ABC's 'The Glass House' Is A Toxic 'Big Brother' Wannabe

I wonder if “The Glass House” will actually last through the summer, or if it will become such an embarrassment that ABC might pull it off air and let it play out online (or, perhaps worse, move it from its current Monday time period to the wasteland of Saturday night).

It’s been a while since I have referred to a so-called reality series as truly “toxic.” I mean, given the mountain of unscripted product out there, much of it trash, it seems near-ridiculous to single one out as somehow worse than the rest and label it poisonous. But this cruddy clone of CBS’ sporadically absorbing human zoo series “Big Brother” is that bad.

Sometimes all it takes is one episode for a series to make clear that it has absolutely nothing exciting, engaging or entertaining to offer. There was no questioning the absence of these qualities or the potential for their eventual development in the show I watched Monday night.

There was, however, much to question about the current thinking at two networks. I couldn’t help but wonder what ABC sees in “The Glass House,” and I couldn’t understand why CBS was so worked up about ABC’s decision to go forward with it. I would think someone in the ABC or Disney hierarchy would have stepped up to kill “Glass House” after getting a good look at it, if only to preserve the integrity of the network and its relationship with the television audience. And I would think CBS, upset from the beginning that another network was producing a variation of one of its signature shows, would have waited to see the show itself before pursuing legal action.



Take comfort, CBS: “The Glass House” will very likely suffer and die without the involvement of your legal department. Further, it makes ABC look bad, and it makes your own “Big Brother” look glorious by comparison, so it’s a win for you all the way around.

That said, the big fuss about “The Glass House” and its similarities to “Big Brother” begs the question: Since when is it unusual, let alone potentially unlawful, for a television network to develop programming that bears a ridiculously close resemblance to other shows? Remember all those copies of “Friends”? How about all those talent competition shows with affable hosts and three-judge panels that came along after “American Idol” became an instant phenomenon? Why, it was only two years ago that CBS offered up a live daily talk series in which five women sit around a table discussing the hottest topics of the day and interviewing celebrity guests. I don’t recall ABC kicking up a fuss and declaring that the CBS series was too much like its own live daily talk series in which five women sit around a table discussing the hottest topics of the day and interviewing celebrity guests.

Here’s the 411 for those readers smart enough to have not watched “The Glass House”: It offers the sorry spectacle of people (14 at the start) living in a house-like structure located on a soundstage and filled with cameras and microphones. They are cut off from the outside world, except for feedback from viewers. They get information from graphics on a flat screen and take orders from a disembodied female voice (like Mother in “Alien,” but not as much fun). “She” sets them to participate in challenges designed to land the loser in “limbo.” At the end of each installment, the players determine who else should be in limbo, and then the home audience decides which of the two will stay and which one must suffer the obligatory painful elimination that keeps reality competition shows moving along.

“The Glass House” is the most miserable and depressing new broadcast series of the summer season, if not the year to date. (It makes even those dumb dating shows on Fox look good.) Adding to its unpleasantness is a player who wants to be known as “the most epic villain in the history of reality TV.” Well, he’s a long way from that, but he’s already in the running for biggest douche. He’s a 25-year-old bail bondsman from Dallas named Alex who refers to himself as Primetime 99 Alex Stein. Right from the start Alex sets out to be nasty, goading people about their appearance, strutting about in particularly unflattering underpants and complaining about the smell of one competitor’s poop. (Yes, that’s happening this summer on ABC!)

At the end of the first episode, Alex and his dimwitted pal Jacob, who hails from Oregon and didn’t realize his home state was located in the western portion of the United States, ended up in limbo – and even before viewers could vote one of them off the show, Jacob up and quit! (Maybe he isn’t so dumb after all.) Happily, the producers decided to keep Alex in limbo and to let viewers decide if they want him gone. At first blush, it might seem desirable that Primetime 99 Alex Stein get the boot next Monday. But that would mean once again letting him loose in the real world. If “The Glass House” is to have any true value this summer, it will be to keep this jack-hole off the streets for as long as possible.  

1 comment about "ABC's 'The Glass House' Is A Toxic 'Big Brother' Wannabe ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 22, 2012 at 10:36 a.m.

    You really can't figure out why CBS is so worked up about this ABC clone? Could it be that the host of Big Brother is the wife of the top guy at CBS? Maybe?

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