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6 critical changes needed to revive ‘Big Brother’

The show's producers have just two months to prepare for the new season, but the time offers the perfect opportunity to make some changes to a show that's getting really old.
/ Source: contributor

"Big Brother 9" concluded Sunday night, and Adam walked away with the $500,000 prize. Runner-up Ryan received the $50,000. The most remarkable part about that conclusion was that it's pretty unremarkable.

Both have said terrible things in the house: Adam generated the most media attention this season by using a derogatory term for autistic children, and later used a disparaging term for gay people, while Ryan's girlfriend accused him of being a racist.

But while all of that is indefensible, it wasn't a non-stop onslaught of bad behavior, which we've seen nearly every other season. Somehow, the show has desensitized its viewers to terrible behavior by giving such extreme examples that the occasionally awful behavior witnessed this season seemed flat by comparison.

Around 6.5 million people watched the show's first non-summer edition, far fewer than watched last summer. But it was still a surprising number considering how boring "Big Brother 9" has been.

Exactly five months passed between the end of the eighth season and the start of the ninth, a much shorter period of time than the just under 10 months the show usually has to reset and prepare. Perhaps that affected the series, which normally is lightweight, forgettable summer trash TV, but this winter and spring became tiresome and monotonous.

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

Now, the show's producers have just two months to prepare for the new season, and that doesn't bode well at all considering what viewers just went through.

But these two months offer the perfect opportunity to make some critical changes to a show that's getting old and has some significant problems.

Stop casting people who know each other For the past six seasons — every season starting with the fourth — there have been cast members in the house who know each other, from romantic partners to enemies.

The reason for this is obvious: It's an easy twist and guarantees immediate drama when everyone else finds out about the pre-existing relationship, or when someone finds out that a person they loathe is also there.

But it's also grown old and seems lazy now. More significant, when only a few people in the house know each other, as happened this season, that gives them both an unfair advantage and a severe handicap.

This season, the producers not only put pre-existing couples into the house, but they also forced everyone else to pair up with their alleged "soul mates." That twist was so lame and misguided that it was dropped after week three. (The show even changed its name from "Big Brother: 'Til Death Do You Part" to "Big Brother 9.")

It's time to finally start a season at that point, with everyone on an even playing field.

Start being fair Similarly, the show needs to refocus and become a competition rather than a game of chance.

Some of the show's quizzes have unfair answers, like the final Head of Household competition that asks the players to answer questions to which they cannot have the answer, while the challenges often just go to the luckiest person. The competitions, while frequently elaborate in terms of construction, sometimes don't seem to have been tested, as they either don't work well or are just lame.

Sometimes, the unlucky — like Jameka, who was disqualified from a competition last season due to something entirely out of her control — suffer due to poor challenge design, and that's unacceptable.

In addition, the producers have been accused of trying to manipulate the show's outcome not just through editing, but through private conversations with the houseguests in the Diary Room, where they're interviewed. Also last summer, the houseguests even discussed those attempts to sway them before the live feeds were cut.

Some fairness is in order.

Let the live feeds be uncensored
Host Julie Chen constantly pitches the "live, 24/7 Internet feeds," which may be live but certainly aren't 24/7. The producers cut the feeds frequently, whether that's during a competition or when the houseguests talk about something deemed inappropriate. Protecting the outcome of challenges may seem like a reasonable goal, but it's pretty nonsensical considering that the outcome of competitions is almost always obvious from conversations the houseguests have after the feeds return.

Give people what they pay for and be as transparent as possible. Show the competitions, the Diary Room conversations and even the shower stalls. Whoever produces the live feeds screws up often enough that audio and/or video is often accidentally broadcast, so why bother trying to censor it?

The TV show, by its nature, has to be edited and condensed, and the presence of the live feeds will always make the producers' storytelling (and manipulation) obvious to those who follow the show.

End the slop-food punishment Forcing some houseguests to consume "slop" food is a stupid, unnecessary punishment that does nothing for the show except kill time while cast members who lost the food competition offer identical complaints about it every week. Drop it.

Fire the casting directors CBS has three marquee reality shows: "The Amazing Race," "Survivor" and "Big Brother." It's no surprise that the two Emmy-nominated shows are cast by the same person, while someone else casts "Big Brother."

Robyn Kass and her colleagues have cast every season of "Big Brother" since its second season, and have proven to be talented at gathering psychopathic extroverts with superiority complexes and not a lot of intelligence. The exceptions to this rule — perennial fan favorites Kaysar and Janelle from season six — prove that better cast members equal better television.

Perhaps it's possible that the people Kass casts are perfectly agreeable until they get locked up in the soundstage that serves as "Big Brother’s" house. Or maybe she's just directed to get crazy people. Either way, after nine seasons, it's time to try something new.

Be creative For all of its alleged changes and twists, the show remains frustratingly similar. Unlike "Survivor" — a show that really doesn't deserve being compared to its sibling — "Big Brother" doesn't innovate. The same challenges are recycled, the music never changes, the open credits are the same and Chen's hosting is beyond robotic in its repetition.

Some consistency works well and actually improves the show, as "Survivor's" structure and host Jeff Probst's repetition of certain phrases prove. But on "Big Brother," it just comes off as cheap and lazy, and adds to those things that make the show increasingly unwatchable.

is a writer who publishes , a daily digest of reality TV news and analysis.