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The cone of silence falls over 'Big Brother'

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Amber_l

Amber_lIf you’ve been scouring the home page, looking for our usual Q&A with Amber, the latest Big Brother evictee, don’t bother. We had decided in advance not to interview her because CBS said we couldn’t ask about her infamous anti-Semitic comments. But don’t bother looking for interviews in the next few weeks, either: yesterday the network decided that no one will be able to talk to any of the castoffs until the show is over. I know the word “integrity” was never a big part of Big Brother, either in front of or behind the cameras, but how this all went down removes any shred of integrity that might have still been left under a bed or floating around in the hot tub.

Here’s our backstory: Once the evictees were going to be part of the jury, CBS had laid down serious interview restrictions: we couldn’t tell evictees about the America’s Player conceit, and we couldn’t ask them about any events or conversations that they weren’t present for, or hadn’t been told about. These rules were laid down because since these losing players would be voting on the victor, it wasn’t fair for them to have any inside information, and they would have to solely depend on their own experiences on which to base their vote.

Fine. Made sense. They don’t want journalists affecting the outcome, just like no one gets to talk to people when they’re voted off Survivor. (Granted, that show isn’t happening near-live, like BB, but the same theory applies.) But then last week, CBS told us that we also weren’t allowed to ask Amber about her anti-Semitic hammock rants. That didn’t make sense: she was certainly present when they came out of her own freaking mouth, so it wouldn’t be anything new to her. CBS’ logic was that it might affect her vote. How? By cluing her into how controversial she was outside the house? I could see that upsetting her, but how could it affect her vote? She couldn’t blame any potential finalists for it, since it was just her and Jameka present for the conversation. (Before Jameka was taken off the block and replaced with Jen, CBS also said we couldn’t ask Jameka about Amber’s comments.) Perhaps CBS was just worried that the news that America hated her — What’s up with that, God? — would make her cry for the next few weeks straight, and she might not have any tears left for the finale: Amber crying (pictured) is the Big Brother money shot.

addCredit(“Big Brother: Frederick M. Brown”)

With those restrictions, we told CBS that if she was voted out, wewouldn’t interview her. She stayed in the house, and this week, withher up on the block again and likely to lose, we once more said wewould pass on an interview. The Associated Press made the same decisionand wrote an article about CBS’ silly rules.The AP piece clearly put CBS in defensive mode: late yesterdayafternoon, I got an e-mail saying that no one could talk to Amber afterthe show. (Anyone other than Julie Chen, that is, who wouldn’t know acontroversial question if it was hidden in her body glitter.) But thenlater came a clarification from CBS: no one would be able to talk to any of the evictees until after the finale.

So that’s it. No more interviews. My theory is this: CBS was backedinto such a corner about Amber that it thought it could eliminate theproblem by making everyone off limits. Then they can use the defense,”It’s not that you can’t ask Amber about being an anti-Semite; it’sthat you can’t ask anyone about anything. Her anti-Semitism justhappens to fall into the catch-all category of everything.” However,since that rule was made after the controversy, it doesn’t work as anexcuse, it only works as a copout. Perhaps CBS was just too exhaustedby the growing fallout over their upcoming reality show Kid Nation that they couldn’t handle putting out two reality fires at once.

Once the show is over, CBS will be throwing everyone in the house tothe dogs, by which I mean the media: everyone will be available for forinterviews, with no restrictions. Even as a Jew, I feel slightly badfor Amber, as that day will prove the biggest wake-up call she’s hadsince someone told her what “wake-up call” meant. There she’ll be,assuming that as soon as she’s free of the show, the phone will beringing off the hook for her with modeling, acting, andinspirational-speaking gigs for her, and instead she’ll be buffetedwith questions about why she thinks the Jews are all greedy andselfish. (As a Jew, I’ve had my opening question lined up for weeks:”Just warning you, Amber, I may be asking you a lot of things. I’m aJewish journalist, which means I like to hog all the answers.”) I hopeshe’s saving up those tears while in the sequester house, because Ihave a feeling she’s going to need them for after the finale.

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