‘Big Brother’ premiere recap: Old-school ‘BB’
First, an introduction: I’m taking over the Big Brother watch from Lynette Rice this season, and I can only hope that I prove half as knowledgeable a recapper as she was. Lynette has moved from impersonally judging the housemates to judging them to their faces: She’ll be doing interviews with all the evictees every Thursday on EW.com.
My credentials are as follows: I have only missed one season, BB4. (And yes, that means that I saw every episode of the atrocity that was let-us-never-speak-of-it-again BB1. I will hold my own against anybody on Chiquita the Pug trivia.) I love this show in the same way a meth addict loves the pipe: I know it’s killing me slowly, but I gotta have more. But this season is a little different: Usually, upon the premiere of a new season of Big Brother, I am totally giddy. My remote hand shakes with the d.t.’s I’m suffering from ten months without triweekly fixes of the International House of Pinheads. But I was all thrown off this year, because of the great national shame that was Big Brother: ‘Til Death Do You Part. I no longer craved BB. Instead, I wanted it to earn back my love.
I’m happy to say that after watching the premiere, I am reservedly optimistic. It’s too early to really judge a cast; their true pathologies don’t often bloom until week 2. But they actually seem like a smarter, more interesting bunch. Again, I suppose that says more about the low bar of BB9 than anything else: Anytime you call a cast that includes a mixologist, a ”natural” body builder, and a Hooters waitress ”smarter and more interesting,” your perspective has clearly been messed with. I’m hardly the only one prone to hyperbole about the new cast; Julie Chen (whose poses and struts become more rigidly choreographed every season — this year she did a walk toward the camera that looked like she was on a high wire) described this crew as ”the most diverse group of houseguests who have ever played this game.” That’s pretty faint praise for this show; throw in one person with an IQ above 73 and you’ve already blown the usual BB curve to bits. Julie did note their one commonality: ”A burning desire to win the grand prize.” This is also different — usually the housemates just share a burning sensation when they pee.
NEXT: Meeting the players
The show began with the usual staged presentation of keys (complete with mock surprise) and profession-specific battle cries. For example, Dan the Catholic school teacher said, ”The other houseguests are gonna get schooled!” And Memphis the mixologist (don’t you dare call him a bartender or he will shove that swizzle stick right up your ass! The man finds new uses for Goldschläger and tiny plastic shark drink adornments. He is an artist. Nay, an artiste!) said, ”My street smarts and charm are gonna make the perfect cocktail.” And his arrogance and hair gel will make the perfect roach trap.
Some other choice intros: Angie referred to herself as ”the Asian sensation.” (What, no ”Indian who will win-dian”?) Then there was Michelle, who identified herself as Portuguese, as if we were all supposed to instantly recognize that as a loudmouthed ethnicity; I’m sorry, Michelle, but that’s a stereotype that hasn’t really made it out of Rhode Island. In fact, all I can really glean about her people from her intro is that Portuguese family members like to stick cupcakes onto each other’s noses. I guess that’s how you can tell them apart from Spanish people, who prefer to stuff whoopie pies in each other’s ears. What a world, huh?
Who else caught my eye? Well, there’s mom Libra, who has left her five-month-old twins and four-year-old daughter and yet showed less emotion in bidding them farewell than weepy Hooters girl Keesha did saying goodbye to her dog. We’ve got bodybuilder Jessie, who spoke about what a threat his physique was to others as if it were a pet snake. There’s gay rodeo star Steven, who, if he really wants to keep his sexuality under wraps, should perhaps not wear shirts emblazoned with the slogan ”Pure Gravy,” which, when he leaned forward and the shirt scrunched together, read ”Pure Gay.” And then there were the religious dudes of the house: preacher’s son Ollie and the aforementioned Catholic school teacher Dan. (Am I the only one who suffered a horrible flashback to last season’s Team Christ, which turned out to be the least pious team since the ’86 Mets?)The big difference between the two of them is that while Ollie has vowed to stay true to his word and his faith, Dan said that when things go down ”contradictory to my faith, I’ll go to confession and get that taken care of.” So confession is like a dose of penicillin?
But don’t think that just because Ollie doesn’t drink or smoke, he’s no fun at all. Nope, the man knows his way around a punchline. About naturally busty April, he said, ”The Lord has really blessed her, and I’m not talkin’ about her sneezing, neither!” and then doubled over at his own joke. He’s got a million of ’em, all culled from Kathie Lee Gifford’s Big Book of Hees, Has, and Hardy Har Hars.
