Let’s Imagine Sam Bledsoe Wins Veto. Does That Change The End of ‘Big Brother 20’?

It could be that I’m grasping for any possibility that Big Brother 20 won’t proceed in a predictable manner from now until the finale. The final three — presumably Tyler, Angela, Kaycee — could make for interesting television just because it’s unclear who could take home the ultimate prize. (In years past, the question was usually, “who played the best game, or who pissed off the jury the least?”).

But we’re not there yet. There are still a couple of wild cards — JC and Sam. Credit Brett Robinson, everyone’s favorite Bro (Winston who?) for putting out this idea: that Sam is a stealth threat who’s been playing everyone for a fool the entire game. Here’s what he said to EW after his surprise eviction this week, when asked who he thought was playing the best game in the house:

“Tyler made the strong move in terms of competitions, but he has a lot of blood on his hands, especially burning a final 2. There is still JC and Sam, who have no blood on their hands. I’d say Sam, because she has still remained in the house after all of this time and she hasn’t burned anyone. I think she has been throwing competitions ever since her HOH to appear as less of a threat.”

I’m not a big fan of Sam, at least not in this Big Brother universe (which means absolutely nothing in terms of who she may be as a real live person, at home in private). That’s largely because I thought she was going to be one way but turned out to be another. (In other words, I had this image of how Sam’s personality would unfold, in terms of her views of other people and relationships with other houseguests, but my predictions were incorrect — but that’s not about her, that’s about me, as is every perception one has about another person that isn’t correct.)

(Was that opaque enough of an explanation? Ok, good.)

But Sam is interesting in that she’s really the only person left who can throw a wrench into this whole thing (unless JC has been throwing competitions as well, but let’s put that to the side. If JC is relying on his powers of persuasion, he may be out of luck at this point because the remaining houseguests are on to his tactics and no longer listenting.)

Let’s say she wins veto and JC goes home. That leaves Sam, Tyler, Kaycee and Angela. If Sam wins the final four veto as well (or HOH), she ensures her spot in the final three. If Tyler or Angela is serious about winning this game, they won’t take each other to final two — faux showmance be damned. Kaycee as well would be wise to take Sam. Kaycee and Tyler may or may not stick with their agreement to go to the end; same with Kaycee and Angela. They are not so naive as to not recognize each other as strong players so showing team loyalty is far from certain at this point.

So if Sam gets to final three, she’s almost guaranteed a spot in final 2.

Looking back at Sam’s interview with Ross Mathews, I’m not sure she’s as disinterested in the game as she often leads people to believe. Sure, I buy that she wants to play a moral game, but for her, I’m not sure that means rolling over and playing dead when times are tough. When Ross asked her if she’d rather win the game and be hated or lose the game and be loved, she didn’t answer right away. She said it would depend on the circumstances. In Big Brother land, that’s quite telling.

Faced with a bitter jury, it’s very likely Sam would win over everyone else. The only exception might be Kaycee, who, like Sam, has ruffled few feathers in game play and actually has an impressive collection of competition wins to parade in front of the decision-makers.

Even if Sam doesn’t win the last veto, whomever does may choose to help her advance to the final three — thinking she’s easier to beat.

Let’s hope Level 6 has a bit of a plot twist in their walk to the end. It would be more fun to watch and potentially saves us getting the most forgettable winner in Big Brother history.


Let’s Choose a ‘Big Brother’ Successor to Julie Chen. Even If It’s Premature.

Julie Chen is as essential to Big Brother (US) as Zingbot, OTEV, and slop. But since she’s taken time off to be with her family in light of her husband’s firing from CBS, it’s reasonable to assume she won’t be back for Season 21 — unless the show moves to another network, or if they keep Julie despite the ugliness of the board fight and the allegations against Les Moonves.

(She’ll be back on Thursday for Big Brother, according to her statement. Imagine the panic that would ensue inside the Big Brother house if the players were told Julie Chen would no longer be the first face they see when they exit the game. Think of the paranoia that might result, with some wondering if it’s a game twist.)

Who could pick up after Julie? Who could say, “#ButFirst” with that perfect mix of muted anticipation, seriousness and melodrama, for what is, in its essence, a game show? Let’s not forget Julie Chen came from hard news, as she’s apt to recall as frequently as possible during her musings on The Talk. Her eyewitness-on-the-scene reporting style brought a distinct feel to Big Brother. On Thursday nights, the week’s shenanigans — and the coming eviction — are treated with the unbiased veneer of a broadcaster. For about 42 minutes you forget it’s just a silly little program, although at times it really does become a microcosm of real life.

No one could ever replace Julie Chen. But it might be fun to see these former Big Brother contestants give it a go.

