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Love Island Charted a New Course For Reality TV. Big Brother Should Follow.

It's past time BB and other reality series expanded their streaming footprint.
  • Love Island produced a series of streaming-only episodes this season utilizing unaired footage from the show. (Photo: CBS)
    Love Island produced a series of streaming-only episodes this season utilizing unaired footage from the show. (Photo: CBS)

    Last week's Big Brother eviction episode was the wildest of the season, featuring a scramble for votes, a near upending of the eviction plan, and the first real signs that the dominant Cookout alliance may be crumbling from within. It was also an incredibly over-stuffed episode that began with the Veto Ceremony (which typically closes the Wednesday episode) and didn't even get to the eviction vote until 40 minutes in. This has been a fantastic season of Big Brother so far, and while it feels churlish to complain, it's also shined a light on one of the structural problems the show's had for quite a while: its airing schedule.

    The show currently airs three episodes a week, on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Each of these episodes tend to stick to a rigid schedule of weekly game milestones, with the HOH's nominations on Sundays, the Veto Competition & Ceremony on Wednesdays and the live eviction and the Head of Household competition on Thursdays.

    In a traditional reality competition that airs once a week, all of the action is edited down to a nice compact hour of television, and the audience at home never knows what they're missing. The problem with Big Brother is that live feeds stream 24/7 and are reported out on Twitter, and thus the effort to condense, say, three entire days worth of gaming and scrambling into half of a Thursday episode gets noticed by the fans. And with BB so heavily weighted towards competitions, we end up missing a TON of strategizing, character-building scenes, and just plain fun. If this is all sounding familiar, it should, because it led us to advocate for a fourth weekly episode last year. And it feels like it makes double sense now because of one thing: Paramount+.

    Last summer we argued that pandemic-dictated holes in the network's summer programming schedule made it a perfect time to air another hour of Big Brother. A year later, with the entire universe of ViacomCBS content theortetically wrapped up in Paramount+, it seems like even more of a no-brainer that BB would expand further into its streaming platform. This is where the live feeds are, after all, and if Viacom wants to really push for P+ subscribers, they should be taking far more advantage of their reality shows. A fourth hour of Big Brother that drops exclusively on Paramount+ makes all the sense in the world.

    The same logic applies to the soon-to-return Survivor. For as celebrated as the show's landmark 40th season was, its episodes were wildly overstuffed. Between the additional action on the Edge of Extinction and all the business with the fire tokens, the show's one-hour time slot was positively groaning from the strain. A supplemental episode dedicated to the goings-on on the Edge would have made fantastic bait to lure Survivor viewers over to the streaming platform.

    The current season of RuPaul's Drag Race: All-Stars is a Paramount+ exclusive, and it still should be doing a lot more to take advantage of its streaming real estate. The season-long "game within a game" has been testing viewers' patience the longer it's been teased, and if it ends up (as rumored) to be yet another lip-sync competition to re-enter the main draw, it is going to seem incredibly foolish to not thave created a supplemental show, a la Untucked, featuring the "game within a game" in progress.

    Each of these shows could learn a lesson from Love Island, which just wrapped its third season. The series aired four-to-five episodes a week on CBS, and then additionally produced both Love Island: The Drop and Love Island: Laid Bare, which both helped to flesh out — literally, in the case of Laid Bare's too-hot-for-TV content — what was happening this season.

    Similarly, just last week NBC's blockbuster hit America's Got Talent took to Peacock with an exclusive "America’s Wildcard" special, which gave five acts the chance to compete for a wild card slot in the show's quarterfinals.

    If we're going to exist in the era of streaming platforms, reality show producers and their networks are foolish not to take advantage of the opportunities that they provide. There is infinite space for added value here, and there's no reason we should be missing any Big Brother fights because there's no time for them on TV. Your move, CBS.

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Paramount+, Big Brother, Love Island, RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, Survivor