BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
As the fires of the just-concluded third season of Big Brother Naija turns to smoke, it is fitting that we look back on the show as a whole and see what worked and what didn’t. And no, this isn’t about who won the Tobi versus Cee-C tussle, or a debate of who looks the better of the Toracle boys. This is about how the show was structured, and how its audience related to it for three long months.
The season kicked off with a bang: twenty housemates! The closest we ever came to this number was the sixteen housemates of Season 2, two of which were fake housemates and another two who came as a twist, joining the house days after the others had. If in Season 3, we consider Anto and Khloe’s return as another twist, then that easily makes it twenty-two housemates in all. But let’s stick with twenty.
Putting that many people in the house required some tact in order not to have a rowdy monochromatic show. And so the organizers decided it’d be nice to bring people from different sectors, entertainment and business being the most distinct. It might have been greater if the business-minded people weren’t looking to structure their businesses around entertainment, as it turned out eventually that the only distinct business personality with no entertainment industry affiliations or intentions was Leo Babarinde DaSilva. Another who came close was the pilot and eventual winner, Miracle Ikechukwu Igbokwe. Because of this unclear distinction, we had, at the beginning of the show, something of a sect; the creatives versus the non-creatives, those who stayed in a corner of the house and sang and played musical instruments and talked about acting and comedy, and those who just went to sleep. Even those who had only featured as an extra in one film discussed acting prospects after the show, and someone like Anto Lecky, who before now was interested mainly in her basketball career and political aspirations, caught the entertainment bug and added acting to her list of things to do when she got out. This entertainment stereotype, while not as glaring as the previous season, wasn’t exactly done away with as intended.
Viewers began to complain early into the season about the lack of celebrity visits into the house unlike Season 2. What this season had, however, was weeks dedicated to a variety of tasks, both intellectual and physical, inspired by the sponsors of the show. And so we had debates and talk shows, cooking contests and culture showcases, all giving a form of roundedness to the show. And this worked, engaging the minds of the contestants and giving them a challenge. They studied, they thought creatively, they became chefs, doctors, environmentalists and even animals to deliver up to expectation what each individual task required. However, achieving this wasn’t a walk in a park.
It seemed as though these crop of housemates all conspired to be unmotivated and lethargic at the beginning of the show. Two weeks in, they had committed so many offenses that I feared Big Brother would just send them all home. They defied his rules blatantly, spoke in their local languages whenever they pleased, dragged their feet when they were summoned, were too loud where they should have been quiet, and were extremely dirty. Three wager losses and a rice-and-beans-picking punishment later, they seemed to have a brain reset and this was when the show really began.
Another trick in Biggie’s hat was the pairing, which seemed like a great idea at the time. One person’s misfortune was his pair’s misfortune, and this would eventually lead to the disqualification of two housemates in the third week, on the grounds of provocation and an attempt at self-harm. Unfortunately, the viewers were hardly witnesses to any of these incidences in real time, because it appeared those behind the controls needed a salary raise and took it out on us all. So we didn’t see K-Brule’s ‘jump for love’ or witness his attempted violence towards Khloe, who had provoked him. We missed out, and therefore deemed it unfair to have disqualified them. And we were not wrong.
We were lucky to not have missed out on the Cee-C versus Lolu saga that nearly crushed the latter’s balls. This was one of the moments where the control guys were gracious enough to serve us the juice from start to finish. We found it unfair that Biggie would force a partnership of the abuser and the abused, and this sparked rumors that perhaps, Big Brother was being biased towards Tobi, trying to save him from Cee-C’s path to disqualification. But of course, it was Biggie’s house, and the viewer’s had to come around.
The pairings birthed romantic relationships as expected, and these relationships were some of the highpoints of the season. One of these was Cebi, a partnership between Tobi and Cee-C that began as a waterfall and fizzled into drizzles. Cee-C held the power to the relationship and seemed to control Tobi to do as she pleased. It had the viewers making memes and videos, urging Tobi’s family and friends to pray for him to be free. When Tobi finally put his foot down, the entire nation burst into happy songs.
Bringing back two housemates was generally an unwelcome idea. The viewers protested it as much as they could, stating and rightly so, that the evicted housemates had seen things from the outside, and bore an advantage that tilted the scale to their favour. But of course, Big Brother only did as he pleased, and once again, the viewers learned to get over themselves. It would seem as though (in Teddy A’s voice) we were in a dominant-submissive relationship with Big Brother who seemed to have all the power. We could whine and complain however we liked, but he held the controls and we had to succumb in the end.
The show was plagued with technical errors, from a sudden break in transmission that almost ran into hours, to obvious fast-forwarding of a live telecast. We found the cameras shifting unnecessarily to places it had no business showing during Payporte games, Saturday parties or Thursday presentations. We found many times, the camera showing us an empty diary room, and once, we found a strange man in there, who excited viewers rumored to be Big Brother himself. Because we had the misfortune of just one channel, we missed out on a lot of vital moments as we could only watch one place at a time. So, say a housemate was disobeying the rules, as we later found after the show with Cee-C slapping Alex, we might never see it, and it was entirely at Big Brother’s discretion to call it out or not. This made the show lose credibility in many ways.
The adverts, which were mostly poorly done, were another big issue of the season. We understand that this show was sponsored, and we acknowledge these sponsors, but what with adverts coming in at the most crucial moments? One of such was when the housemates took turns to ‘sell’ themselves to the audience, their strengths, achievements, and aspirations so they could have opportunities after the show. Just when there were two housemates left, the adverts came in abruptly and didn’t give us a chance to hear them. But this was just one of many. We learned of how we were supposed to party along with the housemates on Saturdays, how it was supposed to be club nights for us the viewers in our various homes. But what were we supposed to dance to when the adverts were rudely shoved in our faces every fifteen to thirty minutes in the middle of the groove? Were we supposed to dance to “Hmm…yum yum”?
Double Wahala may have ended on a high with a most favorite housemate winning, but it was a successful show chiefly because the fans chose favorites early and made it trend, and because the contestants let themselves and camera-consciousness go so we could connect to them. All these have a big stake in how successfully the show panned out because in its organization, Big Brother Naija required a lot more finesse for a show on international television. We can only hope all of these are looked into and improved upon before the next season if there would be a next season.