Jamie Kern Lima

By far, my number one choice of past Big Brother contestant to take on the former Chen duties would be Jamie Kern Lima. It’s unlikely she would want the job, since in 2016 she sold her company, IT Cosmetics, to L’Oreal for $ 1.2 billion and stayed on as CEO.

But assuming she did want to return to the fold, she comes with great credentials. Like Chen, Kern Lima was a news reporter after her time in the house. She’s self-made, starting IT Cosmetics from scratch.

It would be like Big Brother coming full circle, with Season 21 harking all the way back to Season 1. Those of us who are old enough to remember, and actually tuned in to watch, remember how controversial the show’s very concept was in 2000.

In light of the allegations against Moonves (which have absolutely, completely, nothing to do with Julie Chen), it’s somehow fitting to have a fierce, successful woman as the new face of the show.

John (Johnny Mac) McGuire

If Jamie Kern Lima would be the replacement closest to Julie Chen, Johnny Mac — the Rockstar Dentist from Season 17 — might be the furthest. John McGuire is no Chenbot. His diary room sessions were apparently so loud during his season that some of his fellow house guests could hear him talking. Those of us at home laughing uproariously at his game commentary were among the first to see his true personality, which was a bit more subdued in the house.

Imagine Johnny Mac doing the post-eviction interviews. Or leading into the week’s flashback clips with a rousing, “#ButFirst!” Johnny Mac alone could turn Big Brother from a reality-game show hybrid into a comedy, at least once a week.

Like Kern, his return to Big Brother seems unlikely — because he is a practicing dentist, after all. But maybe he could take a trip to L.A. during the BB season to keep us up to speed on the game — and maybe to take the ego-driven players (there are always a few) down a notch.

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Britney Haynes

Britney doesn’t strike me as the hosting type, and I believe she’s said she would not come back for a third shot at the Big Brother crown. But she is so inherently likeable, it’s tough to leave her off of the list.

And the miscellaneous list…

  • Victoria Rafaeli, to celebrate the floaters;
  • Amber Borzotra, because I think she lost (unfairly) because she refused Caleb’s advances;
  • Aaryn Gries, for redemption;
  • Jun Song, for those of us who never saw her season but want to know what she was like;
  • Jennifer “Nakomis” Dedmon, to honour her contribution to the Big Brother game by inventing the backdoor eviction strategy;
  • Daniele Donato, because she’s cool;
  • Jessie Godderz, because he appears every season anyway and probably wants to do more than flex his muscles;
  • Dan Gheesling, so he can tell every evictee what was wrong with their strategy;
  • Jodi Rollins, because she never got a chance to play.

Of course, this could all be wildly premature, and the Chenbot may be with us for another 20 more seasons. Which would be great. Because no one can say, “Welcome. To Big Brother” quite like Julie Chen.

[Main image of Julie Chen from CelebrityABC/Flickr.]







Tyler Crispen May Become ‘Big Brother’s Most Forgettable Winner

Ok, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. And since there have been more than 20 seasons of Big Brother — counting the Over the Top and Celebrity editions — it may be a stretch to call Tyler the franchise’s most forgettable winner. After all, there have been lots of forgettable winners. That’s why floaters get so far, and jury management is a thing. If you don’t rock the boat, people don’t kick you out; if you don’t bring melodrama into your game, you have a tendency to make fewer enemies and have more jurors on your side come finale night.

But Tyler is too nice a guy to win this game. It’s a bit grating that he’s slid through the entire season, just letting other house guests come to him with final two deals and accepting them all. Sure, maybe he just makes it look easy. He is, after all, a super fan, so he knows that playing too hard is a guaranteed recipe for early eviction. As a result, he appears not to be playing very hard at all — staying just enough out of people’s way in order to avoid becoming a major target.

Here’s another way that Big Brother 20 is a metaphor for life. People love a comeback story. People want to see you struggle and overcome, get back up when you’ve been kicked down. But apart from that one week when Haleigh targeted Tyler — and this season’s twists effectively kept him in the game — Tyler’s basically sailed through.

It’s like the guy who’s always been good at track wins the 100-metre sprint again. Yay. What about the guy who started out in last place but worked hard every day to build up to his winning form? Now there’s something to celebrate. It’s an imperfect and quite boring metaphor, but then we’re talking about who’s likely to win Big Brother 20, so the metaphor might as well be imperfect and boring.

Haleigh winning Big Brother 20 would be so satisfying. Granted, she didn’t start out in last place, but she’s had her back up against the wall week after week. It’s also important to note she’s the only player so far who’s even attempted to target Tyler. Why the hesitation for the rest of them?

Ok, ok, I know — there’s the Level 6 alliance, which has to turn on its own very soon. But can you really see anyone turning on Tyler and doing so successfully? No, Tyler will walk to the end — unless he fails to win the last HOH, or something unexpected happens. Unless there’s, say, a revolt.

