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Promos for the new season of Big Brother are promising a twist so big they’ll “need your help to pull it off,” but that’s hardly where the surprises end.
“The fans are going to be blown away when they see the front of house,” Scott Storey, the set designer for Big Brother, told EW.com. “It’s not just a different look. We redesign it every year, but this year we took an entirely different tone and approach to the whole front of the house. I’m excited to watch the fan page Twitter feed on Wednesday night.”
Each season, 16 people move into what looks like the perfect mid-century modern party pad, but as true fans of the show know, life is hardly as sweet as it looks. Based on a soundstage on the CBS lot in Studio City, the custom-built home is rigged with cameras and microphones galore.
“It’s like they’re at the zoo,” he says, explaining that the home is surrounded by one-way glass windows. Cameras — capturing every moment of their stay — are placed behind the glass. “If you look through one of these windows, it’s a little scary or creepy.”
There are some perks. “The house is phenomenal. They have a Jacuzzi, a fantastic living area,” with a stainless-steel Olhausen pool table and furniture from Thrive Home Furnishings, which Storey personally customized for the show. “The furniture you see is unavailable to the general public. The way I’ve upholstered it is unique.”
The set designer — who has worked on the production for 10 seasons — took this season’s design inspiration from three places: the 1964 World’s Fair, Mad Men, and Catch Me If You Can’s opening credits, which has “all these fantastic arrows running across the screen.” Those arrows were incorporated into much of the house, from the interior’s front wall to the kitchen countertops and the diary room hallway. Another room, which he calls the “Frequent Flyer Lounge,” has airplane overtures as well. “This house is a little bit more masculine, a little bit more manly and grown-up. Last season’s house was very playful, young, and a little bit feminine. I do try and switch it up every season.”
The design team began work four months before guests moved into the home while a core crew of 12 executed their vision. Additional venders dropped by to lay carpet and install the fireplace and other necessities. “These people are locked in a house for 90 days and they need to brush their teeth and make their pancakes. It has to be a working home,” he says, though his goal is hardly to make guests feel at home. One new twist? “This year there are no single beds in the house. All the beds are double beds, full beds. So [during] move-in, everybody has to pick a bunkmate. What happens is they start realizing, ‘Wait a minute. I have to sleep with somebody who I just met,’ so there’s instant tension and story. Are the girls going to sleep together? Who’s going to sleep where? We did that to help motivate the story.”
Another surprise in store for fans is this season’s “Have-Not” room, where contestants are banished upon losing the “Have/Have Not” competition. “The ‘Have-Not’ room is the evilest room I’ve ever done,” he says, though he declined to get specific.
Fans will have to watch tonight’s Big Brother premiere (CBS, 8 p.m.) to see if it gets worse than last season’s poor accommodations and diet of anchovies and Swedish fish. In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of the new pad: