Big Brother 8 has a lot of drama and a big Dick, but not much else

I’ve spent about a third of the past 24 hours catching up on Big Brother 8. After 11 episodes, I’m intrigued, but not yet captivated.

The first four episodes were a bore, as usual, and since then, there’s been a lot of interpersonal conflict, but not much game play–especially compared to, say, season six. The producers’ attempts at manufacturing drama (the food competitions, America’s Player’s moronic tasks) have fallen flat, but their casting is pretty strong, as they’ve managed to stock the house with some overly emotional, inarticulate twits. While there is a lot of interpersonal conflict, there’s really not much else happening, and that’s disappointing. The strategy, it seems, is all about dumping the people who are annoying.

Still, the show remains ridiculously bad, and that’s always fun. Julie Chen kicked things off in the first episode by telling us the houseguests weren’t allowed to talk until they enter the house, and then said, “Hello, houseguests!” Awkward silence followed. The challenges are beyond lame (hide and seek?), and while the new Alice in Wonderland set design is cool, it’s totally irrelevant and pointless, kind of like the Thursday episodes’ interviews with camera-hungry people who are tangentially related to the houseguests, or the fake adulation over the head of household room.

Here’s my take on this year’s cast, which is based entirely on the CBS show. I’ve watched none of the Showtime episodes, nor any of the live feeds, so perhaps some of these people are getting bad edits, or there’s drama and intrigue that has not yet made it to air.

Julie Chen
But first, she’s still awful, especially with live interviews–and she’s allegedly a journalist. Most fascinating is that her head and hair are getting larger in proportion to her body. If the show makes it to season 10, she’s going to have to lean against things to keep from falling over.

Evil Dick
Dick is the most intriguing player this season. Before it began, we already knew that he was an asshole. What’s surprising is how he’s an asshole to everyone’s face, and what a fascinating strategy that is (although I don’t know if it’s actually a strategy or just the way he is). He’s basically an abrasive, tattooed version of Dr. Will. Instead of lying himself, however, he just calls everyone else on their lies to their faces, and that has a significant effect. As HOH, though, his nominations were based only on vengeance, and he seems to react on emotion, not intelligence; he reacts, he doesn’t think. But he’s going to walk away with the game if no one figures out how well that’s working for him.

Daniele
Very hard to read. I think when she saw her dad she shut down somewhat, but she’s clearly far more mature than he’ll ever be. Winning the veto twice shows that she’s a contender, and she seems to be popular. Sticking with her dad will probably also help her, but she’ll need to cut him loose immediately if the house turns on him.

Nick
Moderately smart for a meathead whose stated strategy involves flirting with every woman in the house. Bailing on his alliance and aligning with Daniele seems like a good move, but it’s hard to tell what he’s doing or thinking beyond that.

Dustin
Had a bad start when his ex, Joe, accused Dustin of infecting him with an STD, but he managed to recover and win over the house. In that sense, the twist really worked in his favor. While he seems together and smart, his nominations as HOH were dumb and based just on who the house doesn’t like–not on any discernible strategy.

Kail
Thinks she’s a brilliant player, but plays the game like someone who read about the game on Wikipedia 30 seconds before moving into the house. Has no idea that she’s easier to play than one of those pianos you walk on.

Amber
Cries way too much, especially for someone who is convinced that God is playing Big Brother on her behalf (“I feel like God put me on the block”). She cries about everything, even crying. Her close relationships with more stable housemates suggest that she’s more than a crying Jesus freak, but she really needs to stop crying.

Jameka
Grounded and totally flying under the radar, even after enterprising journalist Julie Chen asked her in front of the house if that was her strategy. I’d bet she’ll make it to the end, especially if she can figure out how to turn the house against Dick.

Jessica
Seems empty and dumb, but because I’m forced to press mute every time I hear her grating, shrill voice, I’m not really sure what kind of player she is.

Jen
Also stupid, but in a completely different way. She has her own internal logic and sense of the world that matches up with no one else’s, primarily because she’s at the center of her universe. But she’s more annoying than threatening. Her incomprehensible meltdown over her photograph will definitely go down in reality TV history.

Zach
A strange guy, perhaps because he’s just really normal? “I don’t really fit into anybody’s clique,” he said Sunday, and that’s going to either really work for him or eventually leave him outside talking to Julie.

Eric, America’s player
A good guy and a great player, but the America’s Player thing is pretty ridiculous, especially because it affects his game play. The for-entertainment directive every week is beyond stupid–Whose bed should he crawl into? Whose property should he vandalize? How about, which producer should he hit in the face with a shovel for coming up with those ideas?) More significantly, Eric’s friends and family told us that he’s a student of the game, but making him America’s Player neuters him. He can’t make any major decisions on his own, and he’s often forced to make dumb arguments, such as trying to convince the house to dump easily-manipulated Kail instead of Mike. Still, that one vote did have an interesting ripple effect in the house.

Mike
Another good guy who’s hard to read. Because he’s easily confused with Zach, I’m glad he’s gone, although it was fun to hear him use made-up words such as “conversating.”

Joe
This season’s ridiculous walking gay stereotype was annoying precisely because he’s convinced that he’s not annoying. Thought he was a genius, but his desperate attention-grabs put him about on the same level as the other Js, Jen and Jessica. He does get points for saying, “Way to go, Big Brother; your punishments blow.” The 9 to 1 vote was not surprising.

Carol
Who? I think she was the twist’s first victim, but why they didn’t dump Jessica instead of her is beyond me.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.