Graham: Mining life lessons from ‘Big Brother’

Insipid reality show or insightful eye into human behavior? Well, can it be both?

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

s“Big Brother” wrapped its 19th season this week, and before we get any further, yes, that show is still on TV and yes, people do watch it.

The CBS reality series about a group of nitwits locked inside of a house on the CBS lot voting each other out one-by-one in the hopes of winning a $500,000 grand prize — it’s shameful that CBS hasn’t yet upped the prize money to $1,000,000 — attracts a faithful audience of around 7 million viewers that tune in to the summertime show three nights a week, and that’s not to mention those who watch the online feeds airing 24/7 from within the house.

To many, “Big Brother” is a curiosity, like ketchup on coney dogs or the Juggalo lifestyle. But to its devoted fans, it’s a delicious summertime treat that offers deep insight into the human psyche.

Don’t believe me? Here are a handful of life lessons extrapolated from this season of “Big Brother:”

Paul Abrahamian stepped over the same contest­ants that ultimately decided his fate.

Know your jury. Paul Abrahamian, the heavily tattooed, heavily bearded, friendship-peddling show veteran, went down in flames on Wednesday’s finale when he lost to giant meatball Josh Martinez in a crushing 5-4 vote from the show’s jury of evicted houseguests. It was deja vu all over again: Abrahamian also lost last year’s “Big Brother” by a 5-4 vote, falling to Michigan’s own Froot Loop dingus, Nicole Franzel. What happened? Both times he did whatever it took to keep himself in the game but didn’t consider how he was scarring those he stepped over to get there, and those were the people that ultimately decided his fate. In other words, it’s not just about you. Be considerate of and kind to those around you or it will come back to haunt you.

Josh Martinez won the top prize on a 5-4 vote in this season’s “Big Brother,” which completed its 19th season.

The best man doesn’t always win. Few watching the show would argue that, final flaw aside, Abrahamian didn’t play the best game of anyone in the house (in what was, truthfully, a rather lax season of “Big Brother”). But that major miscue opened the door for Martinez to come waltzing in and take home the grand prize. You can be the most qualified person in the room, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get the job. The little things matter, and if people can find an excuse to work you over in favor of someone else, they will. Don’t hand them that excuse.

Life is more than a bowl of cereal: Matt Clines’ goal was to eat 1,000 bowls of cereal, but he never won a competition.

Life is more than a bowl of cereal. In the house, musclebound silver fox Matt Clines spent his days and nights eating cereal — he bragged he was trying to get to 1,000 bowls by summer’s end, and he got close — and cuddling with his in-house girlfriend, Raven Walton. And that’s about it: He never won any competitions, never really did much of anything. Yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it’s not supposed to be the highlight of your day. If it is, you’re doing it wrong.

Perseverance will only get you so far. Cross-training expert and fitness star Christmas Abbott broke her foot while horsing around in the house’s backyard early in the summer, and was given a choice by producers: leave the game, or get surgery and heal in the house. She chose the latter and stuck it out. “Big Brother” is probably difficult enough on its own, and even tougher while hobbling around on crutches. She was able to ride all the way to the show’s final three but couldn’t take it any further, as she turned in a dismal performance in her final competition, which called on her memory skills within the game. Sheer determination — and, sure, a little bit of sympathy — can take you a long way, but in the end, if you want to win, you’ve gotta have the goods.

Some things are just unexplainable. This year’s winner of the “America’s Favorite Houseguest” title was Cody Nickson, a contestant who seemed to hate the game, threatened to “bust out” of the jury house and who got in several nasty verbal jousts with other houseguests. He was portrayed as such a desensitized robot that producers would dub in Terminator-like sound effects when he was shown on camera. Even he looked stunned when he was got news of the viewer-voted title (which came with a $25,000 purse). How to make sense of this one? Who knows, it’s “Big Brother.” As host Julie “But First” Chen says, expect the unexpected.

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