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Big Brother 21’s premiere: expect the expected, as usual

Big Brother 21’s premiere: expect the expected, as usual
The BB21 cast, from left to right: Jessica Milagros, Christie Murphy, Ovi Kabir, Analyse Talvera, and David Alexander. In the back row: Kathryn Dunn, Cliff Hogg, Sam Smith, Jackson Michie, Holly Alexander, Jack Matthews, Tommy Bracco, Kemi Fakunle, Nick Macaroni, Isabella Wang, and Nicole Anthony. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

The producers of Big Brother like to pretend that “expect that unexpected” are words that have meaning in the context of this show, but what the premiere of BB21 delivered was entirely expected.

It began with a half-hour of cheesy introductions full of bad acting (even a pretend therapy session with a child!) and ended with unnecessary but hilarious ejaculation of goo into 15 people’s faces.

And then there was the twist, which offered only the slightest twist on the usual episode-one twist.

The house, created by production designer Scott Storey, is themed to the outdoors and camp, and that theme was extended into the game, at least for this first twist: The houseguests voted for one of their own to be the first “camp director.”

That is essentially HOH, though they’re not calling it that, since instead of nominating two people for eviction, the camp director will choose four people to compete in a challenge.

The loser leaves; the camp director gets immunity for the first real eviction.

The person who was chosen as camp director, Jackson, had previously reassured us in the Diary Room that “I’m mentally stable,” which is what mentally stable people usually do.

Jackson Michie on Big Brother 21 episode 1
Camp director Jackson Michie on Big Brother 21’s premiere. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

Then he campaigned for votes by essentially threatening other people. Nicole reported that she feared for her safety in the game if she voted against him.

Somehow Jackson managed to go from stone-faced, lifeless monotones to angry rants: “Fuck that noise,” Jackson said to three other houseguests, referring to his paranoia that he’d be voted out because of how flawless he is as a human being.

“Ya’ll scratch my back, I scratch ya’lls,” he said.

So that guy has all the power and safety, and we’ll see who he chooses Wednesday night on the second half of the premiere.

Jason Mimosa pitches a tent, and other comedy

Big Brother 21 houseguest Jack Matthews resembles Jason Momoa
Big Brother 21 houseguest Jack Matthews resembles Jason Momoa, according to him and everyone else (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

After Julie Chen Moonves introduced the twist, we heard from Ovi, the former student government president, who told us, “this is one election I want to lose.”

I agree, and so did many of the others: this is a game that does not reward people for standing out early.

After Ovi asked, in the Diary Room, “Is anybody crazy enough to want this position?”, the editors cut to Jackson standing up and declaring his candidacy, with the same emotional expression as a plate of plain mashed potatoes.

That sort of clever editing was on display during the middle of the episode, as the houseguests talked about themselves and the editors interspersed their commentary with what they were doing.

They also just had dumb fun with things like Jack saying, “I know how to pitch a tent,” which was followed by a cartoonish “boing” sound (GET IT?! IT MEANS ERECTION!! OF A PENIS!).

Everyone, including Jack, thinks “he looks like Jason Mimosa,” as Kathyrn said. “Did I say that right?” she asked. I’m sure Jason Momoa is thrilled to be associated with another this prime-time network summer trash reality TV franchise, though he did agree to be in a DC Comics movie, so he may have questionable taste in entertainment.

Because Big Brother isn’t a fan of even playing fields, two of the houseguests already know each other: Christie and Tommy. Tommy is “someone from my ex-girlfriend’s family,” she said (apparently: Tommy’s aunt), so it wasn’t exactly a happy reunion.

Because Big Brother houseguests always do the expected, they’re going to conceal that from other people, which will likely be as successful and useful as people who conceal things like their occupation or how much of a super fan they are. (The definition of “super fan” has shifted to mean “I watch that show sometimes if I can find the remote control.”)

By this point in its life—season 21!—Big Brother has set a low bar for itself and its premieres, but BB21 cleared that bar easily, mostly thanks to a cast that made me laugh several times and, for the most part, seems decent.

There’s nothing here that’s really exciting, but it was a fine start to a new season, even if it delivered exactly what I expect from it and nothing else.

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  • 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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