It’s been nearly impossible to avoid election news in the past few weeks, but there’s a group of people in America who know nothing about it: Big Brother: Over the Top houseguests.
The houseguests entered the house on Sep. 28 and have been uninformed of all the events of the outside world — until now. For the first time since 2001, the Big Brother producers have decided to reveal news, EW has exclusively learned. On Thursday, the houseguests will find out what all of America knows: That Donald Trump will be our next president.
“Information about outside news events has come into the house in the past through a competition or a live Q&A with Julie [Chen],” says EP Allison Grodner. “But most of this information has involved pop culture events like Kim and Kanye’s baby name. Other than 9/11, we have not given the houseguests world news with as much magnitude as the presidential election.”
Telling the houseguests such big news wasn’t a quick decision — and was actually made way before the producers learned of last night’s surprise outcome. EW spoke with Grodner about why they broke from tradition and what that means for this season.
You knew that Big Brother: OTT would fall over the election. How early did you start having the conversation about whether you would tell the houseguests the results?
With BB: OTT taking place in the fall, there were a lot of new things we had to think about before the houseguests even entered the house. How would they celebrate the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving? How would we deal with the colder weather? And whether or not to give them the news of the presidential election.
The whole point of Big Brother is no contact with the outside world. What goes into the decision of choosing to tell them? What ultimately made you all decide to do it?
News from the outside world is always carefully considered as it breaks the tradition of keeping them in a bubble and cut off from the outside world. But, with an election that has been so all-consuming, we knew that breaking the information barrier for this news would be of great interest to both the houseguests and the viewers. Still, the day after the election, our houseguests will be the only people in America who have no idea who their president is. They will find out two days after the nation has voted, so it will be interesting to see their reaction to the first big news item they have heard in two months.
What kind of conversations are you hoping the houseguests have about the election?
I think it will be most interesting to hear them discuss what they think has been happening in the world while they have been in seclusion and what factors may have influenced the outcome of the election. Remember, they missed the debates and all of the twists and turns of the October surprises and will not hear about any of that until they are evicted and back in the world.
This has been an intense season. Do you think the houseguests even remember there’s an election going on?
The houseguests have been very focused on the game and playing hard, but I also think it is very easy to forget what might be happening outside the Big Brother house when you do not have the internet, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle as a constant. It might actually be a welcomed break…
Big Brother: Over the Top airs an all new episode Wednesday night at a special time, 8 p.m. ET, on CBS All Access.