Tyler reminds me of one past Big Brother winner: Hayden Moss from Big Brother 12. Having just Googled him now to see what he was up to — because, of course, I’d forgotten him — I discovered Ianic Roy Richard’s piece on Medium from last year which talks about Moss’ turn on Survivor, which I’d completely missed. Here’s what Richard had to say:

“In ‘Big Brother,’ Hayden was dominant but kind of boring. That’s the curse of a lot of game show winners. They are usually the most normal people surrounded by a bunch of crazy people so they stand out a lot less. I think of Hayden on ‘Big Brother’ like I do of Aras’ win in ‘Survivor: Panama;’ attractive young men who kept their team together and win in the end by being nice guys. That whole ‘Big Brother’ persona is why people weren’t very high on him going on ‘Survivor.'”

So is Tyler the new Hayden? Level 6 is kind of like The Brigade, but they are not keeping a key (and popular) ally (aka Britney in Big Brother 12) in the dark until the very end. I suppose there’s Sam, but she’s not as tightly integrated into the dominant group as was Britney. Really, she’s only tight with Tyler, and that may be largely a one-sided relationship. When Sam goes, it won’t be as painful to watch as it was with Britney.

The Big Brother 20 group has learned well from past seasons about how to effectively run an alliance. But then we have The Hive, so what am I talking about.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Haleigh could pull it out in the end. Somehow. It’s likely Kaycee has a better shot of winning than Haleigh, but I still would love to see Haleigh, our little grit-and-hustle, Shakespeare reciting, all-about-the-game player be rewarded for her efforts with a win.

It won’t happen, of course. Like in life, it’s the sexy lifeguard’s game to lose.

In Defense of Retail: Geoffrey Owens Isn’t Alone

I won’t give Fox News the dignity of of linking out to their article on Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens’ apparent employment at Trader Joe’s. Last year, I was similarly employed at a grocery store and was spotted by a professor at the university where I used to work. The last time I saw him, about 15 years before, I was in law school. To see me bagging groceries apparently sparked pity in him, if I could label the look in his eyes, as I chatted with him, without shame, about our mutual acquaintances. Let’s say that again: without shame. Because if you think working at a grocery store is shameful — for anyone — the problem is with you, and not me.

But let’s back up a bit.

After I had that encounter, I submitted a piece to the Globe and Mail about it, and about working retail in general. They never published it, but it was still on my laptop hard drive. I’ve cut and pasted it below. It’s a poorly written piece, but this is my blog, so instead of doing substantial edits, I’ve added in new text (in italics) and simply used strikethrough to eliminate the text that isn’t really relevant to the two points I want to make, which are:

  1. Some people excel at retail. Many people make careers out of retail. Working the floor of a store in a uniform does not mean you have a “lesser” job. If you’re really good at it, you have a host of skills those toiling in office towers could only imagine. Society sees it as a lesser job for one reason: the wages are typically low. Remember wages — everywhere — are based on bargaining power of employees. If you are in a situation where your bargaining power is low, your wages will be low. It doesn’t mean your job is any less important, or any less demanding of specific skills.
  2. People choose where they work for a number of different reasons. That means you can’t assume a person with a professional education (i.e., me) or a former actor (i.e. Geoffrey Owens) is working retail because they are hard-strapped for cash. Frankly, the reasons why someone chooses to work retail are none of your business, but off the top of my head I can think of three that have nothing to do with money:
    1. Other people working retail don’t judge you for working retail. People who work retail come from everywhere, every background and age and ability. As a result, it’s usually pretty easy to make friends in a retail environment. Retail accepts everyone, so everyone who works retail tends to accept everyone else.
    2. You can have some interesting experiences. One year I was working at that big box store (mentioned in the piece below) I challenged myself to write something (a blurb, poem, whatever) after every single shift. It became a book (and soon an audiobook) that’s now on Amazon.
    3. It can improve your mental health. For many people, just being busy — par for the course in most retail settings — is enough to help them get through to the next thing, the next day, the next season.

One last note about Geoffrey Owens. The fact that his story has been met with nothing but support and praise says, to me, that he must be a pretty good guy, because the universe (and the internet) has a way of bringing all of our faults to light. Working retail is not a fault.

Working Retail Isn’t The End of the World

While bagging his groceries, I recognized his pale features underneath the cap. It was an old but vibrant memory; he was a professor at a university where I’d worked almost 15 years before. I’d left the job to go to law school, and here I was bagging groceries. As usual in these situations, I felt compelled to remind him there was nothing wrong with having an honest job. Life takes many twists and turns, and being in the world is not something I’m ashamed of — if anything, it helps me thrive.

