But the CBS reality lockdown still features a house full of losers, says Ken Tucker

By Ken Tucker
July 12, 2001 at 12:00 PM EDT
Big Brother 2: Tony Esparza/CBS
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Sex has made ”Big Brother” more obvious

In the summer of creepy reality shows, it’s obvious that the fear factor is running highest behind the scenes on CBS’ ”Big Brother 2,” which began its three-times-a-week schedule last week (”BB” airs July 10, 12, and 14 at 8 p.m.). Last summer’s ”Big Bro” was widely panned as tedious, though how that could be said of a show featuring, however briefly, a member of the New Black Panther Party, I dunno. Still, CBS has wrested control of ”Big Brother 2” away from its creator, the diabolical Jan de Mol (who also brought us ”Spy TV” and ”Chains of Love”), and handed it over to producer Arnold Shapiro, who’s been busy promoting ”BB2” as containing more conflict and more sex.

Having watched the first two episodes, I’d say Shapiro has succeeded, but in such a blatantly obvious way that it insults our… well, I’d say intelligence, but that isn’t the human quality that makes us watch stuff like this. Rather, it insults our crass craving to see other people make fools of themselves. The new ”Brother” stacks its dozen-person deck with a Southern bigot, Kent, who’s openly homophobic and whose way of forming an ”alliance” (”Survivor”’s enduring contribution to middle American pop-psych speak) by saying to a couple of the men, ”These chicks ain’t chicks, they’re guys…. They’re out to cut our nuts off.” Wish I could sneak in and hand a machete to the first woman willing to carry out this notion on Kent.

Interestingly, though, Kent’s ”these chicks are men” comment was echoed by ”BB2”’s designated babe, a realtor named Shannon, who said Saturday, ”I have a lot of male energy. My attitude [toward men] is ‘TAA”’ — her abbreviation for ”good teeth, ass, and attitude.” Combine this with the fact that Shannon is the first ”BB” participant eager to show off her wares in a thong bathing suit, and you know the producers are going to do everything they can to keep her around to goose the already mediocre ratings (the hour-long premiere came in second to a ”Friends” rerun and — whaddya know — ”Spy TV”).

”BB2” seems rigged. It’s cast for maximum conflict, with contestants encouraged to flaunt their most objectionable flaws — or strengths — depending on how you look at them. Most curious is Bunky (no last names on this show, remember). He’s gay, but he hasn’t come out to everyone in the locked-down house yet; instead, he’s using his sexuality as a weapon: He goes literally sobbing to various women in the house, saying that Kent’s gonna vote him out because of his homosexuality, which of course inspires a warm hug and assurance that he’s loved here in the prison that eventually leads one winner to half a million bucks.

In his own way, Bunky is as obnoxious as Kent: They’re both guys exploiting others to bend them to their will. Add the other most prominent ”houseguest” thus far — Mike, the unctuous white rapping bar owner, who when asked to ponder an idea, says, ”I’ll marinate on it” — and as far as I’m concerned, you’ve got a reality show that’s less cruel than this season’s other reality fare, and way less predictable. Which is not to say it’s also not a house full of creeps.

Which ”Big Brother 2” housemate do you like most and least?

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.
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