Every girl has a weakness, and if you either know me in person or read my blog frequently enough, you likely know that I have quite a few. One of the healthiest and least destructive is my addiction to reality TV. Indeed, I’ve always had a great love for TV, in general, ever since childhood. While I’ve never seen many classic movies everyone else has seen, I remember that show that was on the air for less than a season. While some people say “I don’t watch TV; it’s a waste of time.”, television has always been more like a consistent friend in my life. When I am sad, it can lift my mood. When I am worried, it is a story that distracts me from my problems. Characters on television or contestants in reality shows I will likely never meet become real enough for them to feel like part of my day. I invest in them. I care about what happens to them. When a show comes to an end, it’s a little bit like losing a friend. The same way some people are passionate about movies or books or music, I’ve always felt that about television. It’s ironic that I spent more than half my life as a stage actress (my obsession with musicals is pretty close to my obsession with TV, but there simply aren’t as many of them readily available.), but my earliest childhood memories involve being fascinated by stories I saw on television.

In any case, I’ve blogged about my love for and experiences with CBS’ Big Brother in the past, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m one of the devoted followers willing to watch the TV Guide channel for two hours a day just to see what’s happening in the house. Since my favourites have all been voted out and the season is almost over, I thought this meant the end of my relationship with the TV Guide channel. (I mean, it’s an annoying channel. Half the screen shows a scrolling guide to which you eventually become oblivious, and at night, they show advertisements for cat toys and ways to make perfect pastry pockets. During the day, you see these horribly tragic commercials about abused pets, thanks to the ASPCA.) However, since Survivor premiers the day Big Brother ends, they’ve been showing seasons from Survivor past.

Again, as many of you know, I have a friend who appeared on Survivor–and through her, have made a network of acquaintances who are part of the CBS Survivor family. (I do give them credit; they are an interesting and resilient group of people.) However, it occurs to me that while I may have never watched Survivor before going through the Big Brother audition process (I was not a fan of Real World or any other reality shows before CBS came on the scene with their shows.), I associate the first season of Survivor with a number of important memories in my life.

They happened to air the first part of the first season of Survivor today, and I was reminded that I liked it because it seemed so different from the way reality shows are today. The show premiered when I was 20; I’d just gotten my college degree and had hoped to be spending my summer in the CBS Big Brother “house”. When that didn’t happen, I was disappointed, but interested in watching the girl for whom I was an alternate, and quickly found the show compelling. At the same time, Survivor: Borneo premiered, and I remember being skeptical about whether or not I’d like it. By the end, when someone had their torch snuffed out and had to leave, I found myself crying. I’ve been a fan of both shows ever since.

Both Big Brother and Survivor changed formats incredibly since the 2000 seasons. Contestants are now largely edited, everything is overly produced and edited, and fans of the show know what challenges are likely to show up. Re-watching the first season of Survivor, I’m reminded why it was the only one that was emotionally charged enough to make me cry when someone was thrown out of the game. Neither the production team nor the cast seemed to know how to act or what to expect. Instead of the highly-produced, well-edited shows we’ve gotten used to in the intervening 12 years, the original Survivor seems a bit like a documentary of people who signed up to play “Lord Of The Flies” or “The Hunger Games”. The people were not overly fit, glamourous, or Hollywood in any way. They were truly diverse. They were not made into characters, but shown as real people with both positive and negative attributes. They were not given make-up touch-ups and didn’t walk around in cute bikinis all season. Sometimes, they *looked* like people having a rough time on a desert island. Looking back, I realise that honest way of creating reality TV allowed you to empathise with the people on the show in a way that isn’t as easy anymore. These days, any illusion of reality is gone. You don’t suspend disbelief; you remember it’s a game staged by a network. But, at the beginning, there was so much more reality to TV. (it took most of the participants a majority of the game to figure out that by voting together, you could form “alliances” to get rid of one person. On one episode I saw today, nearly every person had their name put down, and when one woman realised that a group of people had voted against her, she remarked in a heartbreakingly honest, shocked tone of voice, “Oh, my God. It’s me.” For a moment, you had the sense that something more dramatic was going to happen to her than simply walking off a CBS set.

