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Big Brother plans to pull out all the stops for its 20th anniversary season, which premieres Wednesday on CBS. But one stop it will not be pulling is bringing in any returning players to compete for the $500,000 prize.
The last three non-celebrity editions of the program (seasons 18, 19, and the Over the Top CBS All Access edition) each featured one to four returning players competing against newbies. Last season, Paul Abrahamiam was able to enter and play when one of the new contestants (Kevin Schlehuber) was tempted into accepting a $25,000 cash prize that — unbeknownst to Kevin — allowed Paul into the game.
But there will be no such shenanigans this season. That’s according to executive producer Allison Grodner, who called into EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) to preview the new season. We asked Grodner about whether there could once again be returning players secretly showing up again to compete, and she was emphatic in her response.
“No, there will be not, says Grodner. “I can confirm there will not be. It’s different. We always try to mix it up and keep it fresh and this year, as you’ve already seen, there are 16 brand new houseguests that will be playing this game.” Of course, that doesn’t mean former players may not show up in the house from time to time for other purposes. “Now it is the 20th season,” notes Grodner. “It’s our 20th anniversary of Big Brother so there will be nods to our history and our past houseguests from the get-go. You will see that in the show and throughout the summer.” (Get ready for your close up, Mr. Pec-Tacular!)
That’s not all that Grodner spilled. The new contestants have actually been in the house since last Wednesday, June 20. So what has the EP seen from them so far? “We have a lot of super-fans in the house. A lot of very smart people. It’s interesting to see once again how the game just sort of takes off for the beginning.”
No surprise here, but Grodner says that the drama has already begun. “There’s already divisions in the house,” she confirms. “There’s already power shifts. There’s people that are rubbing each other the wrong way — just like every summer, but it’s different. Right now you get the usual right at the beginning, ‘Oh, we all are so nice, we’re all going to get along!’ And it just changes so fast. It’s inevitable that the first day everyone moves in and there’s that comment, ‘Look at this, we’re a great group. We’re going to have such a fun summer. Everybody’s going to like each other and get along. It’s going to be a party!’ And then instantly once someone wins a power or once someone starts to play the game, things change.”
Gordner also shed some more light on exactly how the new twist of the BB App Store will work. Is it a form of America’s Choice, where viewers would vote advantages and disadvantages to players?
“It is sort of a spin on that,” says Grodner. “It’s a bit different, though. In this case, people will go online and they complete a survey with questions about the houseguests that will result in some houseguests trending the most and some houseguests trending the least. And, in that case, the houseguests will go one at a time into the App Store, similar to last year, but instead of people voting people to have certain powers, the people that are trending the most based on the survey will have access to choose certain powers. So it’s a little different. I think in this way it sort of gives the houseguests some outside information they’ve never had — who might be popping more and who might be popping least. They will get that feedback depending on whether they were given a power or a punishment in the App Store.”
Expect that feedback to come and fast and furious once the show premieres on Wednesday.