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July 17, 2009 at 09:42 AM EDT

I can’t believe we are in our 11th season and 10th year! Over the years, Big Brother has almost become synonymous with summer at CBS. We have a saying now: “If it’s summer…it’s Big Brother!” It has become like a familiar friend you look forward to seeing every summer. A guilty pleasure where you’re allowed to love, hate, and judge total strangers being real and human. I think we all see a bit of either ourselves or people we know (love ‘em or hate ‘em!) in all of the Houseguests.

EW asked if I would start my weekly Big Brother blog with an overview of random topics encompassing my perspective on many things Big Brother. So, here goes…

But first (wink), let’s talk about the elephant in the EW blog room…The Chenbot! I was horrified when my best friend from college first told me about my Big Brother nickname. But, there was a side of me that kind of also got it right away. When I played dumb and asked her to explain it…it was exactly what I expected to hear. Then I was kind of embarrassed and yet unsure how to feel or react. (Chenbot was hurt…does this mean the Chenbot has emotions!?!?!). But, when I told my agent to get some sympathy, he made a funny remark in a robot-like voice and said something like…”Oh-yeah-you-did-not-know?” And he e-mailed me a link where someone edited together all my “But firsts…” (You know who you are, Ben Mandelker!) from the live shows and I laughed my head off. I WAS the Chenbot. Each delivery was EXACTLY the same — different hairdos, different outfits…same damn robotic delivery with precision and zero emotion. That’s when I said to myself, “Can I blame em? I AM the Chenbot!” The Beatles’ lyrics of “I am the Walrus” went through my head but I substituted in Chenbot.

Folks have also expressed interest in my wardrobe. For Big Brother, I try for something more “primetime” looking…and not so business suit-like… which is what I tend to wear in the mornings for “The Early Show.” Big Brother is my chance to wear some sleeveless things since it’s summer time and a primetime show. I also try to have fun with some more glamorous outfits…and things that are fashion-forward. Hosting while pregnant has been fine so far but, with the season coinciding with my last trimester, finding the right clothes has been a challenge. I’m due October 4 (which is about 2 weeks after our finale). I have a beautiful tent dress ready for that show! I’m not trying to hide it. I told Allison Grodner (one of the EP’s) and the director, Jim Tanker, that I am more than fine with them shooting the show the same way they always have been, which has plenty of wide and full body shots, and it’s up to them if they want to make any changes.

I’m often asked how I stay informed of the Houseguests and the events in the BB House. Well, thanks to our handy, dandy daily show highlights, watching ALL the shows (which I LOVE), watching Big Brother After Dark on Showtime Too when I can (although, I probably should be sleeping) and talking to the producers in our weekly script meetings, I really try to make the effort. The show highlights are really key, though. They are daily logs of what is going on in the house. One person each summer is designated to watch the Houseguests and log all the highlights of what’s currently happening. These are my Big Brother cliff notes that hit all the major points and events. I’m usually on a plane every three or four days during the summer to do both jobs (Big Brother and The Early Show), so that’s perfect catch-up time. But, now with the pregnancy, I’ve had to slow it down and will have to stop traveling completely sometime in August due to doctor’s orders!

What do you think of the new twist? Personally, I’m a huge fan of it because that’s what Big Brother always boils down to in the end…behaving like you did in high school. There are cliques, there are fights, there are romances, and there is often betrayal. Big Brother tests how mature or immature some of us can be…it’s not always pretty, but it’s pretty fun to watch.

Which brings us to Jessie from Season 10 and the fact that he’s back. This has certainly caused quite a stir both inside and outside the house…and I love that! A lot of people have e-mailed or commented to me saying “Oh no, Jessie’s back?!?!?” To me, that’s a great response because it shows he was memorable and interesting to watch. If people said “Who’s back??? I don’t remember him/her…” — that would be disastrous. The most interesting people to watch are the ones who are not beloved by all. People have also asked about the reactions of the former Houseguests who were vying to get back in the BB House. During last week’s premiere, we also brought back Brian from Season 10, Jessica from Season 8 and Cowboy from Season 5. As we now know, Jessie made it back in the house (and turned red with excitement when he realized he was going back in… I thought his muscles were going to explode). Cowboy seemed pretty sad that he didn’t get his chance at redemption…I felt bad for him. Especially since he made it to the final two but didn’t win BB 5. Brian and Jessica seemed to take it well and were good sports.

So, last night was our first live eviction and Braden was sent packing.  Despite all the drama in the house, he did make an impressive effort to turn things around and almost pulled it off. But, Ronnie’s last minute flip back to his original alliance with the Athletes created a tie vote which resulted in Jessie, the current HOH, making the final decision.  Each week, we usually decide by committee what topics to discuss with each evictee. It’s usually the same questions people are asking at home of the Houseguests…like “What made you do this…and what made you do that????” And, “What were you thinking???” But we have to be careful, if they are jury members, not to give anything away that they shouldn’t be privy to. This season, I asked my executive producers to please tell the Houseguests that I am expecting so they’re not surprised when they get evicted and see my big belly. They typically only see my head and shoulders on their monitor in the living room when I speak to them. I didn’t want the evicted Houseguests to come out of the BB House and be caught off guard and make my pregnancy a talking point…like “What???”  Or, “Congratulations!!!”  I want the live shows to stay focused on them and their experience in the house. 

A few thoughts on some of this season’s Big Brother Houseguests…but first…I don’t think there have been this many fights and outbursts so early in our BB history! Yikes! Russell vs. Jeff. Natalie vs. Jeff. Braden vs. Kevin. Jordan vs. Lydia. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. So far, I think Lydia is playing it well…almost too well there for awhile, in that people were catching on that she is a serious threat. She needed to be a little disruptive…just enough so people could start to see her as having flaws and not as a threat…and, she certainly delivered after being saved by Russell at the POV Ceremony. (Side note: How gross was the POV Competition, “Pop Goes The Veto” – gotta hand it to production…ICK!). She obviously took a page from Evil Dick’s gameplay book or Will from Chilltown. Give ‘em just a little of herself to hate on and she’ll be safer. (Although, I’m not sure she planned her outburst. There seemed to be a lot of genuine emotion behind it and Jordan didn’t know what hit her!) Casey is playing it well, too, although a lot of the other Houseguests commented early on that he came on a bit strong trying to play the “Don’t vote off the old guy!” card. He’s 41, for Pete’s sake…hardly about to claim senior citizen status! But, he finally got away from that and is playing it right and saving the juicy comments for the Diary Room instead of his housemates’ faces. Then again, this season is changing by the hour, so who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?! Who are your favorites? Who’s proving the most shocking and unexpected?

So, that’s it for my first ever Big Brother blog. Looking forward to reading your thoughts. (Who knows — could end up being another useful means to keep current with the Houseguests and events this season!) Leave questions on the comment boards and I’ll do my best to answer what I can each week!

More ‘Big Brother’:
‘Big Brother’ recap: Don’t Make a Bleep

Ken Tucker’s take on the season’s first elimination: It really was exciting!
Must List Live!: Should Big Brother‘s cliques be broken up?

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.
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