In keeping up with its tradition for uncut drama, this year’s edition of Big Brother Africa reality television show kicked off last week with promises of amplified entertainment
“By definition, amplified means to increase the volume, to make louder, to make more powerful. And that’s exactly what we want to do with season six. To take the elements that audiences find so fantastic and present them in a refreshing new way while adding big surprises and entertaining twists,” Biola Alabi, managing director, M-NET Africa, noted just before this year’s edition of Big Brother Africa, BBA, tagged, Amplified, kicked off on Sunday, May 1.
Interestingly, a passionate kiss shared by two of the housemates (Alex and Millicent) after barely 24 hours in this year’s Big Brother House unwittingly fit the script. For a period of 91 days, 26 housemates from 13 African countries would be competing for the mouth-watering grand prize of $200,000 on 24-hour live television relayed across Africa on the M-NET DStv Channel 198 platform.
Deviating from its regular 14 housemates, BBA Amplified features two housemates from countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya and Malawi. However, the producers later explained that all the contestants would go through an "audition week" to ensure their status as full-fledged housemates.
For the Nigerians in the competition, there appears to be a common thread beyond their nationality. The two Nigerian representatives – Karen Igho, a 27-year-old unemployed graduate and Vina, a 26-year-old radio presenter – grew up in Jos, Plateau State, which is also the hometown of Kevin Pam, BBA season four winner. While Karen said she felt lucky and shocked when she was chosen to appear on BBA; Vina, who has a BA (Hons) in Media Production, already has her eyes set on the grand prize. “When I walk out as the winner, I will use some of my money to refurbish the Zawan orphanage in Jos,” said Vina. She also promised viewers that she would be “outrageous” on the show because her personality is “very amplified.”
Although BBA has come under criticisms for relaying hours of sexually explicit scenes — including nudity during shower hours to outright sex (especially during season two) — the controversy was significantly whittled down after season two when the producers stopped showing the ‘shower hour’ sessions.
In spite of this, some still criticise the BBA for promoting binge drinking and Vanity fairs while the show has continued to capture the attention of millions of viewers across Nigeria and the rest of Africa. In Nigeria especially, it has gained massive following, especially for the fact that two Nigerians — Uti Nwachukwu and Kevin Pam — were winners of the last two consecutive seasons. Another Nigerian, IK Osakioduwa, has been the show’s presenter for the third season running. This year’s edition also witnessed an unprecedented number of entries, as almost 7,000 were received for the auditions, which held in major African cities.
Apart from a probable strong Nigerian showing, viewers across Africa are also expected to be given a mixed dose of entertainment by the different characters in the house. As to what to expect over three months on the show, Lerato Sengadi, South African contestant in season two, may have put it more succinctly. “Being on the show is like being an experimental lab. You're being poked and prodded to see how you react to certain situations, and that speaks to people's hidden voyeuristic desires,” she noted.
Given this background, a kiss from housemates may just be a tip of the icing for a reality television show that has divided the African continent on moral grounds in the past.