Big Brother Canada is Dead

... maybe

A week and a half ago, Blackberry, Matt Johnson’s 2023 film about the rise and fall of Research in Motion, set records by winning 13 awards at The Canadian Screen Awards. When star Jay Baruchel was up on stage he said, “I think there is an ideology in this country that you can’t make the things you want, and that it’s not possible to stay in Canada. I want to tell you that it’s all in your head.” Lost in the week of Canadian accolades and pats on our backs and actually some Big Brother Canada nominations in the reality categories was that, apparently, BBCAN may be done for good.

Kevin and Haleena

I’m a little choked up about it. Can you blame me? (Global)

I don’t know if it is actually done or if my little rant is going to look stupid in light of a revival or a renewal or something else. Whatever the future holds, Big Brother Canada proved Baruchel right. You could make good TV and films north of the border.

Before we get into it, at the time of me writing, this internet hubbub has come out of a blog post where a Corus exec (which owns the GlobalTV network) supposedly said that Big Brother Canada is “shelved” for now, which in Canada speak, tends to mean the show is done, or in BBCAN speak, something like “I promise, you are going home!

If that’s the end of the ride, well, I don’t have any more insights than that blog reporting this, but what I do have, is a unique perspective as a recent winner. So if this is the end, which I really don’t know if it is, here are my thoughts about one of the most interesting reality TV shows of all time and its impact on culture in Canada and beyond.


-Jay Baruchel

You may or may not be a BBCAN fan if you’re reading this, and if you’re not, you’re almost certainly a fan of reality TV strategy. The gameplay on this show was SICK. For people like us who love strategy, this was one of the most complex versions of reality TV games where people get voted out and then a jury picks the winner.

Spoilers ahead but you had Jon viciously cutting Neda after working together all of season two; you had Kevin Martin study the comp structure to hack the game to win in season five; season six had no big alliances with every player playing the middle, or trying, and the one who played the middle the best, Paras, winning; season nine had one of the most cutthroat moves of all time when Jedson was convinced to use the veto on his showmance and then his allies sent him packing (deemed “The Trapdoor”); season ten had a Russian roulette gummy bear draw that led to an eviction; we just saw a returnee twist in twelve where the person who navigated it best ended up a lot more like Ian Terry and a lot less like Natalie Tenerelli.

Tychon season 9

Sometimes the coldest moves get the biggest wins, like for Tychon (Global)

Flip-flopping and discussing strategy in depth became a staple. In week one of BBCAN5, a last minute vote flip kept Demetres in the house. He and Ika would end up as the strategic powerhouses of the season and actually got married a few weeks ago. This minor strategic move changed their lives. There was a power to razor thin decisions that reverberated throughout seasons and years.

The strategy could be a book on its own, but the tone really made this show different. It was highly competitive and corny and generally good-hearted. Despite the collective Canadian chip on our shoulders that often makes us hide our Canadiana in media, this show was so stupidly Canuck that the first HOH of season two involved an endurance competition where people just stood on ice.

And that’s just one example of comps that were some of the most ambitious in television on a Slice of the budget. The themes were pervasive and production wasn’t afraid to take risks. This year’s Movie Night Massacre could have been a backdoor pilot for a new competitive reality TV format, and it was done with the same vigour (usually we spell the American way here, not today though) as the rest of the grandiose competitions and twists and corniness and melodrama as the whole show.

The casts were filled with people you wouldn’t see anywhere else. And most of the players weren’t in it for social media followings or to try to get on their next show or launch a TV career. To me there is nothing wrong with those things but it was certainly refreshing to get away from the models and actors that pervade much of reality TV. I have a friend in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and a friend in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, six thousand kilometres (3700 miles) apart, which is only possible through this weird little big show that did its thing.

You might be someone reading this who was part of the campaign to bring the show back after season five when Rob, Taran, and team helped lead the social media campaign to get a renewal. For that I thank you. If you’re someone who just got on board for the last season or never watched a season or the person who started the most recent petition because she wants to live out her dream on this show, thank you too, for engaging with reality TV in a way that is only possible in Big Brother.

