In just one week, the summer staple Big Brother is returning for its eighth season, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever before. The house is getting an extreme makeover, featuring some "fractured fairy tale" elements reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. "We've got a bedroom where you feel very big and a bedroom where you feel very small!" says executive producer Allison Grodner. "There is a room that has five beds, but essentially you are living in a dollhouse because all of the beds are only 5 feet long and all the chairs are child-size and low to the ground. So our 6-foot-plus contestants — and we have quite a few of them — are going to be quite uncomfortable. Then in the room that is oversized, to get to the top drawer of the dresser, you have to climb up steps. It is fun and a fantasy thing that brings you back to your childhood, but imagine living there for 80 days." [Check out TVGuide.com's exclusive gallery for an early look at the house.]
In addition to the thrice-weekly airings on CBS, fans can also track the houseguests via live feeds on the Internet or late-night feeds on Showtime Too. The Big Brother: After Dark airings on the cable net (midnight to 3 am nightly) will give TV watchers a look at some of the most talked-about moments of the summer. "It is another uncensored look," Grodner promises. "You don't have to have your computer, you don't have to subscribe [to the live feeds] to see what's going on in the house after dark. When the sun goes down and the competitions are over, you never know what happens in the Big Brother house. This is when we had the infamous catfight between Beau and Janelle; the Eric fight two seasons back; in Season 2 they played the hot-tub games in the nude.... You never know."
Sounds a lot like some of the content that airs during the prime-time versions on the racy counterparts across the pond! "These are things that sometimes you will see on [CBS], but most of the time it is stuff we really can't show," she continues. "At least here we have an outlet [on] Showtime. And since that's what people are expecting, no one will be offended."
While the late-night antics may be fun, there will still be lots of reasons to watch the prime-time installments, including the new interactive components. "This year, there will not be an America's Choice because America will be able to participate in the game like they never have before," Grodner teases. "It will be revealed at the end of the first episode, and you can hop on [the Internet] and get involved. I promise you, you've never heard of an interactive opportunity like this on a television show, because we're the only show — in the way that we are structured, being almost live — that can pull this off."
But what about those persistent rumors that some Big Brother alums may be joining the cast this year? "I thought that was [an] interesting [rumor]," Grodner says. "We did All-Stars last year, and that was the best of the best and we still love them. They did a great job. But we're starting with a clean slate. We're trying to create a group of new All-Stars for the future. At this point — at least in the cast — it is a group of new faces." Hmm... very interesting.
One thing Grodner can definitely confirm is that the dreaded food punishment from last season is rearing its oatmeal-like head again this season. "After the success of slop last year, we've decided we're doing it again. PB&J was like lobster compared to slop. They were living life easy."
All told, the game itself will stick to its familiar elements — Head of Household picks two players to be eliminated, they can win a power of veto — at least at the start. "It really isn't a structure that we like to mess with," she confirms. "We can certainly amp things up and the competition is always changing, there are new twists and turns, and come mid-season, there may be another curveball.... But all of that just adds to the soap opera and the competitive game elements."
The new season of CBS' Big Brother debuts Thursday, July 5,at 8 pm/ET.