In her most candid interview yet, Big Brother executive producer Allison Grodner tells EW.com about the show's first-ever winter edition (debuting tonight on CBS), whether we'll ever see the end of those tiresome Q&A competitions, and if it's high time to change the food penalty (goodbye, slop; hello, Madagascar cockroaches?).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you shocked to be on the air in February?
ALLISON GRODNER: I'm still in denial. It's not happening, is it? I'm not really going to do this, am I?
Do you feel like you had to rush this special winter edition because of the writers' strike?
You know, no. The idea that this could happen has been in the works for a while. So casting was started quite early on this, but you know, with anything, it always comes down to the wire, no matter what. So it feels no different, to be honest. We've had plenty of time to put the house together, and it's a whole different look that we're really liking.
Will it still be on three days a week?
That would probably be a better question for the network. At this point, we are planning for three days a week, as we always do, and have heard nothing to make us think that that won't happen.
Will we see another America's Player a houseguest who follows the directions of the viewers at home, unbeknownst to the other players?
There isn't a way to do America's Player the same way twice. It's just not possible, because people coming in will be expecting that and will change their behavior in the house and the way they play the game. That doesn't mean America will not interact with the game. There certainly will be ways this season that the viewers will be able to be a part of the game, as they've been in the past.
Will you give us an update on the infamous Donato Family from last season?
Oh, sure. It's always fun to do a where are they now look back. They're still running around and doing their thing. We've got hookups that broke up and hookups that stayed together...and new hookups! Lots of news to report. That cast continues to surprise us, even after they're out of the house.
Will you be more diligent this season to penalize houseguests who break the rules?
Well, that penalty nomination [automatically putting a rule-breaker up for eviction] always looms. We still like to leave that as a producer's prerogative, at the producer's discretion [according to] how big is the offense.... Certainly, last year, a lot of those questions came up with the penalty nomination potentially for Jen, with her breaking [the all-slop diet] and eating. And honestly, we reserve the right at this point to still keep that in as producer's discretion [as to] when we use it.
EW.com readers have sent in a lot of suggestions on how you can improve the show. Here's one: Would you forbid houseguests from discussing nominations before they actually happen?
We would love that, but it's a hard thing to police. It's something we'd like to enforce a little bit better in this season. It would help the show tremendously if there was a way to keep that under wraps. So we continue to brainstorm that.
Do the competitions favor the young?
Oh, gosh, no. There are a lot of quiz-related things. Certainly, we like to keep things active in the endurance competitions. But look how far [last season's winner] Dick went in that final competition. That was brutal. He's not a fit guy by any means, and I think he held up obviously better than [his daughter and runner-up] Daniele did and better than probably many of the younger people would have.
NEXT PAGE: ''Peanut butter and jelly creates a situation where people get lethargic, whereas at least slop is protein-fortified and nutritionally balanced.''