The biggest reality TV show on the continent is back; bigger, better, and oh, so new.
Barely a few weeks into the new year, while people are still coming down from the high of Detty December, another bustling wave of pizzaz—in the form of popularized reality tv culture—has hit Nigerian and South African mainstream media.
Big Brother is back!
For the people that have been living under a rock since 2006—when #BBN first premiered—Big Brother Naija is a reality TV competition show that brings twenty selected contestants and shoves them in a luxury house for ten weeks. Once in the house, they have to complete tasks and partake in competitions against each other, while trying not to get evicted. The show was named Big Brother after the deep-voiced and unseen referee that tells the housemates what to do, when, and how.
This year, they’re adding another factor to the mix – literally. What’s more interesting than Big Brother Naija? Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Mzanzi. The new show, dubbed Big Brother Titans, is the first of its kind in the show’s history, bringing together contestants from two countries. And they’re throwing a$100,000 cash prize in there. There are twelve contestants from Nigeria and South Africa, each—It’s like an Afro-beats and Amapiano fusion. Who doesn’t want to know what that sounds like?
This mix is certain to make for an even more interesting viewing experience; it draws fans from across the continent (Nigeria and South Africa) and enhances the show’s major selling point; bringing together completely different people to compete against each other for a prize. Also because of this joining, the anchors of Big Brother Titans will be the presenters of the individual shows (BBNaija and BBMzanzi) themselves; Nigeria’s witty and fashion forward Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, and South Africa’s multi-talented actor and presenter, Lawrence Maleka. This season promises to be a spicy blend.
On Monday night, a day after the housemates were introduced to the world—and themselves—the Head of House game was held. This is a friendly competition, of course, refereed by Big Brother himself, used to select the contestant that will be the head of the house and privy to certain privileges. South African housemate, Mmeli, emerged victorious and got immunity from the first week of nomination (voting done by the housemates shows who they wouldn’t mind seeing evicted—shady?) and also gets the nicest bedroom in the house with his chosen guest. While the new show promises to be very entertaining, it might also have more significance than is visible on the surface.
Recently, in South Africa, xenophobic attacks have become increasingly frequent due to socio-economic challenges faced by the citizens, and a lot of those affected have been Nigerian immigrants.
Big Brother, while primarily a source of entertainment and community for its viewers, may also now serve as an olive branch between the two countries; because of the joint show, South African and Nigerian housemates have a reason to come together and possibly foster a friendlier ecosystem between both themselves and the diverse audience watching them. Placing them on the big screen together, and making it so they have to interact, allows otherwise impossible bonds to form between the youth of both countries, and shows that the two people might have more in common than was previously thought.
While on the topic of changing perspectives, the impact a reality show like Big Brother can have—and has had for the past decade—on dispelling some of the conservative narratives still held by many African countries is not something to be undervalued. It’s shows like this that show the vibrance and ingenuity of youth culture in Africa, that give people—viewers and contestants alike—a platform to show up as they are, inching the continent towards a more progressive future.
You can keep up with Big Brother Titans on DSTV Channel 198 and GOtv Channel 29, because as an audience, you ultimately get to decide who wins throughout the fully televised 72-day show through online polls.
By Agbaje Ahmad-Tijani