by Gabby Baylon
With the recent controversy that surrounded ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother last month, one big question comes to mind: is PBB still relevant now? Nine years and ten PBB seasons after, The Philippine Online Chronicles probes into the heart of the matter.
Big Brother: The ‘godfather’ of reality of shows
Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) is a franchise of the original Endemol show, Big Brother. As described in Endemol UK’s official website, Big Brother is one of the world’s most successful television brands. As a ‘mould-breaking series,’ it was UK’s first fully interactive mass TV experience and remains ‘the most successful 360 degree program to date.’
The format, which has been dubbed as the ‘godfather of reality shows,’ “shuts away total strangers in a purpose-built house, cut off from any contact with the outside world. Cameras spy on them 24/7 while they live, cook, eat and sleep together.”
The house, of course, is owned by Big Brother or Kuya – the invisible but omnipotent owner of the house where the housemates live. Other elements of the show include weekly and daily challenges, the confession room, and at times, house guests and house players.
Every week, the housemates nominate each other for eviction and viewers vote on who stays – ultimately choosing one winning housemate at the end of the show.
The reality show that ‘started it all’
Since its first season in August 2005, PBB has enjoyed relatively high ratings on national TV. Dubbed as the ‘teleserye ng totoong buhay (drama of real life),’ it is recognized as the reality show that started it all – inspiring ABS-CBN’s rival networks to launch shows of the same format. As one of the Kapamilya network’s flagship shows, it has launched the careers of many local celebrities such as Toni Gonzaga (who has been hosting the show since 2005), Kim Chiu, Sam Milby and Melai Cantiveros, to name a few.
After almost a decade, the show has spawned ten seasons in three different editions (regular, celebrity and teen). Here they are with some of their most unforgettable highlights:
1. Pinoy Big Brother 1 – The first and only regular season hosted by Willie Revillame, it paid witness to would-be-Big Winner Nene Tamayo’s golden moment. In the task “Gupit, Sunog at Tapon (Cut, Burn, Throw Away),” Kumander Nene, together with Jason Gainza, Cass Ponti and Uma Khouny, objected to Kuya’s challenge of destroying their fellow housemates’s things. She became the voice of the Big Four but eventually made amends to Big Brother.
2. Celebrity Edition 1 – Aside from being the first season to feature celebrities as housemates, it also introduced tasks that resulted to prizes for the housemates’s chosen charities. One of its highlights includes former action star Rustom Padilla’s confession that he is gay to would-be-Big Winner Keanna Reeves. He has since “buried” Rustom Padilla and changed his name (and gender identity) to BB Gandanghari.
3. Teen Edition 1 – It is the first season to have a finale task outside the PBB house. Big Winner Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson soon rose to fame after their stint on the show.
4. Pinoy Big Brother 2 – This edition featured the ‘Big Brother Swap’ wherein Pinoy housemates were sent abroad and foreign ones got to live briefly inside the PBB house. One of its most talked-about episodes was when Bea Saw and Maricris Dizon had a fight, with the former provoking Bea until a heated exchange erupted. Would-be-Big Winner Bea Saw is best remembered for her lines, “Ang respeto, hindi ‘yan ini-impose, Maricris, ini-earn ‘yan! Act your age!”
5. Celebrity Edition 2 – The longest and the last celebrity season, it showcased a season-long task, two-in-one housemates and the ‘Head of Household’ twist. Its Big Winner was Ruben Gonzaga.
6. Teen Edition Plus – This season had the housemates’s parents or guardians living inside the house, as well house player twists.
7. Double Up – One of the most successful editions of the show, it had two sets of housemates living in two different houses. It also followed the unexpected love story of Melai Cantiveros and Jason Francisco, who are now happily married with one daughter.
8. Teen Clash 2010 – It introduced non-Filipino teens as housemates.
9. Unlimited – At the start of the show, housemates were surprised to find themselves in a shanty or ‘barong-barong’ instead of the usual luxurious Big Brother House. One of its controversies involved Joseph Biggel, who was said to have lied about his “first time” experiences. PBB resident psychologist Randy Dellosa explained this by saying the former experienced selective amnesia, a defense mechanism that entails repressing one’s unpleasant memories.
10. Teen Edition 4 – The longest teen season, it was also one of the more controversial ones after Vice Ganda pointed out how the teen housemates were too quick to fall in love, thus coining the expression “PBB teens?!” Cosplayer Myrtle Sarrosa emerged as the season’s Big Winner.
11. All-In – PBB’s current season. It is the only season to have a mix of teen, adult and celebrity housemates. It introduced the public nominations (BBN) and the ‘Team of Households.’
‘Teleserye ng Totoong Buhay’
When PBB All-In premiered last April 27, rumors that the reality show was scripted went abuzz. However, main host Toni Gonzaga denied this, saying that the show is used to the criticism.
“Sanay na kami sa PBB. Season 1 pa lang, wala pang social media noon, sangkaterbang e-mail na ang nakuha naming noon na scripted, haters, bashers.(Since Season 1, even if social media isn’t prevalent then, we have been receiving e-mails saying that the show is scripted from bashers and haters). Pero I love the environment here sa PBB because we welcome all of it. Lalo na ngayon, ‘All-In.’ Okay lang sa amin lahat dito ‘yun (Especially now that [the edition is] ‘All-In.’ But it’s okay with us),” Gonzaga said. She added that even if people bash the show, what matters is that they are still interested to watch the show.
Another issue that the show has been dealing ever since was its casting. Gonzaga also spoke about this, and assured the public that the housemates definitely underwent auditions.
ABS-CBN TV Production Head Lauren Dyogi, who has been overseeing PBB since it first aired in 2005, also shed light on this matter. A day after the kick-off episode, Direk Lauren (@direklauren) took to Twitter and expressed his observations about past and current housemates.
In his tweets, Direk Lauren said:
Faced with a string of controversies right and left, Direk Lauren has always stood by the program.
“Kami naman kasi sa PBB, we want people to talk about the program. So whether the talk is positive or negative, that’s still a positive sign. Mas gusto naming ‘yong may reaksyon ang mga tao, kesa ‘yong dedma lang (We prefer that people react [to PBB] rather than they don’t care at all),” he said.
“Even worldwide, Big Brother tends to be controversial. Meaning, people really talk about it. Matindi ang emotional involvement ng viewers sa show. Hindi lang ‘yong nage-enjoy sila sa panonood. It’s either galit na galit sila sa programa, sa housemates. Or gustung-gusto nila ‘yong program and ‘yong housemates.”
(To be continued in Part 2: On current housemates being ‘too good-looking,’ nude painting task controversy, and ‘the answer to the big question’)