In the summer of 2000, since I was not locked in a set on the CBS lot, I was off on auditions looking for a job. My first was for Disney World. I’d auditioned twice in NYC, and was finally flown down to Orlando for a final callback. I didn’t get the job (which is a different story for a different time, and most of you have heard it.), but I spent a bit over a week in a hotel in Orlando. (Sadly, it took that long for me to get out of a rather depressed and directionless funk, and finally phone a friend in Miami…and thus started a whole new set of adventures for me.)

I’m not sure why I decided to do that, except I didn’t know where to go or what to do, and I’d never been to Florida when I was younger. To save money, I was in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of town, the kind of place where the only things in walking distance were a Wendy’s, a Piggly Wiggly, a gas station, and a Goodwill.

I thought I’d feel free and adventurous when I finally got there, even when I didn’t get the job. I was still determined to look for adventure and experience, but instead, I surprisingly felt dreadfully alone and lost. It was the first time I realised the world was this big place, and I was just this average girl right out of university who’d been turned down for every major audition she’d landed, and didn’t want to go to NYC to wait tables like everyone else. I had a small suitcase, a laptop, a cell phone, and a CD player (yes, there was a day where there were no iPods. :P ). The hotel room I was staying in was sad. In general, my life felt sad.

(Strangely, this phenomenon has never left me. I love traveling, and unless I’m with one of a handful of people in my life, I prefer to travel alone. However, when I get there, I will feel immensely sad for the first day or two at being alone, and not being near anything precious to me.)

There were a few things that weren’t sad about that trip. One was the fact that it rained every day at 3 PM. I loved watching the downpour. Another was the fact that I was talking online to two different people I didn’t even know, but were highly important fixtures in my life (and remained that way for a very long time.), and things like my blog and internet chats with strangers who didn’t feel anything like strangers helped me through feeling quite isolated. The last thing I remember was Survivor. As soon as the show came on, it lifted my spirits, and for just a little while, I was transported into someone else’s adventure and felt stronger just by vicariously watching.

To this day, I hate Orlando, and it’s amusing that I ended up making my home in the South, when I’ve never been particularly fond of much, outside of New Orleans and perhaps Savannah. But, on rainy days when Survivor is on, I am 20 years old and utterly lost in the world again. Yet, I am happy with the memory, because I can recall what it’s like to feel that young and have that belief in adventure and know that anything in the world is possible. It isn’t a feeling that I have these days, and haven’t for many years—but years of method acting have left me with the ability to recall it, and small things are enough to evoke that memory.

Although I’ve traveled such a great deal since then, lost and rebuilt so much of my life, and in many ways, had the lifetime of adventures that 20-year-old me so desperately saw herself destined to have, that particular week of my life is terribly easy to recall. And, while I’ve also lost and replaced suitcases and their contents, the contents of apartments and storage units, and many of my possessions throughout life, it seems fitting to me that I still have all of the items I purchased at the Orlando Goodwill. (regretfully, I am not the size I was at 20, so the day I’m able to wear them to something will be a proud one. *laughs*)

That one week of my life was not in any way a happy one, but it was one that really affected me on some strangely deep level, and the original Survivor will always be a huge piece of that memory. :)

Author’s note: I’m writing this at 5 PM, though the show doesn’t air for another few hours. I’m not linking to this because people might not want to know in advance what’s going down, except for the Twitter/Showtime/Live Feed followers, who already know. I actually kind of want to be surprised, so I’m not checking the Twitter/FB accounts of anyone involved in reality TV for the next few hours.

Fans have sarcastically dubbed this season of Big Brother “As Danielle’s World Turns”, because she is the most melodramatic, soap-opera-ish person to ever be on the game. You really expect her to swoon at every emotional difficulty, romantic moment, or challenging decision. Funny how this makes her likeable, while Rachel Reilly’s “over-the-top” emotional reactions to everything made her brash and irritated half the audience. The world clearly likes helplessness more than passion, and introverted emotion is “feminine” while extraverted emotion is “needlessly flamboyant”.

