Nina Tassler, president of entertainment at CBS, addressed reporters Wednesday (Jan. 15) at the 2014 TCA press tour and “Big Brother” was a hot topic of discussion after last season’s controversial cast members, which she says happened during a racially-charged summer in this country.
“I was mortified by the comments that Aaryn made,” says Tassler. “We also have to look at last summer as this sort of confluence of events between what was going on with Trayvon Martin, what was happening with Paula Deen. It was this extraordinary series of events that were dominating the news waves.”
But Tassler sticks by the way producers handled the off-color comments made by several contestants, since “Big Brother” at its core is a social experiment.
“You’re talking about people from very disparate walks of life and confining them in a house for a finite period of time,” says Tassler. “You have to recognize yes, this is that show. It is a social experiment.”
When pressed to answer about why Aaryn was made the face of the scandal even though other contestants were saying racial (and homophobic and misogynistic) things, Tassler says that the show doesn’t air controversial conversations just for the sake of airing them.
“When conversation makes its way into story, that is when it makes it to air. I think the producers handled it responsibly,” says Tassler. “It’s about story, it is a social experiment and people take that into account when they’re watching ‘Big Brother.'”
Tassler further defends the screening process, saying that they try to do their best during the casting process, but what a person is like in casting is sometimes very different from what comes out once he or she is in the “Big Brother” house.
“I sit in those auditions. You’re talking to people and you get one perspective on their personality,” says Tassler. “You ask probing questions and you develop an opinion about that person. You do the requisite background checks on everybody … but it’s not a science. You go into a season hoping you picked the right people. How someone comes off in a one-on-one interview … sometimes the way they behave in the context of that room is very, very different [from what you see on the show].”
What do you think? Does Tassler have a point? You can read our thoughts on the subject here. “Big Brother” returns summer 2014.