A few years ago, former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels took some heat for calling contestants on the NBC show “monkeys.” Perhaps Michaels was just ahead of her time: Vulture has learned that later this month, cable network Nat Geo Wild will launch Big Baboon House, a reality show that is Big Brother with primates instead of troglodytes.
It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Producers tricked out a rural abode in a small South African village with all manner of AV equipment and one-way mirrors, and then, aping Big Brother, producers (led by Jon Kroll, veteran of Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and Amish in the City) gently prodded their simian “houseguests” to see what would happen when food, natural predators, and even a Christmas tree were introduced into the equation.
The producers’ most surprising discovery: These baboons might actually be better behaved than the human buffoons on reality shows. “I’ve worked with a lot of reality-show characters over the past ten years,” says Kroll, who exec produced the Nat Geo Wild series with Phil Fairclough (Grizzly Man). “But these baboons were the most sympathetic, engaging, and in many ways the most human of any of them.” To back up that claim, we asked Kroll to come up with some examples of how the monkeys in Big Baboon House may have outclassed some notable reality-show contestants from recent years. (You can judge the similarities between The Situation and the simians when all three hour-long episodes of Big Baboon House debut on Nat Geo Wild June 23 from 8 to 11 p.m.) And now we hand it over to Kroll for his Jane Goodall–like comparisons:
1. In Big Brother 2, the ultrahip “Chill Town” alliance fell victim to a coup by the underdog “TOP” coalition, causing Chill Town ringleader Mike Boogie to proclaim, “This is like some bad movie where the stars disappear and the extras take over.”
In Big Baboon House, Top Banana Rambo demonstrates a superior strategy when faced with a similar coup attempt by enlisting his henchman, Sonny, to “take out” his arch rival, Harry.
2. In The Great Food Truck Race, the crew from the Korilla Truck had to leave the show in disgrace when they were accused of cheating by adding money out of their pockets to their earnings … money that, it turned out, they did not need to add to avoid elimination.
In Big Baboon House, Rambo attempts to cheat to win the show’s first “Fork” food competition and is disqualified. But rather than leave the show in disgrace, he enjoys a “nooner” with his main squeeze Nookie in the Top Banana Suite.
3. In Amish in the City, the six city kids in the house received some unexpected visitors — five Amish youngsters who want to spend the summer with them. The cool kids’ initial response: They refused to let them in.
In Big Baboon House, the troop receives an unexpected visitor, Rikki the Mongoose. Their response: Come on in! Just stay away from our food.
4. In Top Chef, “mean girls” Heather and Sarah bullied and badgered wallflower Beverly, bringing her to tears, and refused to apologize when confronted by their peers.
In Big Baboon House, the dominant males may pick on Lefty, the one-armed lovable loner, but ultimately make him feel like part of the troop.
5. In Jersey Shore, the cast spends hours primping and grooming all over the house before going out for the night, leaving their place looking like a hurricane hit it.
In Big Baboon House, the cast spends hours defecating, urinating, and copulating all over the house before going out for the night, and yet still leave their place in better shape than the Jersey Shore house.