NEXT: Respecting your elders
And then there is the 75-year-old Jerry, who says he hasn’t missed a single BB episode. This can’t be true: If it were, he would realize that a 75-year-old doesn’t have a chance of winning BB. Things are moving just as I’d thought they would for him, though: Whenever there’s someone even slightly older than the house’s usually twentysomething average — could be a mother or even just someone in their 30s — the rest of the younger, single, partying housemates always cheer the oldster’s introduction a little too loudly or otherwise overly patronize them (”Wow, that’s so great!”), all while subtly shimmying away so as not to get any old on them. They’ll all talk for a few weeks about how ”awesome!” said elder is, all while scrutinizing their every action for anything they can boot them over ”for their own good” and not feel guilty about it. This is usually, ”I think s/he misses his/her family, and needs to go see them,” or, if they so much as stumble during a challenge, ”I worry about his/her health in this house.”
When the house was told to instantly vote for the first head of household based on looks alone (as if BB houseguests ever vote using any other criteria), I knew Jerry was going to get it. It’s the first week, so they all can feel really good about themselves by voting for the kindly older gentleman. Jerry has clearly thought out a strategy, and I held out hope that maybe he’d be a shrewd player who surprised us by how savvy he was. Alas, then he went and told potential ally Brian that if either of them crossed their arms in an X (as in BB10, or BBX), it was the signal that they needed to talk in private. A Korean War veteran Marine couldn’t have come up with something less obvious than that? Why not just flick the giant ”BB’s Diner” sign on and off in Morse code to spell out, ”ALLIANCE MEETING AT NOON IN THE WEIGHT ROOM. BYO SLOP!”
As for the game, the first competition, ”Buggin’ Out,” had the group split into two teams, hanging upside down in VW Bugs on pulleys, and oh my God, I just got it! ”Buggin’ Out!”…They’re VW Bugs! That clinches it, BB is back and better than ever! Anyway, it was the usual loud, overproduced BB game, after which one team ended up on slop and Memphis won a vintage Camaro. But the pomp and circumstance of it impressed the houseguests: When they came out to the yard and saw the upside-down cars, the easily impressed Dan yelled, ”When have you ever seen that in your life?” Well, sure…but when have you ever wanted to?
NEXT: The sitting duck quacks
The inaugural competition over, it was time for the first round of backroom strategizing, kicked off at 8:34 by the traditional first utterance of the phrase ”Game on!” It was by Dan, who teamed with Brian in the usual ”bros before hos” handsome-dude bonding. Dan brought in Ollie, saying, ”I saw the blacks in his eyes, and I knew he was good for his word.” (Racist, or biologically accurate? Discuss!) Brian wants Jerry to think they’re a team, but only until ”the ship starts to sink, then the rats are the first to bail.” Odd that the Air Force guy would be so quick with a nautical metaphor, mangled or not.
Ultimately, whether through Brian’s influence or not, Jerry selected Jessie and Renny as his nominees. Oh, wait, I haven’t bothered to introduce Renny, have I? Renny looks like the ’70s variety-show puppet Madame came to life, à la Pinocchio. Every time she sat down, I was shocked to see that it wasn’t on Wayland Flowers’ lap. She is clearly the sacrificial older crazy person, a bats— contestant possibly put there as a decoy so the producers could keep Jerry around a little longer.
Renny fancies herself a party girl, but at age 53 she looks more like an extra from the movie Barfly. Every one of her sentences sounds like it should be followed by a deep drag on a cigarette and a drunken lunge to grab a young, scared boy’s ass. Everyone seemed to get tired of her pretty quickly, thanks to her odd choice to turn on the lights in the middle of the night and wheeze like a broken radiator when it was revealed that she was only locked into the room because she was pushing the door instead of pulling. I can imagine how jarring that must have been for everyone she woke up; hearing the crazed cackles of an older woman in satin PJs talking about how she has to ”put her face on,” they must have thought the BB house was being haunted by the ghost of Ethel Mertz.
Jessie (who seems to inflate another few psi every minute he’s on this show) needs his beauty sleep; if you saw his involuntarily twitching pecs at work, you know how exhausting that can be at the end of the day. He was not amused by Renny’s antics and told her so, to which she replied, ”Lighten up,” and ”I’d be embarrassed if he was my son.” (Does someone want to check in with her son right about now to discuss the concept of embarrassment?) Renny and Jessie’s squabbling gave Jerry an easy two to put up on the block without pissing anyone off. I think it’ll be Renny who goes, although the Brian-Dan-Ollie alliance could orchestrate a putsch to dump their manly competition, Jessie. Consider me intrigued. And then, when I remember the words ”I’m Natalie, and I’m into bikinis, coffee, and God!” I get much, much more intrigued by comparison. See you on Thursday for the post-eviction wrap-up.