'We Call It The Human Zoo': An Uneasy Stroll Through The 'Big Brother' House
07:53 am, August 1, 2010
by Linda Holmes
The house where Big Brother locks people up every summer is not a house, of course. It's a very big soundstage attached to a very small "yard" of matted plastic grass that bakes in the sun. The hot tub is almost despondently bare-bones, like the one you might find at a thirty-nine dollar motel where "HOT" and "TUB" are the biggest words on the sign you can see from the interstate.
I tour the house — no, the stage — no, the set, the great big set — with a small group of ten critics or so. We're all wearing black, because if you wear white, you can show up like a ghost to the contestants on the other side of more than 100 two-way mirrors that are the all-seeing eyes of the operation. Wearing white lets them see you. You're only supposed to see them. Nobody talks to the contestants, ever, except producers, who invisibly boom and crackle over the PA system.
The crew — it takes more than 200 people to make this show, we're told — roams around behind the "camera ring" of one-way mirrors, filming contestants who are arguing, or in the shower, or having sex, or engaging in some kind of bizarre organized competition, or more likely lying around with nothing to do except think about the fact that at least someone's watching them. At least their fifteen minutes will last all summer.
Executive Producer Allison Grodner tells us that the producers call it "the human zoo." I try not to flinch.
We see that backyard first, while the contestants — who do not, and will not, have any idea we're here — are "locked down" inside the house. They're in there, so we're out here. The yard is so much smaller than it seems on TV. It's surrounded by walls. It's blazingly hot. The pool is a pool in name only — the water is real, which is more than can be said for the grass, but it's only big enough for a little directionless splashing around in your bikini. Or maybe for bringing your body temperature down so you don't get heat stroke.
A giant camera arm throws a shadow as it swings across the little box of open sky.
We visit the control room, where something like 10 people stare at a giant bank of monitors. They're deciding which cameras to record, which stories to follow, where to go next. Two "loggers" record everything that happens, minute by minute, so everyone can find the right place on the tape later. There are loggers at four in the morning. There are loggers when everyone is sleeping. The zoo is on the record.Read the rest here