Yet, somehow, the soap opera continues, and our tragic heroine lives to act another day. (how many tubes of waterproof mascara and eyeliner did she bring into the house?)

Although there’s a week left on Big Brother 14, tonight is really the night that is host to the most pivotal moment: Who is making it to the final 3?

In an odd twist of fate, Danielle, who has let herself be manipulated by men with a sweet Southern-belle smile on her face all season, is the one with all the power. She won the HoH and the PoV, leading us to assume this girl has been throwing a lot of competitions this summer. (probably because Dan told her to. He’s not taking someone to the final two who is strong, and since Shane is “good at sports” and Ian is a “boy genius”, Danielle looks pretty useful.)

Since she has a one-sided showmance with Shane that he fakes so unconvincingly, he’ll never make it as an actor; and Dan has acted as a mentor and advisor and father-figure all summer, molding her into the role of a weak, rather self-absorbed child, it seems a foregone conclusion that Ian is going home. This is kind of sad; Ian is the kind of person who actually plays the game, makes big moves, and pulls out wins when it matters. This time, he didn’t. He needed that PoV, and he didn’t win. So, Ian is screwed, and he knows it. Like Danielle, Dan has been adept at manipulating Ian emotionally, because the poor kid, for all his brilliance, has no idea his alliance has been trying to get him out multiple times since his partner-in-crime left weeks ago. Although Ian and Shane both believe there’s such a thing as a “Quack Pack” and they are in an alliance, they conveniently never talk to one another. Somehow, it’s never come up that every person in that alliance has discussed stabbing one another in the back. There IS NO ALLIANCE. For all of them, it’s win or go home.

The only one who knew all this was Jenn, who was voted out for “not being part of the alliance”. In reality, she was voted out because she was more in the loop than anyone and had dangerous information that would kill Dan’s game. Her final speech, if she had cared enough, should have been: “Ian, Dan wanted you out, and then when he couldn’t get you, he went after Shane. Shane, you’re here because Danielle knows how to cry and you won a PoV. Danielle, Shane’s just not that into you, and Dan doesn’t really miss you when you’re gone. Dan, they all want to take you to the end because they’re stupid enough to think nobody will vote for you. Your alliance sucks.”

Dan is on the block against Ian, and he doesn’t seem even slightly worried. He can’t imagine Danielle’s attraction to a guy who is more interested in his dog back home than in her might send him home. Whether Shane goes or Ian goes, he could care less. They’re 50/50 on the threat-meter; Shane’s athletic, Ian’s smart, and they’re roughly equal at endurance challenges. It’s 6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

Ian is assuming he’s leaving, and it doesn’t even occur to him to campaign against the guy who has WON THE GAME BEFORE, by talking the athletic, easily-manipulated guy who has the only vote into keeping someone who is a 50/50 shot against him, instead of the one who makes him a 75/25 underdog. It’s mostly math and logic, and seems like nobody is thinking about it. There are four people in the house. Three of them have complicated, if fake, interpersonal relationships, creating a triangle where the girl gets to choose between Arthur or Lancelot. The fourth is a nice kid that everyone likes, but he’s less essential, and lost when he couldn’t afford to. He’s also pissed off enough people that the jury isn’t going to unanimously think he’s a great guy and vote for him. Voting off the expendable person, as has happened the past two or three evictions, isn’t really making a move. It’s just agreeing to a coin-toss, in which case, they all could have gone home a few weeks ago.

There’s a few scenarios that might save Ian, but they all involve Danielle having a clue that she’s not actually on a dating show (thankfully, they had enough sense to turn her down for that.), but one that requires strategy and the ability to use her fake soap opera charm to actually help her play for something better than second place.

1)She keeps nominations the same and tells Shane to vote out Dan. All she has to tell him is that Dan wanted him gone twice: once, Danielle saved him, and Joe took the bullet. The second time, he won PoV and saved himself. She also points out she has to choose between Dan and Shane sometime, and she’s choosing Shane. Conveniently, the strongest player goes home and Danielle gets to bat her eyelashes and look sweet and make America want to vomit.

