The first season of a new format is always the hardest to perfect. Some have critical expectations from the original show; looking to see what was kept, removed or updated to fit the new show. While others are open to take in the new concept and go along for the ride. In the case of Big Brother: Over The Top, it was a bit of a new territory when it was announced – it’s a new Big Brother show but it sounded similar to what was done in the past. In fact, something like the original season of Big Brother.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Big Brother: Over The Top is a streaming-only adaptation on CBS All Access of the hit CBS reality show, Big Brother. Contestants would still be living and competing against each other inside the Big Brother house to win money, but there would be a few changes as compared to the main summer series. The main differences include:
- Viewers have a bigger importance in the game from nominating a third nominee, casting an additional eviction vote, and voting on special powers
- There is no jury; the winner is decided solely by America
- Everything is aired live and viewable by stream
For the most part (and regardless of the name change), Big Brother: Over The Top is a similar game to the main series. There are Head of Household and Power of Veto competitions, backstabbing, blindsides, nominations, and the evictions that send houseguests packing. The core element of the game’s competitiveness is still there – the mere fact that America would be choosing the winner at the end instead of a jury doesn’t change that. These players are still competing against each other and have the power for whom to target/evict. Unless there was a special power or twist, of course.
Speaking of the houseguests, the casting this season was a good change of pace. It may be due to the fact that these players would be online-only or that Over The Top is more focused on personality, but this was a fun cast. It was enjoyable to root for these players, watch them goof around or even hate them as the shady villains we want to get out. This could be a lesson that should be applied to the main series: Attractive model-types who know little-to-nothing about the game are fine to fill one or three spots, but there should be more fun and entertaining fans added to the mix too. Over The Top proved that based on the dynamic of the group.
The easy visibility of the show is also a fan’s dream. We got to see the nitty gritty of the series being played out with the contestants taking part in the challenges, the nominations, diary rooms and other similar areas. The argument of “edited show vs. livestream” happens every summer over what is factual or not – it was nice to get it out of the way and get the core game as is. I don’t think this could fully be applied to the main series, but it is something to consider on some visibility to not hide everything on the livestream. The floating fish screen can sometimes be discouraging to see on repeat.
Where Big Brother: Over The Top gets right, there are areas that it lacks. The first area is the lack of anticipation and tension. With the game being fully visible, the important scenes aired lose that added layer of build up and drama. Even the smallest things like the music or Julie Chen being the one reading the eviction votes were solely missed. You can’t deny the Chenbot delivers such flawless tension! It’s one thing to see the challenges played out and the nominations being conducted, but the level of climactic tension felt too mellow. If the players weren’t arguing with each other or enjoying backstabbing each other, the season could’ve felt drama-free without it.
The viewer involvement is also a bit of debate. I enjoyed some of the special powers introduced to be potentially won this season – let’s have the Diamond Veto, Double Veto and Boomerang Veto make a return in the future! And I did like having the third nominee and the hidden extra eviction vote for added drama. But there was A LOT of involvement by fans that changed the game. Maybe pulling back on some of the powers or fan votes could help this?
Particularly, some of the special prizes. It’s never favorable when someone is awarded full immunity without really trying for it. This is a game and with Over The Top’s endgame being determined solely by viewing votes, it gives an idea of who the public favors over other people. Let’s keep it a competition or something that needs to be earned.
Also, we need more challenge and opportunities for the players to work together. The house was divided this season and while it’s great for drama, it lessens the core house dynamic. There should be opportunities for the cast to feel like a family and work together.
When it came down to the final vote, Morgan won the victory over Jason and Kryssie. I won’t deny that I was shocked to see Morgan win! Not because Morgan isn’t deserving of the prize, but because having a familiar returning player be sitting next to her at the finals isn’t surprising. Ever since Jason walked through the front doors, he seemed like a sure thing to win the season. However, as the season progressed so did his attitude. He played more ruthlessly this season and not a likeable a game; it’s not surprising to see some people vote for Morgan as a means AGAINST Jason. Regardless, Morgan is the first winner of Big Brother: Over The Top and she is walking away with $250,000.
Big Brother: Over The Top has yet to be renewed for another season. After watching the latest Big Brother 18 and this season, both seem to be very different shows in tone and quality. There is room for these shows to coexist together and with a little tweaking, Over The Top could work as an online extension of the show. It needs some time, love and another season to work out the gears.