Creator: Objective Entertainment
For some of us lockdown is like being in the Big Brother house. But without the drama. No Nasty Nick writing clandestine letters. No Fight Night when livestream viewers phoned the police about the violence they thought might happen as an almighty row broke out. No secret rooms. No double evictions, or face-to-face nominations. No chants from the crowd: ‘Get [insert name of hated housemate] out!.’ No Diary Room hysterics. With the Big Brother House now closed for business, This Is Reality 2000 might be the only chance we have to take part in what was once thought a social experiment. But with a running time of 150 minutes, you might wish you’d never walked through the virtual door.
After choosing your character beforehand, and perhaps dressing like them like too, up to 12 of you wait in the Zoom Room with cameras and mics turned off, preparing to make your grand entrance in the House as if it’s the year 2000, the year that Big Brother first hit our screens in the UK. Each character, all with gender-neutral names, comes with a short biography, so expect to act; be a diva, or be a leader, a crank or a control freak. Once everyone has been welcomed into the house, chaos ensues with housemates seeking private and public alliances, shouting over each other to be heard. The Housemaster – this game’s version of Big Brother – is silent, the instructions being given instead by slides on a PowerPoint presentation, and by the document that is downloaded on the players’ phones.
But perhaps more necessary than acting skills, are thick skins as your ideas will be ignored, or sabotaged. Your requests to be best friends with someone will go unread, as other groupings begin to form. Over 15 days – with each day about 10 minutes long – the housemates come up with a team name, a dance, items for a time capsule and answers to a quiz. But instructions on the phone documents are vague, and the instructions from the Housemaster are sparse, and minutes drag on without clearer direction.
One of the major problems with the show – apart from its length – is that it feels very clunky. When it comes to voting, the polls take place on the players’ phones, and the results take a while to be revealed. Zoom’s own polling function would have been a quicker and more interactive way to conduct these votes. And when it comes to evictions, the name of the unlucky housemate appears as a slide on the presentation, itself sometimes semi-obscured by a mysterious black box. Surely it would be more exciting if the Housemaster unmuted themselves to announce ‘ Frankie. You have been evicted. Please leave the Reality House’. Reading it on screen, doesn’t exactly whip up the excitement.
The reliance on the PowerPoint slows things down, and while that might be a reference to early technology, in 2021 we need quicker and more high-tech solutions to these kind of experiences – Zoom regularly adds features to its content. The concept is sound, but as it stands now This Is Reality 2000 needs to be shaved down to a manageable 90 minutes, and perhaps there needs to be a greater sense of danger in that you could be evicted for real, and booted out the Zoom Room. Clearer instructions, of course, would help, especially if you’re an unruly bunch of friends, and some kind of advice in that ‘what happens in the house stays in the house’ to soften the divisive nature of the game.
If you’re nostalgic for Big Brother, and always coveted a place in the House then maybe This Is Reality 2000 will fill a gap, otherwise watching reruns on VHS may be a safer bet.