The world doesn’t need two “Big Brothers.” It’s already got one, and it’s the best. (Seriously, it’s so awesome.)
Still, ABC decided to go ahead with its own version of “Big Brother,” titled “The Glass House.” The show is pretty much a direct clone of “Big Brother,” with one significant twist: The viewers are in control of key decisions in the house, including who stays and goes. This twist is not exactly revolutionary, however: Longtime fans of “Big Brother” will remember that “Big Brother” started out this way too, when in its first season, viewers chose who went home. And it was a disaster.
One by one, viewers picked off the most interesting characters on the show, and the show got duller and duller as the weeks went on. Anyone who made any kind of an impression in the house was kicked out, as if viewers didn’t understand the voting process. In a way, the system was flawed: The most interesting people generated the most calls, and since viewers were voting for that person to be eliminated, the sounder strategy in the house was to stay quiet and not rile people up. In the end, the meek inherited the earth.
“Big Brother” righted itself in its second season, turning over the power to keep and kick off houseguests to the houseguests themselves. But the scars from that first season remained, and it took viewers a while to warm up to “Big Brother’s” second round. But thanks to “Big Brother 2″ winner Will Kirby, one of the most charming and devious personalities in reality TV history, “Big Brother” found its groove, and has been a summertime hit for CBS ever since.
I was skeptical of “The Glass House,” which just seemed like a cheap knock-off of “Big Brother,” and was especially wary of the whole give-the-power-to-the-viewers angle (why give power to the viewers? What do they know?), but I watched the first episode anyway. It was low-rent, bottom-feeding reality TV and I couldn’t wait for it to be over — and when it was over, I was FLOORED by the stupidity by which the houseguests cast their votes (watch the video at the bottom of this post!!!!) — but the show did have one thing going for it: An audacious, loudmouthed character who called himself “Primetime 99 Alex Stein” and who vowed openly to be “the most epic villain in the history of reality TV.” The 25-year-old Texan carried himself like a combination of “Survivor: One World’s” Colton Cumbie and “Big Brother” alum “Evel” Dick Donato, consistently getting in people’s faces, calling other people in the house “fat,” accusing them of being “strippers” and loudly making a fuss about the smells they made in the bathroom. Remember Puck? Remember how awesome he was? There’s something deeply gratifying about watching a total jerk act like a total jerk on a reality TV show, and Primetime 99 Alex Stein — the nickname is a reference to his high school football days, natch — played the role like a pro. I wouldn’t want to live with the dude, but he at least made things watchable, and for that, Primetime 99 Alex Stein deserves praise. He got it. He knew he was on a terrible show. And he played directly to those precious viewers.
Unfortunately, within the house, he quickly dug his own grave: He was sent to “limbo” by his housemates in the show’s first episode, “Glass House”-speak for “the chopping block,” along with some other guy who promptly quit the show. (Again, this is a very great show.) But it was left up to viewers whether Primetime 99 Alex Stein — the only entertaining personality on the show, the only person who cared about giving viewers at home something to watch — would stay or go, and wouldn’t you know it, during the opening of this week’s episode, viewers — the very same ones who voted that he should act like the world’s worst person! — gave him the heave-ho. Why would they do anything different?
Giving viewers the power to either watch or not watch a TV show is as much power as they should be given. Unfortunately, “The Glass House” is learning this the hard way.
So good night, Primetime 99 Alex Stein. You were too good for “The Glass House” anyway.
UPDATE: Turns out Primetime was a bit of a YouTube character way before “The Glass House,” and he can be seen on the video-sharing site devouring various fast food items in short periods of time. Why, here he is downing an Egg McMuffin in one bite in just under a minute! Here he is killing a Big Mac AND killing a Widespread Panic T-shirt! Someone cast this guy on Big Brother already!