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A very familiar start for our 98 days of Big Brother entrapment

Imagine you arrived at party and the host greeted you with a warm welcome, and then threw a handful of confetti at you. As it fell to the floor, you looked around and realized: that’s it. That was the party.

That’s how I felt after watching Big Brother 17‘s premiere, which quickly felt uninspired. It’s not necessarily bad, but it sure wasn’t exciting. And this was the start to 98 days in the Big Brother house.

It just felt the same, like we’ve already seen this. That’s because we have. The same structure for the first episode, only moving eight people in. The same archetypes. The very same HOH challenge. The very same twin twist. The shrieking contestants and the phony studio audience.

Perhaps the best illustration of Big Brother‘s stubbornness as a television show was Julie Chen’s repeated insistence that the show was bringing back a “fan favorite” twist: the Battle of the Block. Last year, it helped keep last season in a rut. For sure, it’s perhaps one of the least offensive twists the show has attempted, but it didn’t seem to inspire much of anything.

A strong introduction for Audrey

Big Brother 17 Audrey Middleton

Big Brother 17’s Audrey Middleton told her fellow houseguests that she’s the game’s first transgender player. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

What did go well was the introduction of Audrey, who’s breaking ground here as she joins other out transgender people on reality TV. After introducing herself by teasing her “surprise” and saying things such as, “I am a girly girl to the extreme” and “I am also … extremely competitive,” she revealed all to those who entered the house on day one. “Something interesting about me is that I am the first transgender person to be on Big Brother,” she said, adding, “I completely transitioned three years ago.”

Later, she talked about her family’s struggle, which included sending her to some kind of awful reform camp, and it was a powerful story. The best reaction to all this was Clay, the Texas A&M football player who said her story put his own challenges “in perspective for me.” Perhaps the worst initial reaction–and it was not that bad–was James saying “it kind of threw me for a loop” and then comparing himself to her by saying, “being Asian and from the south, I get that all the time too.” Again, not bad at all.

Later, there was also Da’Vonne–who formed an alliance with Shelli and Audrey–got all excited when Audrey’s story captivated the rest of the house, saying, “this is excellent for our alliance! Keep it up,” suggesting Audrey was playing it up for strategic reasons. Again, okay. As far as Big Brother casts go, and considering the range of their reactions that were possible, this was awesome. Not overdone, not underplayed, just right.

In more lighthearted events, the editors already started having fun with Shelli’s crush on Clay, playing soft music over the moment they shared after disclosing that they each have a heart murmur. There was some minor paranoia already, when some suggested James is an insane physical threat and/or a liar because he caught several softballs.

But even that was like: oh. Okay. Big Brother 17 is promising to keep things fresh with twist after twist after twist this summer, but based on this episode, I fear that what we’ll really discover is that those won’t change anything. I hope I’m wrong, and this is just episode one of 36 million. A lot can happen during these 98 days. Let’s hope it does.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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