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Big Brother Boo-Boo
April 18

While you can make the case that game shows and reality shows are entirely different, nearly the same or somewhere down the middle, they do share one element: the challenges that make it a game (otherwise Survivor and Big Brother would be entirely political games with no meat, and The Amazing Race would be nothing more than a point-to-point road rally.) It's also expected that the games are run fairly, with the same equipment for each contestant, or properly researched questions if it's a mental challenge.

On this week's Head of Household challenge on Big Brother 9, the three remaining eligible contestants (the outgoing Head of Household cannot compete until the final one) were asked to say whether a series of seven statements were 'fact' or 'fiction'. Right answers were worth a point, wrong answers weren't, and the top scorer would claim the powerful position. All fine and good except that one of the questions asked "Is there still a pre-existing relationship in the house?" (One of the twists this year was players competing early on as teams, and four contestants each knew one of the other four.) The question as written had the answer "fact". The contestants were not told anything other than the correct answer, leaving them to guess what the other pre-existing relationship was. Seconds after the question was judged, an onscreen graphic revealed that the answer related to the pair of guinea pigs living in a cage.

This question never should have gone to air. It's a deliberate swerve that rewards nothing more than a lucky guess, and Ryan won the ultimate power on nothing more than a fluke. Sharon lost by one point, and was cheated out of a legitimate chance to contend for the power.

Game shows (and reality shows) have their own ways to deal with issues like these. Most will bring back a "disadvantaged contestant" to play again, with a note to the audience acknowledging the error. Survivor: Africa had a similar event occur, and two such contestants were given an additional $100,000 (equivalent to the second place prize) because there's no way to know how the game would have turned out. Different people making up the final group in the game and on the jury would have different outcomes.

The problem becomes there's no way to fix this other than to run the contest again. You can't have Sharon back next year; because the new cast will know about her game from go. It would be hugely unfair to give her a "final four" spot in that contest, too.

There's not much for the viewing audience to do at this point. The show has been a summer fixture for so long that nothing short of a total boycott would remove the show from the air, and I don't want that. Big Brother is an interesting spin on the vote-out concept, but it's only interesting when everything is on the up-and-up, and the producers dropped the ball.
Travis Eberle can be nominated at