I’d just come back to retail after an absence of three years. Yes, having a regular paycheque was part of the motivation. Little as it was, the weekly deposits of part-time, minimum wage earnings provided a kind of reassurance against the wildly unstable swings in freelance work. I work as a ghostwriter, composing everything from website pages and blog posts to tweets and marketing copy, usually in my pyjamas, navigating around my fat cat who likes to lie on the keyboard.

It’s not a bad gig. I fell into it 7 or 8 years back, after my short-lived career as a political aide came to a screeching halt. I’d only ended up in that role (of political aide) after biding my time searching for an articling position in order to get my license to practice law. It was 2006, then 2007, then 2008 and 2009. In the ensuing years I’d done something I’d never really done after a mediocre career in university administration: worked customer service. To my shock and delight, I enjoyed it. Dare I say, I loved it.

I want to really emphasize this point. I really loved customer service. Some days were better than others, but working retail made me feel a part of my community. It also let me interact with all sorts of different people.

An uninformed observer might say I loved it because it was easier than anything I’d done before in my long and diverse employment career, which included graveyard shifts at a gas station right after high school, chopping fish in a cannery, filing (oh, so much filing), data entry, bookkeeping and phone survey interviewing. But I discovered I loved retail because it forced me to be happy, every day. It required me to be friendly, interested and engaged in the lives of perfect strangers. I turned out to be very good at it. After years of assuming myself to be an introvert, I discovered I could be outgoing in the right circumstances. Despite the fatigue, low pay, uniform and name tag, working retail regularly lifted my mood.

Remember, as a freelancer, my primary occupation is a solitary one. I have a relatively small social circle and a roster of work colleagues that numbers exactly zero. Going to a store a few days a week got me into a different headspace. It shifted my energy. There were regular customers with whom I had extended conversations on a weekly basis. I was a part of their routine, as they were part of mine.

Before starting in the grocery store two months ago, I worked part-time at a big box store for nearly two and a half years. And it was awesome. If you want to know what it was like, watch Superstore Season 1.

There I learned the agony of reusable bags, which despite their environmental benefits are difficult to pack. They tend to be deep and awkwardly shaped. Bagging is time consuming and customers rarely offer to pack the bags themselves, as if offering to do so would somehow cause the cashier some offense. As a cashier, let me tell you — no one will be offended if you offer to pack your own bags. Especially in a grocery store, when packing is taken to an entirely new level. There are eight and a half hours between the start of my shift and the end. After countless bags of potatoes and 4 litre containers of milk, I am lucky if my aging body is not so sore as to render me completely immobile the next day.

But I am new. Most of the staff at this grocery store have been in the job for a decade or more. The location was recently sold by one chain to another, and those with union seniority and grandfathered pay rates — salaries those of us new to the store will never reach no longer how long we stay there — are exhausted, bitter and sick of the food business. At least those who talk to me are. In addition to doing time at the cash register, I do shifts in the deli, where I slice meat for customers and prepare those in-store entrees that I can’t justify buying on the salary that I make.

The senior staff in the deli seemed to like me, although the rumor spread quickly that I had a law degree and had chosen to work in a physically demanding environment for low pay just to get out of the house. When one of the newer employees was fired someone joked it was because the closing shift I’d served with her was a disaster — “they were going to fire you, but I told them you were a lawyer and would probably sue them.” I wouldn’t have cared if I was fired. Maybe I would have sued, but only for the intellectual exercise. 

It was hard for them to believe I would do this voluntarily. I was often at pains to explain it, especially in a society that does not value work for the sake of work. That professor who came through my cash was not the first. A few weeks prior, one of his colleagues and I engaged in an awkward conversation as he seemed unable to believe he should feel anything but pity for me. 

There are remnants in that grocery store of that old, gender biased guard that I imagine once permeated blue-collar workplaces. I was warned a soon-to-retire employee in the deli may come on to me or make lewd comments. When he eventually made sexually nuanced jokes I found it didn’t bug me — until he made a comment about a co-worker with an implication I was invited to join with him in objectifying her. I witnessed an older male worker, who barely talked to me, yell and berate a woman who’d worked her butt off alongside me for the entire shift. I regret I did not step in and stop it, and my discussion with her later made me realize she often encountered similar treatment, laced with layers of sexism.

I realized that may be the crux of why now, many years later, I feel I have a place in retail. For many workers, it is not a protected environment. People still need advocates and visibility — or at least co-workers who are on their side. Everyone who ends up in retail is invariably looking for another job, but few will ever move out of their class. Even those of us with varied employment backgrounds will probably end up back there, if not for the paycheque, then for the experience. 