2)She uses the PoV to save Dan and sets up a backdoor for Shane. Dan reminds Danielle that they have a final 2 deal, that he saved Shane, but had warned Danielle she’d have to cut Shane loose. Shane is a stronger competitor for the final challenges than Ian, and he has no allegiance to Dan. Dan needs him gone to win, and manipulates Danielle into allowing this to happen. Shane’s been playing Danielle anyway; he’s still voting for her against Dan, whom he doesn’t like, and Ian, with whom he’s shared no real personal connection.

3)She uses the PoV on Ian, and puts up Shane, letting Ian do the dirty work and ultimately make the tough decision. Danielle doesn’t like emotionally difficult decisions, and wants to look blemish-free at all times, whereas Ian doesn’t care about looking evil. In fact, he seems to think being the evil mastermind in a 125 lb. package is what’s going to either win him this game, or get him invited back in the future. Never mind that the evil mastermind spends all day crying about stabbing his friend in the back before he does it. This is the least likely scenario, because Danielle and Ian have spent maybe 5 minutes together the whole game. Strategically, this is to Danielle’s advantage and to Ian’s; she doesn’t have to choose between her boy toy and her father figure, and Ian decides who he wants to roll the dice against in the final three. It’s actually the most interesting option, and one I’d pick if I were her, which is why it won’t happen.

If Ian goes home when Danielle has all the power, she’s a walking illustration of “women can’t play strategically, because emotions get in the way.” She claims she’s not like that; she’s going to “play the player”. The player isn’t the 21-year-old kid who still can’t believe he’s on the show. It’s possibly the guy who’s conning her into a showmance that seems to have very little real affection, and can win challenges, even though he’s the most gullible person on Earth. It’s possibly the guy who has won before and has masterminded the last 5 weeks of the game, viewing Ian and Shane as useful but inevitably expendable tools to accomplish his dirty work and take a girl who’s lost without someone to follow to the final two.

Ironically, she’s the one with all the power, and the ability to manipulate the situation to her best advantage, but she still doesn’t seem to know it. This girl hasn’t made a move the whole season; Janelle’s eviction was masterminded by Boogie and Danielle got to be the messenger. The only thing she’s done is set herself up as an easily manipulated, gullible girl desperate for love and approval…something a charming jock with a lack of intelligence and an older, emotionally manipulative guy can both spot a mile away, and exploit to their advantage.

Now she has a chance to make a move, and it’s not voting out the weakest player. Dan screwed up big time by allowing Danielle to convince him to send home Joe instead of Shane, and then watching Shane win PoV. He’s not going to let a third opportunity go by in the calm, resigned fashion both him and Ian seemed to display on Showtime last night. Shane, on the other hand, will smile and flirt and make Danielle feel like the most important thing in life is knowing there’s this guy who really, really likes her.

If Danielle takes the easy road and votes out Ian, leaving her up against the two strongest male players that nobody’s been able to or wanted to get out of the house for weeks (except each other), she’s proving she really should have spent her time on The Bachelor. She’s also proving why men will continue to break her heart, take advantage of her, and why girls like Janelle and Rachel would want to rip her eyeballs out. (as she discussed on Showtime last night, speculating if she might be asked back for another “all-star” season down the line.)

If you want to be a player, you can’t just flirt and look pretty and smile and be easygoing. You need to play. It would be nice to see Danielle get the memo, not just because I like Ian and don’t think he deserves to go home before Danielle, but because I don’t give Danielle too much credit. She’s the kind of girl I don’t like, or respect, and I want to see her pull one brilliant move that says “You think I’m sweet and weak? Guess again.”, in order to redeem herself.

If you’re going to be an alpha female, use your power to take out an alpha male you’re aware has been using you for three months. Otherwise, you’re not “playing” anyone or anything. You’re just proving you’re an insecure girl who can’t bear to be disliked or hurt, so it’s easiest to get rid of the 21-year-old kid who isn’t going to take it personally and you just might beat in challenges to get to the final three.

It’s almost that time of year again…the one where I become far more introverted and way less interesting, because I’ve become absorbed in the all-encompassing drama that is Big Brother.

