Jessie joins Big Brother 11 as the show kicks off with cast stupidity, producer manipulation

With all of the excitement about the return of guilty summer pleasure Big Brother, I forgot just what a crappy show it really is–especially when compared to its CBS siblings, since it seems like it belongs on some low-rent cable channel–and how it takes a while for me to embrace its crappiness, especially when there’s no scheming or strategizing to distract me. That will come soon enough, though, and with this group of nutjobs, it should be fun.

Sticking to its very familiar formula, the first episode introduced us to the 12 new houseguests, almost all of whom already seem excruciatingly annoying, and to the mystery 13th houseguest: Jessie from Big Brother 10. Sheila’s rumored return wasn’t even a possibility (maybe she really is traveling for three months!), but once they revealed the people who might enter the house, I was desperate for Sheila to return.

Four past contestants showed up, each representing one of the cliques, and they were Cowboy (off-beat), Jessica (popular), Brian (brains), Jessie (Incredible Hulk CGI model stand-in, I mean, athlete). I was rooting the brains in the first competition–which involved large underpants, toilet seats, and “super wedgies”–because Brian is the least annoying and was only on the show for a week. But he was out first (you’d think the nerds could handle the wedgies, but for some reason that stereotype fell apart), and the jocks stereotypically won the first HOH competition, so Jessie re-entered the game. Julie Chen teased, “How will the housegests respond now that Jessie has entered the game?” Probably by getting out the way because he’s so massive.

Speaking of Julie, she acknowledged her pregnancy in the first few moments of the game, and I actually missed the reference at first because her over-rehearsed attempt to pause dramatically, glance down at her uterus, and gesture with her hands actually looked at first like she was reading her lines off of her hands.

Because the show turned my excitement into annoyance in its first hour, here’s a list of the things that irritated me:

  • The lame, corny scripted introductions to the cast (“this scientist is going to mix things up in the house,” Michele said while swirling a flask.) They’re not actors, yet the producers force them to act, so our first introduction to them is awkward and unnecessarily fake.
  • The whole cast, although most of that is because of the way they were introduced to us. Casey, though, seems to be the most excruciatingly obnoxious, at least from episode one. I can imagine parents pulling their kids out of his class right now.
  • The clique twist, which seems lamer each time it’s described. I don’t mind the groupings–although three people does not make a good tribe–but playing up high school in a game that’s already like middle school isn’t appealing.
  • Julie’s weak attempt to get viewers to identify with and root for a clique is annoying, as if we all belonged to the same four groups that producers who went to high school decades ago are convinced is still super-relevant today.
  • Forcing the houseguests to enter in pre-determined groups. They’ve already screwed with them by forcing them into alliances, and this is yet another way to manipulate the competition: the last four get screwed on their bedroom, period, so the producers decide who to punish. Stop meddling!
  • The fact that I had to hear Cowboy speak again without advance warning to stab myself in the eardrums.
  • The fact that I had to listen to Jessica and Eric do their baby-voice flirting without advance warning to stab myself in the eardrums.

But despite all of this, the show had me at Jeff saying, “I’m definitely not a arithmetic-type person, you know, reading books.” Let the stupidity begin.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

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.