‘Big Brother 20’: Let’s Talk About Kaycee (Updated)

Updated September 12, 2018

Let’s switch this up a bit, since Kaycee is now on a stunning winning streak — all of a sudden the athlete is a competition beast. So much so, it’s hard to imagine now that she and Tyler would end up as final two. Neither would be dumb enough to take the other; Tyler’s initial reasons for bringing Kaycee (she hadn’t won much) seem to have become moot. If there was some weird series of events that made it Tyler against Kaycee in the Big Brother 20 finale, the result seems almost entirely unpredictable.

They were on the same side for the entire game. They barely looked outside their own circle long enough to make enemies apart from The Hive (FOUTTE), which collapsed anyway. If Tyler wins the HOH during the double eviction on Thursday, he would presumably target Sam in order to not upset Level 6. Even if he did decide to target Kaycee, he probably wouldn’t get much support. In a strange way, it still feels too early for the members of Level 6 to turn on each other, although since the numbers have dwindled that basically has to happen now.

Kaycee seems solid unless Brett and JC decide to do something weird.

Tyler and Kaycee both know the Big Brother unwritten rule that you don’t bring another strong player to the end. But if it happens, it could be the most exciting finale in years.

Posted September 2, 2018

Yes, I do think Kaycee Clark could win this thing. But it would come down to the final HOH, when it’s Kaycee, Tyler (assuming Tyler is truthful about his intention to take her to the end) and a third person who gets the final say on who goes to the final two. Thinking strategically, that person chooses to take Kaycee instead of Tyler because she’s presumably easier to beat.

This is when Big Brother resembles a game of chess. Who do we have left? Looking at this list, I think the only person who would actually choose Tyler over Kaycee — out of a personal loyalty, even though it would be bad for their game — is Sam. Of course there’s a long way yet to the end, but it’s a fun thought experiment.

  • Scottie
  • Brett
  • Angela
  • Tyler
  • Haleigh
  • JC
  • Sam
  • Kaycee

From there, Kaycee could beat JC, Sam (if Sam decided to take her, which she wouldn’t), maybe Scottie, and maybe even Brett or Angela. It depends, of course, on whether those house alliances extend to the jury house.

Kaycee is sort of a sneaky threat. If she won, it wouldn’t be because of a drive to get to the end or win lots of competitions. In a subtle way, she’s just sort of stuck around. Out of sheer luck, she choose the right alliance in the beginning. She hasn’t upset anyone, moves fairly easy through the house dynamics, and has even racked up a few wins to give the jury a few reasons to cast votes in her favor.

Kaycee’s a dark horse, but dark horses have a good history on Big Brother. This was the woman who Zingbot — ahem — “zinged” with the comment that she caused viewers to change the channel, presumably a joke to call her boring. Really, at that point, most viewers probably didn’t know who she was. In Big Brother world, being reserved is not a bad thing, especially when you have the athletic ability to win competitions and choose to do so — when it counts.

In fact, Kaycee is so sneaky, I can’t even write 400 words about her. And I can ramble on about anything. She may very well win the game.

‘Big Brother 20’: That Moment When Faysal Figures It All Out

Fessy, the penny finally dropped. But maybe, you know, he always had his suspicions. He knew, maybe, in the back of his mind, that he and his main ally Haleigh were being oddly manipulated to turn against their own alliance members and send them home, one by one.

If anything, he finally realized that his side was being steamrolled on tonight’s episode. Looking straight into the camera, he gave a precise summary of every bad decision that led to the subsequent exits of Bayleigh, Rockstar, Scottie — the last of whom he put on the block — and even Haleigh seemed to think it was really funny.

Because, well, it is. If you are not embroiled in the Big Brother drama and don’t really care whether you win. On that note, Haleigh may have smiled, but maybe she wasn’t as forgiving about the series of events as she may have seemed.

This, again, is another way that Big Brother 20 is a metaphor for life. If you’ve had a good solid plan, one that’s maybe not foolproof but has a good chance of succeeding (like, say, an alliance on a reality/game show where the contestants are evenly split and it seems like either side has an equal chance of going the distance), you can probably do well as long as you Stick. To. The. Plan. Don’t let your naysayers put doubts into your mind about your alliance members, or else your plan will fall apart at the seams.

How many times in life do we second-guess our choices? How often do we say, “this isn’t right — I don’t think this is best for me, and I should change course?” It’s a risk, maybe, to deviate from the plan, but at the time when you make the decision it feels like you’re doing the logical and most reasonable thing. It makes sense to change your school program, leave your job, move, end a relationship — often that works. Often it’s good for you. As Kaitlyn would say, it is because It Is, and therefore is Right and Meant to Be.

Of course, in life, it’s hard to measure your choices against the what-ifs. Because the end game is always shifting and changing. What you end up getting, in life, is a new series of scenarios, new options, choices, paths to take. In that way, it’s opposite from Big Brother. In Big Brother, you can see that your deviation from The Original Plan has a very specific result: you getting kicked out of house — and out of competition for the $500,000 prize. In life, you’ll never really know what prize eluded you because you chose to shift your loyalties.

