Along with shows like “The Biggest Loser,” “Ugly Betty,” and “The Office,” The Big Debate is created by NBC Universal darling Ben Silverman for MSN Originals, Microsoft Network’s video channel. His online show is the perfect fix for everyone looking to get the latest scoop on Britney and TomKat but too sheepish to pick up an Us Weekly in the checkout line, since the show’s commentators use the day’s freshest gossip to debate the worth, talent, and personal virtues of various celebrities. Sherman’s company Reveille began production on The Big Debate at the start of the entertainment awards season in January 2007, but appeared to go on hiatus only two months after launching.
Staged like episodes of Crossfire, Big Debate is a gossip rag that presents the most contentious and buzz-worthy issues in pop culture as debated by two page-six addicts. During each episode, viewers are asked to weigh in on the issue, voting either side of debates as trivial as “Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart: Who takes the cake?” and as mildly thought-provoking as “Should celebrities preach their politics?” As the episode wears on, the “live” viewer poll sways back and forth with the efficacy of the arguments before revealing the total tally. Each crisply edited and fast-paced episode stresses the nitty-gritty details that keep Hollywood atwitter without taking itself too seriously. The glitz stays glorified and the depth is left for the real news to cover. But while Silverman boasts that the site has “the ability to capture the immediacy [of the entertainment world] and build a community dialogue,” the forums covering each debate are more like sounding boards than well thought-out conversations.
Leading up to the 2007 Superbowl, the show’s “Debate-A-Bowl” pitted Bears and Colts fans against each other. Who cares if the game discussion devolves into naughty puns and a debate over kegs vs. cans? These are fans slightly more accustomed to arguing the finer points of fashions than defensive lineups, but that’s exactly the kind of fun, fresh perspective that The Big Debate brings to the table.