Confine 10 people in a house full of TV cameras and microphones that monitor their every move around the clock for three months. Show these feeds live on the Internet, then edit the good stuff for broadcast six nights a week on national television. Sounds like compelling TV, right?
That's what CBS thought when it followed up Survivor, the network's biggest hit in years, with Big Brother, another reality show .
The only problem is, no one's watching -- the program's been dubbed the Ishtar of television, a slow-motion train wreck.
Big Brother -- dim-witted house guests with zero conflict -- sucks. While Survivor contestants eat live bugs, Big Brother's prisoners skip rope. Yawn.
Lately, netizens have become addicted to the 24/7 live feed, not as voyeurs, but as saboteurs. Participants in Salon's Table Talk Big Brother discussion group have mobilized to undermine the show they love to hate.
Rallying cry Self-described "intellectual types who just happen to watch a shit-load of TV," these Table Talkers closely scrutinize the feeds, then analyze and contrast them with the official Big Brother TV version. Guess what? Big Brother lies!
"Fuck with the house guests if you must, Big Bother, but don't fuck with us!" reads a typical rallying cry.
Instead of sitting on the couch, some of the group formed Media Jammers (see Site Of The Week), whose motto is "Mock the media," and sent planes trailing banners over the Big Brother house to enlighten the hamsters, er, house guests about their manipulation. The first message read, "BB is worse than you think. Get out now."
"Our goal is to point out the absurdities, the unconvincing attempts at spin control and the general sleaziness that producers employ on shows like Big Brother," explains Jammer honcho Jeff Oswald on the site.
Their tactics are influencing the show. Two weeks ago, messages like "There is dignity in leaving" almost prompted a mass exodus from the show.
True to his name, though, Big Brother connivingly convinced the hamsters to stay.
Need something to put you to sleep? Stay glued to the boob tube. Want drama, intrigue and suspense? Check out the BB sites on the Net.
Now up against the Olympics during the week leading up to the Big Brother finale September 29, the show is possibly the biggest ratings disaster in television history. But the reality behind the alleged reality is better than the "real" thing.
Who will eventually win? Media Jammers know. Another banner they flew over the house: "Losers talk, heroes walk together."