Sabrina BBCAN2

We got good TV (Global)

And if you’re someone who is dunking on the show for being cancelled because of live feeds, well, thank you too for engaging. In a show about people of different backgrounds living together and trying to find common ground in a zero-sum game where only one person can win, things didn’t always go right. I may be singing this show’s praises but it had challenges. There were fights that got personal and ejections and people quitting and a global pandemic and controversy and some WILD social media around it and that’s just reality. You’re going to have different opinions from people and this show actually said that’s ok. They were willing to take big swings every year.

If you think it got put on hiatus - if it even is on hiatus - because of a lack of live feeds you’re not paying attention. Canadian TV is COMPLICATED. And if you disagree with that statement, that’s ok too. Some people said I was the best of all time at this show and some said I looked like an uglier and luckier Buster Bluth and what mattered was that people cared!! *and that Tony Hale is a treasure.

Two people could watch this show and have three opinions and to me, that’s good TV.

Arisa is one of the great TV hosts of all time. No question. I was lucky enough to see this in action both from a houseguest’s perspective and from an audience member’s perspective. It’s rare for a host to care about the show as much as she did so it was no surprise when she was made EP in season nine. BBCAN paved the way for 50% BIPOC casts a few months before CBS made their announcement that they were doing it for Survivor and Big Brother US and that’s just another example of BBCAN’s willingness to do their own thing and be a leader.

Arisa is the face of Big Brother Canada and she is also a stand-in for the producers and teams and execs that believe it or not, actually cared about this show, many all the way from season one. This show was many folks’ livelihood and many people who worked on it were huge fans of reality television and were not some faceless corporate conglomerate amoebas that some think exist out there.

Bayleigh post-win (Global)

In what could only happen on BBCAN, in a 9.98 million km2 country  (3.86 million square miles), a pair of exes won season 11 and season 12. Bayleigh ends up as the reigning champ, and in a show where big characters are often strategic powerhouses, she’s a fantastic exemplar as the last winner. The great thing about Bayleigh is her strategy was simply to be herself.

Be herself? What? This person came in, said she is who she is, and houseguests had no choice but to deal with it. And part of the beauty of this show was that you could see yourself in a way you couldn’t in other Big Brother franchises. We didn’t get the Canadian Paul this season; we got the triumphant return of our Anthony who carved his own path, again.

Like I mentioned, the show went on hiatus, or was shelved, or whatever, after season five as well. The fans rallied and it was revived for another seven seasons. While there isn’t the same social presence there once was, I don’t think it’s out of the question that we’ll see a return someday, or even in the next year or two. We’ve seen hiatuses in the UK and Australia that would give way to reboots.

Above all, this show showed that Canadian and international content can be on par or better than the US. When BBCAN was at its best, it was some of the best competitive reality TV, globally. Much of The Confessional’s readership is from the US, which is undoubtedly the locus of reality television. But if you’re not paying attention to the great shows around the globe, you’re missing out. Australian Survivor had one of the great tribal councils of all time in their own Heroes v Villains. International versions of the Traitors are showing up and doing damage - I hear the UK version is crushing it. And speaking of the UK, that BBUK reboot provided some of the best reality television of 2023.


Big Brother Canada was a heck of a program. If not to you, at least to me. It was a fantasy land where I played around and walked away with a six figure paycheque (ok, paycheck!). Many folks have reached out to me saying that their dream is to play this game and now they may not be able to. My advice is the advice that someone gave me before I got cast. Go live a life so interesting that they’ll have no choice but to put you on.

The thing about that advice is that if this is your dream, even with the show maybe going away, if you go and live your real life as if it was your only shot, you can’t lose. Your life will either be so good and interesting and exciting that you won’t even want your old dream, or they’ll be forced to put you on the BBCAN reboot or even another show you dream about. That’s the secret of that advice, you’ll live so well and so fully that your real life becomes the dream, not the show you want to go on. Alright, we’re getting sappy here so let’s wrap this up.

If this really is the last we hear of this beloved show - 12 seasons is rare for a Canadian series, never mind a reality TV show. We’ll see what the legacy becomes but I have a feeling the inspiration will last and it will sound something like this:

We could and we did.

And we will.


What are your favourite international (non-US) reality shows? What are your thoughts on BBCAN’s apparent hiatus? Sound off in the comments.

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