Let’s get something out of the way up front: Big Brother is one of the worst shows on all of television. The people who compete on it? Even worse. BB is typically filled with ignorant, shallow, and emotionally stunted dolts who might look good bathing out in the Los Angeles sun but don’t appear to be able to do much else. Which is actually a good thing considering Big Brother asks them to sit around a house/set, talk themselves in circles for 24 hours a day, and once in a while, take part in a “competition” that usually involves A) embarrassing costumes B) single entendres and C) shockingly inane trivia.
So, to review: Big Brother is simply the worst. And I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.
Somehow, I’ve seen nearly every single episode of the show’s previous 13 seasons, with my attention wavering only during the WGA strike-induced winter season that involved couples and a winner who is—surprise—a horrible person. I’m not such an egomaniac that I’d call myself a Big Brother expert, but suffice it to say I’ve spent a great deal of my short life using terms like “HoH” and “Power of Veto” with a straight face.
In any event, I’m really happy to be able to talk about the show’s premiere with you folks because the beginning of any Big Brother season—or that of any competition reality show for the matter—is crucial to its long-term health. As much as the producers want to mix things up with new (also: dumb, desperate) gimmicks to keep the gameplay fresh (read: fall apart less than halfway through the season), it’s the casting that matters most here.
If it seems like there are compelling personalities, people I can love or people I can complain about endlessly on Twitter, I’m sold on a season from the jump. If the cast isn’t too engaging, it’s much easier to start spending more time worrying about who picked out the Chenbot’s wardrobe or whether or not the competition buzzer we hear on televised episodes is actually what the competitors hear. Trust me, you don’t want to be thinking about the buzzer longer than you have to, it leads to dark places—like thinking about applying to be on Big Brother in order to learn the true answer.
Therefore, it’s pretty easy for me to say that this season is, at least right now, on the right track. The show's new blood is typical BB: A bunch of young white people filling surface demographics like Nerd (Ian); Punk/Rocker (Jenn); Gay (Jenn and Wil With One L...I think it’s on his birth certificate like that); Slightly Old Person Who Can At Some Point Say, “Wow, These Kids!” (Joe); Token Minority (Jodi); and Blankly Attractive (Everyone Else). I guess you could say that the casting department mixed things up this season by latching onto two more recent trends with JoJo, an abrasive bartender from Staten Island, and Willie Hantz, brother of Survivor’s uber-villain Russell. Progress!
The cast introductions are always my favorite part of the premiere episode, because I can never get enough of forced, edited-to-death false shock that transitions into didactic, surface explanations of one’s life. So Danielle’s classic “I’m a southern girl” routine about loving makeup and shopping and Kara’s subtext-fueled “Hey, I’m a model and all these are just my girlfriends and not fellow Playboy Playmates” are right in my wheelhouse. It’s during these introductions that I pick who I’m going to root for. That process might seem flawed, but I like to analyze my Big Brother like most contestants play it. So, solely based on the 45 seconds we spent with them at the beginning, I’m all-in on: Frank (He’s unemployed, and in this economy! It’s topical!), Ashley (“People like to think I’m dumb, but I graduated from a Big Ten school”...so I could start my own traveling spray-tanning business), and Willie (I’m ready for the Hantz redemption story, y’all).
Once the houseguests made it to the house, things were immediately less interesting. This cast doesn’t seem particularly cut-throat, which is both good and bad, and this season’s big twist was hanging over the proceedings like one of those massive, whipped cream-covered bananas these goofballs will eventually have to slide around on.
About the twist: I like it. I understand the frustration with reality competition shows constantly bringing back old contestants, especially in consecutive seasons, and I’m terrified of what could happen if Mark Burnett watches this season of BB and decides that Survivor needs coaches. Nevertheless, Big Brother is such a psychologically draining game—well, it helps when you cast people with mush for brains—and allowing folks who have faced that grind before to come back puts additional pressure on the newbies.
Fans are really annoyed with Big Brother because the show has drawn from this well on multiple occasions lately. Last season’s inclusion of older houseguests was train-wreck television at its finest, with Evel Dick leaving in the first week and the miserable Jeff/Jordan and Brendon/Rachel pairings so heavily dominating every single thing that happened between all other houseguests.
With that in mind, it was smart to bring back older players as coaches. It keeps that veteran gimmick alive without, theoretically, allowing those former houseguests the opportunity to influence and/or poison everyone else. With Big Brother, you never know how things are going to work moving forward, as it seems like year after year, twists and gimmicks get blown up way earlier than the producers want, but the four people the show has brought back for this season are diverse players (who apparently spent all their post-BB time getting hitched and having babies, thus creating tangible reasons for why they returned to the show—goodness, these people are smart).
Obviously, everyone’s mileage varies—but I have loads of affection for Mike Boogie (ChillTown, bro), and Dan is probably one of the most likable, normal, and admirable people who’s ever been on the show. I personally hate Janelle but she’s a tremendous pick to be a coach. Britney was the one weak link in the coach cohort and her team won this first competition, alleviating some of my fears.
Plus, already in the first episode, the show is already reaping the benefits of the coach set-up. The school-yard draft should have included more diary room explanations for why certain people were chosen, but it was still an entertaining little exercise. And Dan having to evict one of his team members after the first competition set a harsh tone for what’s to come. It’s supremely unfortunate that the one black person was eliminated before the game really started, but now the houseguests should be more aware that while this game is unbelievably stupid, it can all come to an end really quickly. Let’s hope this season’s intrigue doesn’t end any time soon.
– The chatter about Willie being Russell’s brother was a welcome occurrence for me. I don’t want to spend six weeks with people whispering or Willie yelling into the camera about it.
– Acknowledge CBS’s shameless Hantz obsession and move on. Get to know Willie, or vote him out.
– I was a bit disappointed that the first competition didn’t require the houseguests to hang onto something inappropriately shaped while chocolate rained from the heavens. Then I saw that everyone was in pajamas and running for stuffed animals and everything was right in my world.
– The layout and design of the house looks very similar to what we’ve seen for the last handful of years, which is disappointing to me.
– Mike Boogie looks old, Janelle looks Janelle-y. And be honest: Did you even remember Britney? Season 12 was a bit of a non-starter and almost entirely defined by its male houseguests. So, you know, it makes complete sense to bring back a female.
– Raise your hand if you lost a few days off your life when Rachel’s face flashed across the screen as Julie described the coach twist. I may have thrown a remote through my TV were she back again. And then I would have gone out and bought a new TV before Sunday, so that I'd be able to watch and complain about her more.
– Which team—or individuals—looks the most primed to dominate? I thought Dan’s team of all ladies had a good chance but it’s clear that they will struggle with challenges (assuming things stay the same). Mike and Janelle’s teams are well-balanced. Kara is my early favorite.
What do you think of the new crop?