'Big Brother' producer: America's Player twist revelation still TBD
By Christopher Rocchio, 08/24/2007
Although Big Brother's eighth-season finale is less than a month away, producers for the long-running CBS reality series are unsure when houseguests on the jury will be clued into the fact that Eric Stein is serving as America's Player if he makes it to the final two.
"That would certainly be part of the finale, but I'm not saying when he'll be able to reveal it. That needs to be determined," said Big Brother executive producer Allison Grodner during an Entertainment Weeklyinterview published Thursday. "He needs to be judged on how he played the game and how he's perceived. So the question is: Should he reveal it before or after? It's my opinion that it should be revealed after in order for him to have a fair shot of winning this game. But that has yet to be determined."
Stein, a 27-year-old New York talent management assistant from New York, is one of seven houseguests remaining in the running for Big Brother 8's $500,000 grand prize. However he also has the added strategical burden of serving as America's Player, a Big Brother 8 twist that has him taking assignment orders from the home viewing audience via text messaging or the Internet, and for each five he successfully completes he receives $10,000.
"He needs to make every effort to complete America's task to get credit for it," Grodner told EW, adding Stein has yet to turn an assignment down. "He basically has a contract with America to be America's Player, which means he will do his absolute best to try to complete a task."
Stein's identity as America's Player has been kept secret from the houseguests still competing as well as those serving on the jury who will decide the winner. While Stein takes directives on who to vote to evict each week, Grodner attempted to dispel rumors started by fans watching the live Internet feeds that Big Brother producers attempt to sway the other houseguests on who to vote for.
She said Big Brother's unique live Internet feeds -- the same aspect that "makes the show so terrific" -- also result in the show being "the only [reality] show that is heavily scrutinized."
"We can't manipulate the houseguests because we know we have the viewers watching us. That's something that we are very much against here," she told EW. "We do ask the houseguests to talk to us in pros and cons so we can understand their line of thinking. It's important for us to do that in order to understand the strategy, which can get so complex. That's what is happening. We are very careful to ask balanced questions. We will ask them to weigh both sides."
One reason strategy is so important has played out during Big Brother 8, as "backdooring" (the targeting of a replacement nominee for eviction) has run rampant, leading to the ousting of Joe Barber, Mike Dutz, Nick Starcevic, Dustin Erikstrup, and Jen Johnson. It also indirectly led to the eviction of Kail Harbick, who was once promised pawn status as a nominee before Johnson won the Power of Veto and Stein was nominated in her place. The houseguests chose to keep Stein and Harbick was booted.
"The unprecedented use of the veto, especially the [subsequent] eviction of the replacement nominee... The amount of arguments and fights in the house on a regular basis. We've had very dramatic turnarounds over the years, but this season we've seen even bigger surprises," Grodner told EW.
Grodner said it is "possible" Big Brother will receive a rule change in the future to discourage backdooring in future installments, similar to what was done prior to Big Brother's seventh installment when the random drawing of ping-pong balls was used to choose players for the PoV competition.
"That encourage people from backdooring. This year, people just seem to be getting lucky in terms of the ping-pong balls!" she told EW. "It's hard to say how much we'll change... We've had more Head of Households change their mind [about who should be on the chopping block] midway through the week than we've ever had before - though I don't think it was always their intent to backdoor somebody."
Needless to say there hasn't been a loss for drama during Big Brother 8, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by Grodner. Just last week, producers gave Johnson a "penalty nomination" after what Grodner described as Johnson's "unprecedented" move to ignore her slop restriction that resulted from her Week 5 PoV competition pledge. When Johnson sensed her time in the Big Brother 8 house was short, she feasted on turkey burgers and fruit, a move that didn't sit too well with the other remaining houseguests, who branded her a cheater.
The producers originally declared that since Johnson had already been nominated for eviction last week when she ate non-slop food and the show's rules call for an automatic penalty nomination as punishment for breaking the show's rules, she was to automatically once again be up for eviction this week (if she lasted that long in the house).
However the rest of the houseguests balked at the producers' decision and claimed the guarantee that Johnson would once again be up for eviction next week might unfairly affect their eviction votes, causing Johnson to receive the alternate "penalty vote" punishment that subsequently didn't do anything because she was ousted by a unanimous decision.
"At this point, our feeling is that the offender should be penalized within the week the offense took place," Grodner told EW. "So this is a new way of dealing with rule violations by the nominees themselves."
Big Brother 8's finale is scheduled to air Tuesday, September 18, and Grodner said the possibility Stein could still be there as a houseguest is also surprising.
"What's also incredibly unprecedented about this season is America's Player," she told EW. "The viewers are involved, and he's still in the house."