'Big Brother' ratings slip after editing controversy
While CBS leaves the most interesting parts of "Big Brother" on the cutting-room floor, the show's ratings continue to slip.
Despite (or because of) drawing headlines for a few controversial editing decisions, CBS' "Big Brother" continued its modest performance, slipping another tenth on Sunday from its last episode and down a couple tenths from its time-period premiere last week. The episode tied as the show's lowest-rated ever.
"Big Brother" (5.6 million viewers, 1.8 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) was still the highest-rated show that wasn't an animated repeat last night. But after 11 seasons, "Big Brother" is edging into a ratings territory where many broadcast reality programs don't come back from.
Which makes this editing flap all the more perplexing. Fans are bashing CBS for editing out several comments from the broadcast version -- a racial slur, a homophobic term and a "sexually insulting word" to describe host Julie Chen.
On one hand, "Brother" is in a uniquely difficult position here. They're the only broadcast reality show where fans critique the editing process by watching live streams online. Normally producers can alter stories to a ridiculous degree. On "Brother," every decision gets second guessed by obsessive fans. Still, that's the price a network pays for offering those streams to begin with.
CBS' explanation for the cuts is weak. From the AP: "CBS said the statements were removed from the broadcast because they were offensive and did not meet the network's standards... The network said in a statement Friday that 'any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a houseguest appearing on 'Big Brother,' either on any live feed from the house or the broadcast, are those of the individuals speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.'"
Well, duh. Since when do viewers think reality contestants are spokespersons for Les Moonves?
Reality shows are driven by conflict. None of what was said was unsuitable for bleeping-but-you-can-still-figure-it-out on a broadcast show. The fact CBS is leaving out the most headline-worthy parts of their program won't help its sagging numbers. If the network really doesn't want racists or homophobes on the air, great -- don't cast them. The screening process for these shows is pretty extensive, experienced producers generally have a fair idea of a person's opinions and boundaries.
One "Big Brother" contestant, Chima Simone, had it exactly right when she told producers on the show's live feed: "'If someone's a racist, they should be portrayed as one. You shouldn't edit it to make them look good."