Tonight, after the nomination ceremony, Fessy said to Haleigh, “it’s just a game.” Yeah, but in the Big Brother context, it’s also your very reason for being there — to play the game. Right? I suppose there’s always sunbathing in the jury house.

‘Shark Tank,’ Wicked Good Cupcakes, The Mason Baker And The Challenge Of Finding An Original Idea

Each day at exactly 12:00pm, or thereabouts, I get a Google Alerts email for the keyword “Shark Tank.” Usually, it’s a collection of CNBC reports on some benign statements from one of the sharks, updates from aggregate news sites on past pitchers designed (I assume) to take advantage of that SEO spike when episodes rerun, and random news stories about a new shark tank installation at a local aquarium (because Google Alerts doesn’t distinguish between Shark Tank and shark tank).

Recently, there was news in my Google Alerts about a Shark Tank entrepreneur who’d landed a deal on the show. His product? Cake in a mason jar! Shipped across the country, perfect for gifts, cleverly called… “jarcakes.”

No, it wasn’t Wicked Good Cupcakes, a Kevin O’Leary favorite who agreed to his perpetual royalty deal on the show a few years ago. It was actually The Mason Baker, who got a deal on the Australian version of the program.

Now, it might be easy to assume that James Willis — the proprietor of The Mason Baker — came up with the idea all on his own. After all, mason jars are a traditional way to store food and it’s also an easy way to make your foodstuffs look crafty.

(Who hasn’t received dry ingredients for a specific dish, say lentil soup, attractively packaged in a glass jar, during the holidays? Or is that too 1997 or 2005?)

But no, it seems Willis may even have had a heads up that the cupcake in a jar (“Jahhh,” as the Wicked Good Cupcakes folks would say, playing up the Boston accent) might work.

Smart Company article published shortly after the successful pitch revealed that Willis (by his own apparent account) wanted to send cupcakes to his sister but they didn’t arrive in good condition. That, apparently, was his “a-ha!” moment, but he also had a model from abroad:

“It was a problem he wanted to solve and he’d seen other companies in the US tackle the same segment of the gift market.”

Other companies, like Wicked Good Cupcakes, maybe? Of course, it’s not like the Boston folks ship to Australia — and The Mason Baker doesn’t ship to the U.S. And like most new products on the market, it’s really all about marketing: new and original ideas are few and far between, and anything truly innovative would probably be too risky to get a venture capital investment anyway — at least on U.S. or Australian television.

Many products aren’t new. Many aren’t innovative, they are just sold that way — what’s the difference between a Samsung and Huawei, or, to take some Shark Tank examples, a Nuts ‘n More and Wild Friends? Branding, and really nothing more.

It’s true that these shows have a lot of time to fill on a weekly basis, and in the meantime remain compelling, giving off the illusion that it’s promoting innovation or at least entrepreneurship. You’re going to get some repeat characters, especially if there are different versions of the show happening on a few corners of the globe at the same time.

Which led me to think about what it is I like about Shark Tank so much to begin with. I don’t tend to tune in on Friday nights (whoops, I mean Sundays) to be blown away by some revolutionary products. The truth is that those pitches tend to be grating — as a general rule, entrepreneurs who claim to “disrupt” an industry are the type who know words like “disrupt” in a marketing context and are, therefore, recent marketing or business school grads.

I’m not knocking the young. Some of my favorite pitches have come from the under-25 crowd, but to use an analogy from the entertainment industry, there’s a difference between cute kids pushed on stage by overbearing parents and natural hams who love to perform. There’s the natural entrepreneur and then there’s the college grad who wants to do something — anything — to make their mark before their 20s disappear and their window of opportunity (as they see it) to make something of their lives has closed.

But I digress.

My love for Shark Tank has evolved since I first started watching. It began for me with the Canadian version of Dragons’ Den, which was on the CBC Saturday mornings and I would watch it over my coffee before heading to my Saturday retail job. At the time, it was unique. I’d never seen venture capital, a business and reality hybrid, on television, and it was fun to watch. It felt educational, and inspiring. Like I, too, could build something, with some grit and hustle and a little bit of startup cash.

A few years later, a woman I worked with at a different job actually made it to Toronto to pitch the Dragons, although her pitch never aired. The very fact that she’d been on the stage was exciting to me, even though she didn’t get any money for her small line of baby bandanas that she sold online and in some local shops.

Now, Shark Tank is a kind of comfort. The combination of the music, the voice over, the style of the set, the six sharks — let none of them ever leave, please — is like a cozy blanket. Each pitch invokes less a sense of inspiration than dramatic pause as you wonder what details will be revealed throughout the 11 minutes or so you’re engaged with the entrepreneurial story. Do they have sales? Do they have orders? Are there any hidden owners? Do they have any past tragedies that led them to give up a majority stake to someone not present for the pitch? Of course, since it’s been so many years now, regular viewers can make predictions about which sharks will bite and on what terms.

