simply too strong to resist.

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex (Season 1 keyart) - Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

And so I relented. I watched the first episode of Season 15 of Big Brother.

And I hated it SO MUCH! There were people hanging on giant popsicle sticks while paint was splattered across their faces at five second intervals. I watched the popsicle stick dangling what seemed like a entire eternity and felt my IQ dropping with each second. “I know I promised you two episodes, but I don’t think I can put myself through this again,” I complained to my friend.

popsicle

“Just one more episode,” my friend insisted, “or no Masters of Sex talk for you.”

Zach-Big-Brother

So, I watched again. I hated the second episode much less. Sure, it still included the same bad Japanese game show-inspired competitions that made me feel dumber for having watched them, but it also offered insights into social psychology, personality typing (with possible mental disorder diagnoses), game theory, the effectiveness of various methods of mental and emotional manipulation, and sexual activity thinly disguised by blacklight camera work.

dirty people

I continued to watch Big Brother throughout the rest of the season and got into the habit of discussing the various developments with my friend each week. And while I hated to admit it, it was kind of fun!

ball jump

By the time the summer of 2014 rolled around, I no longer needed to be blackmailed into watching Big Brother. That was the summer I discovered JokersUpdates, a website where fans who had purchased the live feeds of the Big Brother house of the series would transcribe what happened so you could be constantly updated without shelling out the cash to pay for it. Being (1) a lover of all things spoilery and (2) an admitted tight-wad, this seemed like a perfect option for me.

bb 17

And so the summer of 2014 came and went with me continuing to watch the live episodes of Big Brother while they aired, along with occasional perusal of what was going on in the house between episodes, so that I had added insights into the show I could use to one-up my friend during our weekly discussions.

I had become a happy fan of a show that, just a season ago, I was hell-bent against watching. It was downright pleasant.

laugh watch

Then came the summer of 2015, or, as I now like to refer to it, the summer everything went to Hell.  Because this, my friends, was the summer I went all in. I PURCHASED the live feeds, willingly allowing myself to become a so-called “live feeder” (a term Big Brother uses to describe its Super Fans, which makes us all sound like a bunch of vampires, which, given my sleep patterns lately, actually isn’t too far from the truth.)

tongue out

I started to CHAT in the live feed chatrooms. I began eagerly checking JokersUpdates on my cell phone first thing in the morning after I woke up to see what had happened in the house while I was sleeping. Had the nominations changed overnight? Was the same person still being evicted?

evict

I, my friends, needed help. I needed an intervention. But, most importantly, I needed a life . . . BIG TIME.

completely detached

So, why did I do this to myself? Why am I STILL DOING IT to this very day, despite my shame, rampant insomnia, and decreasing ability to function in normal society, with each summer day that passes?

bat crazy

Because it’s awesome, that’s why! Think about it. What other show exists that you can literally watch live at 4 a.m. that isn’t the home shopping network, a Bible thumper telling you that you are destined for eternal damnation, or an infomercial for Wen dry shampoo?

infomercial

Particularly if you are on the east coast, having access to the live feeds is pretty amazing because the house guests are basically sleeping most of the time you are at work or school and start their scheming and game playing in earnest around the time you get home for dinner. You miss nothing!

Not to mention the voyeuristic thrill of watching your favorite house guests eat their feelings, suffer from indigestion and menstrual cramps, snore, burp, fart, and do their laundry . . . REALITY TV STARS . . . they really are just like us . . . who knew?

sleep

Well, except for the Kardashians . . . they aren’t like me at all!

kardash

Don’t forget the fact that live feeders find out everything that happens on the show before everybody else–knowing who is head of household, nominated for eviction, and going home–two to three days before the episodes revealing this information actually air!

chillaxing

And besides, I mean, have you looked at the summer TV viewing schedule lately . . . particularly in August and early September? It’s not like anything else that’s halfway decent to watch is on.

So, there you have it, my dirty little TV viewing secret . . . my guilty pleasure . . . my all-consuming addiction . . . the reason I’m cutting this confession short, so that I can have yet another admittedly sad date with my television set.

I’ve shown you mine. Now, it’s time to fess up and give me yours. Come on, I dare you!

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