For those of you who don’t know me, or don’t know me well, I love reality television. It’s not because I’m a dramatic person by nature (which I am), or because interpersonal drama and psychological insights into others interest me (they do….I probably should have been a psychologist.), or because it’s over-the-top fun (it is.) I actually didn’t get into reality TV when the rest of my generation was loving the Real World.

Reality TV only became real to me because of Big Brother, and because I had the fun and once-in-a-lifetime experience of going through the audition process for Season 1 of the show. (I’m showing my age, since they’re on season 14, but had I been cast, I’d have undoubtedly been the youngest person on the season, so I’m not that ancient yet. ;p) I made it to the very end of the process, which gave me an interesting insight into what goes into putting together a reality TV show, and gave me an appreciation for the genre. A cross between scripted drama, soap operas, game shows, and having cameras turned on your everyday life, it takes a certain kind of personality for reality TV. There’s also a lot of psychology that goes on in casting a reality show (most of them seem to believe in the Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey inventories in determining how people might interact); if you inadvertently pick the wrong person, the entire season can become boring and lifeless. (at least three seasons of “Survivor” have suffered this problem). If the cast gets along too well, if there’s never chemistry between people, animosity between people, the show isn’t something anyone cares about.

The “right” person isn’t always the loudest, the best looking, the smartest, or the most personable…though, undoubtedly, they try to get one of each. It’s no coincidence that many shows begin with 16 people, corresponding to the 16 Meyers-Briggs types. The trick is to get the most interesting person of each type, and to create diversity, especially when the show is centred around interpersonal dynamics.

Along the way, they’ve expanded casts of most popular shows to as many as 20 and as few as 12, but 14-16 seems to be the magic number. It’s a trick I’ve taken away for planning successful dinner parties. *laughs*

I never did re-audition for the show, or any other reality show, after going through the process. Part of it is that I felt like I was far too sensitive for the level of public scrutiny and judgment that goes along with even one day on reality TV. I have friends and acquaintances who have been on reality television shows, and one in particular had a very rough time of it in life after being portrayed in a way that emphasized one aspect of her personality, in order to paint her in a certain light. It is show business, after all—but people forget that, and when the show was over, she wasn’t met with love or treated kindly. Part of it is that I simply realised I’m not all that interesting. *laughs* I wonder if there will come a time when I put myself out there again, just for fun, now that I’m older, wiser, and still every bit the drama queen. :;

What did come out of the experience is a great love for Big Brother, even if it is the trashiest of the CBS reality franchises. (The main reason I wasn’t cast for the show was the charm and likeability of a fellow actress and Playa attendee named Brittany Petros, and I still wanted her to win! *laughs*) I watch every season, and yeah, I’m totally into all the drama and nonsense. Even the boring stuff is somehow entertaining, in a weird way. I have conversations with friends about the show as if I’m discussing people I know. It keeps me from gossiping about my real friends. :P *lol*

Although I never re-auditioned for the show, I felt like an overdramatized version of me did, and made a huge impact upon the world of reality TV. If you took everything about me and turned it up a few notches, you’d have something kind of similar to Rachel Reilly, the glittery and flamboyant redhead who cries at everything, but has an impressively competitive spirit and determination to give haters the proverbial finger. I really like Rachel, although I don’t know her, I don’t know anyone who knows her, and the only interaction I’ve had with her has been of the virtual variety. I think, in real life, she’s a person I’d enjoy….albeit perhaps in limited doses.

As most of you know, I spent most of last summer being seriously ill…too ill to leave the house, or even the bed, for a significant chunk of it. I couldn’t have much of a social life, and felt too vulnerable to face other people. In between, there were trips to the emergency room, scary drugs, terrible side effects, and a lot of time spent wondering–because even specialists didn’t seem to know what was wrong with me— if I was going to make it through the summer. It really was one day at a time for me, and even that was hard.

There were a few things that got me through that time in my life, but as weird as it sounds, Big Brother was one of them. I remember being in the hospital one week when the show was on, and saying, “I think if Rachel doesn’t get voted off this week, when it seemed certain she would, it’s a sign I’m going to be OK.” No logic behind that at all, except I somehow identified with this person who was putting herself out there on reality TV every day, and being judged quite harshly…a cross that’s tough to bear for an insecure person. I know what that’s like, and how perplexing it is when it turns out that “just be yourself” doesn’t equate to everyone liking you.