“There’s nothing proprietary about this,” Kevin O’Leary might muse. But that’s okay, because you can just go to Australia and sell the same thing. The market won’t even know the difference.


‘Big Brother 20’ Is An All-True Metaphor For Life

Haleigh. Haleigh, Haleigh, Haleigh. I so want you to win because you’re the Smart Girl.

But you won’t. Because Smart Girls Always Get Screwed Over, and as your ally Rockstar so aptly stated, “guys like (Brett) always win.”

It wasn’t so obvious in the early days of Big Brother 20 that you were the Smart Girl. That became obvious during your Power (or Not) App punishment, when you had to read Hamlet to the entire house.

It was an easy read for you. You didn’t stumble over a single word. Bingo: Smart Girl.

It became more obvious when Faysal (ah, Fessy, the dumb loveable guy who will Always Win because he’s loveable and even when he’s nasty, he’s not really nasty. There’s a kind of wink to his condemnation of allies like Scottie — whom he got rid of because J.C. (J.C.!) was able to convince him he wasn’t on his side, although he always was — that he’s sorry. It’s just a game, after all. We’re still tight, right Scottie? We’ll have a beer or a protein shake or iced tea outside of the house, right? I mean, this Big Brother thing is just a summer fling.)

(I digress.) It became more obvious she was the Smart Girl when Faysal started hot and heavy with Haleigh. No, no, no. No showmance. She rebuffed him, repeatedly. Because she’s here to win, she doesn’t need protection or assistance or a quick sesh in the HOH room. She’s taking this game seriously.

But Haleigh’s getting fucked over. Not by Fessy, but by the same high school cliques that exist in adult life — or in the closed off world of the Big Brother 20 house. This doesn’t happen every year. Big Brother 20 is a good game, or started off as one until one side of the house began to railroad the other. But unlike other years, where you could have an Ian Terry or Steve Moses in the top spot, Big Brother 20 has turned out to be a season of The Cool Kids. As cool as you may be, Haleigh, you’re still the Smart Girl at heart.

You know what that means Haleigh. Your time is almost up.

So, why is Big Brother 20 a metaphor for life? Well, it’s not just the high school cliques. It’s the cluelessness of one side of the house. It’s the reality that often in life, people get railroaded, completely creamed, losing badly at a game they don’t even realize they are playing. Fessy eliminating Scottie was the ultimate example of a person thinking they are in control, when in reality they are getting trampled. They are getting picked off one by one, and everyone who knows the truth is keeping their mouths shut — because they are protecting their own interests. Through their silence, they are keeping their own positions safe, and screwing over the other players.

Let’s also put a note in here about Haleigh’s role in the showmance. This was not of her doing. He pursued her, and eventually she relented, without losing her head in the game. Up until the end, she knew Scottie had her back. The rest of the house, however, saw them as a pair. But Haleigh, Smart Girl that she is, never got caught up in the libido energy that sometimes overtakes the Big Brother house.

Haleigh, there’s some time left. You can keep yourself in the game. And even if you get kicked out come this Thursday, I have no doubt you’ll be the one coming right back in as part of the Jury Battle Back.

Why Kourtney Kardashian Leaving KUWTK Would Be A Visceral Pleasure

Many years ago, one of the younger members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan got her first period. I know this not because it’s the natural course of things for most women, but because the event was a featured part of one episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. That was way back when Bruce was still Bruce and married to Kris and the clan was billing itself as a large, happy, extended and blended family.

Now, those younger members of the Jenner-Kardashian clan are a top model and fashion mogul, due in no small part I am sure to their rearing in the glare of social media fame.

Which woman discussed her first menstrual cycle on the show? I can’t remember now, but whomever it was (Kendall, I think) later told Oprah she wished it hadn’t been broadcast.

Can you blame her? How many of us want our childhoods discussed with even our closest relatives, let alone on a “reality” show. Of course the show’s plot was heavily edited, staged and filtered, but when you’re a preteen, you don’t control that filter, even when it involves a deeply private (and potentially embarrassing) moment of your own life.

In the beginning, I liked the Kardashians. There was an authentic core to the family. As a viewer, you knew they ran in rich circles, but they didn’t seem too rich. They came off as the middle-class kids in their ultra wealthy neighborhood, somehow relatable and down to earth. They were not a brand; they were not influencers. They weren’t Instagram stars. Instagram didn’t exist. Over time, they created a whole new genre of marketing and dominated it, but in the beginning, they were just a loud, gregarious group of people who teased their Olympic legend dad.

