Most reality shows are deceiving. While the airing of a season can span a few months, most shows, like Survivor and Drag Race, are actually filmed in about four or five weeks. Big Brother, however, is a completely different scenario. The show is filmed in real-time thanks to over 80 HD cameras installed throughout the famous house on the CBS lot.
This means that if a season of Big Brother airs over the course of three months, the contestants are actually in that house for three months. While season 10 was the show’s shortest season, at just 71 days, some seasons of the show pushed contestants to the very limit with marathon stays in the house.
10 Seasons 2-5 – 82 Days Each
There was a period in the early years of Big Brother where CBS had developed a rather routine roadmap for the show to follow, resulting in a steady line of seasons that all required a standardized length of time. This is largely due to there being a lot fewer twists and surprises in the earlier seasons as things like double evictions and re-entry into the house weren’t yet happening as much.
However, these early seasons did provide some of the best drama in the entire series, most notable were the twins Adria and Natalie, who swapped places and tricked the houseguests for half a season, and the infamous eviction of Danielle Reyes, who lost the finale after her vicious confessional videos were shown to the jury of former housemates.
9 Season 22 (All-Stars) – 85 Days
Season 22 served as the second installment of the All-Star series, which brings back fan-favorite contestants to re-compete for a chance to win it all. The season brought back notable contestants from season 6 through 21.
The season also became the fourth time that fan-favorite Janelle Pierzina entered the BB House. However, it also served as Janelle’s worst-performing season so far, with her being evicted in the third week, spending less than a month in the house. On Day 85, season 16’s Cody Calafiore was crowned the winner.
8 Season 1 – 88 Days
Surprisingly, season 1 of America’s Big Brother remains the eighth longest in the show’s history. After the runaway success of the Big Brother reality series in the Netherlands in 1999, countries around the world scrambled to make their own versions. The UK and US were two of the first to join the game, launching their first seasons in 2000.
Season 1 also holds a few notable distinctions. The season’s winner, Eddie McGee, was only 21 years old when he won. He shares the distinction of being the youngest Big Brother winner ever with season 14’s Ian Terry, who was also 21. McGee is also the only amputee to ever win.
7 Season 15 – 90 Days
When season 15 aired in 2013, it became the longest to that point as it was the first season to reach the 90-day milestone. Unfortunately, the season was also marred by racism and homophobia. Contestant Aaryn Gries made it to day 70 in the house, and throughout her time on Big Brother, she repeatedly made racist and homophobic comments and taunted players of color.
Upon her exit interview with Julie Chen, she denied being a bigot…which prompted Chen to then read her comments aloud. When Aaryn said she didn’t remember saying those things, the audience audibly laughed. The season launched a national conversation about the Big Brother franchise and diversity and equality within the walls of the BB House.
6 Season 19 – 92 Days
Season 19 was somewhat of a dark and cringe-worthy season. Making matters worse was that it went on for an agonizing 92 days. The season was filled with what many viewers consider to be awful people. First off, there was Raven, the girl who claimed to have every illness and ailment known to man and later went to say that she was pulling the strings in the Big Brother house (despite only coming in 6th place).
There was also Megam, who fans disliked because she decided to walk away from the show after the second episode. And then there was Paul Abrahamian, who became one of the most hated houseguests ever. Paul was a diva, an egotist, and regularly used anyone he could to get his way. By the end of season 19, fans (and his housemates) had had enough.
5 Season 16 – 97 Days
Season 16 is probably best known as the season where Ariana Grande’s brother, Frankie, competed. However, the season was also Nicole Franzel’s first foray into the Big Brother universe. Since then, she’s also competed on Big Brother 18, where she won, and again on season 22 All-Stars.
However, Franzel has become a controversial houseguest after she mocked one of her autistic housemates, Ian Terry, in season 22. Running for 97 days, season 16 became the longest Big Brother season at the time of airing.
4 Season 17 – 98 Days
Season 17 is considered one of the best Big Brother seasons in recent years. The season was filled with excellent houseguests and twists that added to the game. The twin twist was brought back and once again added a juicy secret to the show.
It was also a historic season for introducing the first transgender houseguest, Audrey Middleton. However, since her time on the show, Middleton has come forward and slammed CBS, stating that they strongly encouraged her to come out as trans on the show, fearing that otherwise, the network would look transphobic.
3 Season 20 – 99 Days
Season 20 lasted 99 days, which is the longest amount of time any season has run so far in the series. This made for great television as season 20 had some of the biggest fights in Big Brother history. Most notable in the season’s cast was JC, a dancer from Florida, who many fans reported for sexual misconduct.
Since Big Brother is filmed live, fans can watch an online video feed 24/7. On these feeds, JC was seen touching and kissing a fellow housemate while they were sleeping. The show’s producers eventually had to release a statement stating that they spoke with JC and the victim about the incident.
2 Season 21 – 99 Days
Season 21 also lasted 99 days and served as a major watershed moment for the series. Once again, the season was populated with a mostly white, mostly straight cast, and once again, bullying, racism, and sexism marred the season’s reputation. The season’s cast was largely disliked by viewers and at points in the show, producers had to intervene and warn players about their comments.
This all led to an extremely awkward finale where these issues were addressed by Julie Chen and the evicted houseguests. When Jackson Michie was finally revealed to be the winner, he didn’t exit the house in celebration, but in solemn disappointment, as if he knew his reputation was forever going to be marred by his actions.
1 Season 18 – 99 Days
Season 18 was the first to hit 99 days. It combined new contestants with returning houseguests. In an era when Big Brother seasons were commonly getting called out for controversies, season 18 served as a more tamed experience and allowed audiences to focus more on the game than the players’ actions.
Season 18 was also loaded with twists, likely due to the producers attempting to stir up trouble in an otherwise subdued season. However, this didn’t stop the season from creating some very likable houseguests and unintentionally funny moments.