Of course, the summer ended, and I survived…and slowly recovered. And Rachel Reilly went on to win half a million dollars, despite being ridiculed by pretty much everyone, often including her fiance.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, of course, it’s because the new season of Big Brother is airing beginning next Thursday, and if the media day footage and other rumours are to be believed, one of the cast members was dropped at the last minute to make room for three returning duos.

I’m actually pretty excited at the prospect of another season of Rachel and Brendan, and potentially Evel Dick and Daniele. Certain personalities just make shows more interesting, and for me, it’s always the people other people find less than endearing, annoying, or downright villainous. Maybe it’s just because it’s been my experience in life that these are my people—misunderstood, intimidating to others, and full of emotion and insecurity.

So, maybe I’ll never decide I should attempt to be on reality TV, or become a public figure in any capacity—I have far too many skeletons in the closet and people who’d be too happy to talk to the tabloids about me :P —-but I’m going to keep on cheering for Rachel, and hoping CBS continues to use her in their franchises. Someone’s got to represent the temperamental redheads of the world, and show that we may be loud and crazy and hard to keep under control, but it doesn’t matter one bit. The world doesn’t need to love you, after all, for you to succeed at whatever it is you do. It just needs to pay attention.

This year, BB14 will have to share my attention with the Olympics, which also start in a few weeks…but that’s another story for another time. I hope The Guy I’m Currently Dating is up for more nights in with me, the remote, and some Moe’s. *lol*

Fortunately, I have a DVR. :P

All summer, like every summer, I’ve been addicted to watching the show Big Brother. Since we all know that I’m a reality TV junkie, and am particularly fond of this one, having gone through the audition process firsthand, the idea of three months with a reality show that’s on three hours a week always kind of makes me “YAY!”. And, this year, being sick and largely relegated to my bedroom all summer, I ordered Showtime so I’d get to see the additional “late night show” every night, all summer. (yes, I’m a lame geek.)

This season, there was a particular player, Rachel, who returned from last season, one that everyone else in America (and on the show) couldn’t stand, but I felt a particular kinship with. I suppose she reminded me a lot of me—intelligent, overemotional, slightly co-dependent, insecure, a little too flamboyant, occasionally a “mean girl”, a bad habit of sharing all her feelings and wanting to give up when things fall apart—-but with an outgoing personality and general love of life, and deep down, a good heart. Not to mention the bright red hair, pale skin, and some serious curves. Granted, she’s much more interesting to spend 70 days camping in a studio set than I’d ever be, but I found it very easy to relate to her, nevertheless.

Throughout the summer, I had a number of negative health experiences, including several trips to the emergency room and unpleasant drug withdrawals. And, coincidentally, it seemed every day I was having a particularly bad day, Rachel was on the block and looked ready to get shown the door. It became an odd superstition with me, that if Rachel didn’t get evicted on Big Brother, somehow, I was going to be OK. I related with the underdog, of course, superstitiously believing that if this girl who resembled me in a lot of ways and didn’t consider herself emotionally strong under pressure could pull through difficult times, I could too.

So, congratulations to Rachel Reilly for winning the whole shebang on Big Brother 13 tonight. It proves that it doesn’t matter if people love you or hate you as long as you look around for all the self-confidence you have somewhere inside you and put it to the best use possible. And as far as superstitions go, I guess I can take it as a really good omen.

Oh, yeah, and CBS…you should have put me on your show almost a decade ago. I still have the cute duckie PJs from the audition process. (I thought it would be cute to include a “Here’s what you can expect seeing me getting up every morning.” component to my interview.) Maybe there will be another crazy video forthcoming over the next few months, just for kicks and giggles.(It’s not like my life is too interesting or scandalous anymore. I’d have made better reality TV back then.) But, you know, if I’m alive and all. :P

Time to start getting addicted to the new Survivor, which I actually found dull, based on the 90 minute premiere tonight. I’m sure it’ll get a little better as time goes on.