As the show went on, the cast seemed to hemorrhage people. Rob dropped out of sight. Kendall and Kylie made the occasional appearances but focused more on their other, probably more lucrative, endeavors. Spinoffs came and went. Despite that, Keeping Up With the Kardashians somehow stubbornly held fast to its Sunday night time slot, renewed season after season after season, in a way that’s not atypical of many modern reality shows. Dancing With the StarsBig BrotherThe Bachelor/Bachelorette, SurvivorShark Tank…. the list goes on.

What makes KUWTK different from all of those, of course, is that you need The Kardashians at the core. There’s no revolving cast that changes from year to year. You can’t replace Kim Kardashian with Julianne Hough (DWTS) or Khloe Kardashian with Chris Sacca (Shark Tank). There’s no guest cast that can step in when they need to shake things up. Which would often leave those of us, who like to think about these things, wondering: how long can this go on? When will KUWTK finally end?

Despite news last year of a renewal through 2020 — the figure and dates are disputed as are the exact personnel who might be involved with the show — KUWTK finally has signs of fraying at the edges. Or, at least, signs the family is willing to have edited into the show. Watching last Sunday’s Season 15 premiere, tuning in, I’ll admit, largely because of the pre-episode press of Kourtney’s stated desire to step away from the program, I had the voice of Big Brother echo in my head: “You are not allowed to talk about Production.”

(Anyone who’s tuned in to Big Brother After Dark or watched the live feeds knows that when a houseguest starts chatting about the producers or the people running the show behind the walls, the Voice Over the Loudspeaker so tells them to stop, using that exact phrase, likely recorded years ago by a crew member or AD who’s long since moved on to other pastures.)

As told in the season premiere, Kourtney doesn’t want to devote her entire day to a photo shoot organized by Kim. She eventually reveals she is basically done with the entire KUWTK endeavor, saying if she had enough money she wouldn’t even film the show, and she’s embarrassed by her family’s constant public display. Her sisters don’t seem particularly sympathetic. Underneath Kim’s brutal insistence that Kourtney work her schedule around hers — Kim’s work commitments, she basically said, were more important than Kourtney’s desire to be with her three children — may have been an unspoken reasoning: the family, including Kourtney, is paid by E! to perform, i.e., let cameras follow them during set filming periods. If Kourtney doesn’t do it, she’s in essence not doing the job she was paid to do. If I’m being kind to Kim, I’d say her comments were rooted in a deep work ethic instead of pure nastiness.

Other commentators were not so kind. This was Mariah Smith in The Cut:

“Now, I’d rather have a 45-minute conversation with a hairbrush than with Kourtney Kardashian, but I really feel like her family is treating her like trash. I have two sisters, and if either of them ever spoke to me the way Kim did to her, and without remorse, all of our bodies would be at the bottom of the Hudson River. That’s not how sisters speak, and if you think sisters speak this way, then you need to chat it out with someone. I will say that my sisters and I have said some vile things to each other, but never once did we say anything that made us think the other human was vile and/or disgusting/someone I wouldn’t want to be captured on film with.”

Without a doubt, even if I want to give Kim and Khloe the benefit of the doubt, her family was treating her like trash. I, too, would sit and look at my phone and ignore them if I was in that situation as well. If I wasn’t forced to film a show, I would probably walk away.

And I hope Kourtney, when all of this season’s shenanigans are duly revealed, does walk away. Nothing would make me happier (well, in this context, certainly there are many other things in my real life that would make me happier) than to have Kourtney say Adios and fully be the human being that she wants to be.

It feels just somehow, and right. Kourtney is the oldest, the quiet one, the one into ayurvedic therapies who once had a same-sex dalliance that was explained away on the program but seemed a bit too comfortable for it to be entirely for show. She was the first to become a mother, the first to sustain a long term relationship, however rocky.

In short, Kourtney is interesting. Sorry Kim, but when you say Kourtney is the “least interesting to look at,” my guess is that Kourtney is actually the most interesting Kardashian to actually know. She’s deep, she’s real. She’s emotional, and, somehow, despite being the oldest, has long been bullied by her younger sisters. There is an instinctive, visceral delight in seeing Kourtney stand up to that bullying. She’s almost 40 now and has the right to live her own life, without having to sacrifice any of it as fodder for an empty reality program that is the only retaining wall left holding up the E! network. If the Kardashians bolt, E! will be left with Below Deck and Botched. Not that those are bad shows. Botched often made me consider getting that deviated septum surgery. But I digress.

So, go forth Kourtney Kardashian. If you “can’t commit to filming,” in the words of your younger sister, then leave. If you don’t want to do it anymore, then leave. If you’re fed up, then leave. Let E! sue you, or get a good lawyer that will make the case that you should always be able to control the filters on a show that’s based on your own life. If you can’t, then the contract was never valid to begin with.