Friday, July 13, 2007

"Big Brother 8," season opener, Thursday, July 5, 2007

It happened as I was chatting online.

“Brad! Did you know Big Brother is starting again tonight?” my online friend—and fellow Big Brother fanatic—Missy asked.

Nope, like many other aspects in my life (but that’s a totally different blog ...), I didn’t have a clue. But I quickly popped a blank tape into the VCR, and tuned into CBS.

Not that I usually admit it openly, but I’ve been a regular watcher of “Big Brother” since the show’s second season. That’s the season that introduced us to Will, AKA “The Puppet Master,” as well as the buff Hardy, the way cool Monica (or “Monya”), Bunky (I’m hoping that’s a nickname and not his real name...), the dual-ponytailed Nicole (who reminded me of a Cabbage Patch doll gone bad), and more.

Yeah, I know. Rumor has it I need to get a life.

But what can I say, I’m hooked. Maybe I’ll join a 12-step group for reality shows after this season, but for right now, on to “Big Brother 8.”

If you don’t know the premise of “Big Brother,” people apply to take part in a reality TV show where they get locked in a house (and backyard) with total strangers. Kind of like “Survivor”—without the island, the immunity idol, or host Jeff Probst. But, have no fear, the lovely Julie Chen more than fills Jeff’s role.

The “Big Brother 8” house is equipped with 51 cameras, 74 microphones, and this season, 14 contestants. Each week, the contestants will compete for food, luxuries and power, as well as evict one of the houseguests each week. The last person left will win 1/2 million dollars.

We are then introduced to this season’s “houseguests.” They are: Jessica, a student; Nick, a former pro football player; Eric, a talent management assistant; Daniele, a waitress; Dick, a bar manager who refers to himself as “Evil Dick” (yes, you’re thinking what I’m thinking ... ), Jen, a nanny; Mike, a painting contractor; Kail, a business owner and mother of three; Joe, a receptionist; Carol, a student; Amber, a cocktail waitress and single mother; Zach, a graphic designer; Dustin, a shoe salesman; and Jameka, a school counselor.

At the house, we find eleven of the houseguests are gathered outside the front door. Julie announces they will have only one minute to choose a bed by placing their suitcase on it, and they will enter in three groups chosen at random.

Like previous “Big Brother” digs, this one is funky looking, too. There are some very tall beds, some round beds and some very uncomfortable-looking tiny beds. (Especially when you’re 6’3” like myself!) There’s then a get-to-know-you session. It would probably take me a month to remember everyone’s name, but considering it took me 2 years to learn my own name, a month’s just a drop in the bucket.)

But, as with previous “Big Brother” seasons, there’s a twist. (Come on, there’s ALWAYS a twist.) Astute readers will note that I said earlier there were 14 contestants, but then I mentioned that 11 people entered the “Big Brother” house. So, what happened to the other three? Abducted by aliens? Shipped off to compete on “Survivor” instead? Off to work the Slurpee machine with Elvis in Akron, Ohio?

Not quite.

The three houseguests—Dustin, Jessica and Dick—were moved in earlier in the day and are secretly living upstairs in the Big Brother abode.

And here, blog readers, is where Big Brother really puts in a twist: Each of the three will be spending the summer in the house with someone from their past.

The three get to watch the other guests on camera, and we learn: Dustin’s ex, Joe, is downstairs; as well as Dick’s daughter, Daniele—with whom he hasn’t spoken to in two years. And then we have Carol, Jessica’s rival from high school. (Says Jessica, “She owed me $5 one time.” Reminds me of the John Cusack movie, “Better Off Dead,” where a determined paperboy haunts his customers for payment ... “...$2! I want my $2!”)

Only the 11 contestants downstairs—who are still unaware of the other three-will be competing in the first Head of Household competition. The winner of this competition, also known as “HOH,” is free from eviction, and they also get their own private room. The HOH must also nominate 2 housemates for eviction. Julie announces they will have 30 seconds to chose a partner, and the one who cannot find a partner cannot compete in the HOH competition. Nick doesn’t wind up with a partner and says he didn’t want to win the first HOH competition.

The HOH competition is called “Mushroom Madness.” One person on the 2-person team is asked a true or false question about their housemates. If they answer incorrectly, the mushroom the other contestant is sitting on spins faster and faster. (Frankly, I’d kick butt in that contest. I’m used to being dizzy). While the mushrooms are spinning, the players are pelted with a substance with corn in it. Then Julie announces there will be no more questions, but the mushrooms will continue to spin faster and faster. While they’re still spinning, the players are then pelted with powder. At the end of the competition, Kail and Eric are victorious, even though Eric tried to answer the questions wrong because he didn’t want to win the first HOH competition. (Yup, he has my kind of luck.)

Julie then announces to the three still hidden upstairs they are safe from eviction for this week and the three get to decided who will become the HOH. They pick Kail, since she spun on the mushroom, while Eric only had to answer the questions. Julie then announces to the 11 houseguests that there are three other people who are living in the house, and they are not strangers to some of them, that it’s a person from their past. “It could be a rival, an ex, or simply the last person you’d ever want to be locked in the house with.”

The 11 take stabs at guessing who might be upstairs, and when Joe mentions Dustin, he blurts out Dustin gave him an sexually-transmitted disease. (Dustin denies it.) Makes you want to sing, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you,” doesn’t it?

After seeing “Evil Dick,” who reminds me of Lex from “Survivor” with his tattoos and wild hair, his distraught daughter Daniele has to leave the room, where she is then comforted by several of the houseguests.

“Big Brother” introduces still another twist (I’m getting whiplash here, guys). This season, one of the houseguests—Eric—has been chosen “Americas Player” and will follow the show’s viewing audience’s instructions throughout the game. We can tell him who to vote for, who to target for nomination, etc. Beginning Sunday, viewers will be able to send him directions via text message or online at For every five tasks he completes, Eric will earn $10,000. Not too shabby!

For those who can’t enough of the show, they can have an uncensored look on “Big Brother After Dark” airing live each night from midnight-3 a.m. on Showtime Too. Or they can log on to and subscribe to the live 24-hour Internet feed. (OK, I’m addicted, but I’m not THAT addicted.)

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