Just Hear Me Out: Aussie Reality TV Peaked With ‘Big Brother: Friday Night Live’
Like many Australians, Big Brother was a massive part of my teenage years. I became obsessed with the housemates, I watched every single season, and I planned my whole week around being home to watch Friday Night Live — my absolute favourite 90-minutes of TV.
After a long week, Friday night was a sacred time in my household. My sisters and I would order Chinese, kick back, and flick on Friday Night Live to watch the mayhem unfold. It was funny, it was entertaining and it was at times, very disturbing!
It was low-key sadistic and we were here for it! Friday Night Live truly walked so that I’m A Celebrity could run.
Big Brother’s spin-off show which aired every (you guessed it) Friday night began in Season 5 and ran for four seasons in the original format. The show was eventually rebranded as Friday Night Games, then came back as Saturday Showdown on Channel 9. But OG fans will know that nothing compared to the magic that was Friday Night Live.
Every Friday night, commentators Mike Goldman, Bree Amer, and Ryan Fitzgerald would introduce the week’s game. Each week would follow a different theme, which really just gave producers an excuse to dress the housemates up in ridiculous costumes.
I don’t know why this week’s theme meant the housemates became actual Monopoly men, but I’m not mad about it.
Then the games would begin, ranging from high-stakes endurance challenges, to silly stuff like getting custard pies smashed in each other’s faces, or being covered in feathers, or eating a whole host of animal parts.
The chaotic nature of Friday Night Live provided the perfect reprieve from all the drama that went on in the house during the week. Want to watch the housemate who has annoyed you all week eat a bull’s testicle? Want to see that hot guy you’ve been thirsting over wearing nothing but a golden speedo and body glitter? Want to witness all the housemates dressed up as tacos for no inexplicable reason? Friday Night Live always pulled through with the goods.
The spin-off was inspired by Japanese game shows and one thing I remember most about the show was how bonkers the challenges were. As a young teen, I’d watch and wonder: is this really happening in front of my eyes? It’s hard to see a human-sized pineapple carrying a fish around a slippery obstacle course and not wonder if you’ve accidentally taken some sort of psychedelic drug.
Why would a pineapple want with a fish?!? What is its motivation??
In later seasons, the ninjas were introduced, who would set up and even become part of the games. The ninjas would appear and intimidate the housemates on and off, providing another absurdist element. This show wasn’t just about physical challenges, it was always driven by hilariously bizarre moments.
The prize at the end was the power to influence nominations, along with a night in the reward’s room, with a guest of the winner’s choice. Big Brother fans will know that this often led to the winner choosing their love interest at the time, and the night would often get steamy. Who could forget that bathtub scene between Gaelan and Krystal?! The raunchy reward’s room action would usually play out on Big Brother: Uncut, another spin-off that has been sorely missed.
So could and should Friday Night Live come back now that Big Brother has been revived on Channel 7? I don’t think so! At least, not if Big Brother continues on the path it’s on. Last year’s season was all games, all the time. The show has practically become Friday Night Live, but seven days a week, with every episode dominated by physical challenges.
The issue with this is: the games on their own aren’t that interesting. In Big Brother’s glory days, we became invested in the housemates’ personalities from the daily shows, which made us root for them in the weekly games, as we were invested in their stories.
Without knowing or caring about the housemates, the games have no stakes.
Let’s pray that this year’s Big Brother focuses more on the housemates as people — and not just as competitors. Oh, and bring back Mike, Bree, and Fitzy ASAP.