I know Big Brother’s producers cannot produce engaging live television, which is part of its broken-beyond-repair charm, but even by that low standard, the premiere of BB25 was a dreadful snore. They couldn’t even make Cirie Fields’ appearance into a dramatic or surprising moment.
The “live” 90-minute premiere was about 20 minutes of TV, stretched apart by lengthy commercial breaks and Julie Chen Moonves’ glacial delivery, perhaps caused by someone tripping over her cord and her battery wearing out.
The producers literally gave us an entire challenge that was just four people lying on a padded mat. For almost five minutes, literally nothing happened. And then when it did, and one of the four players let go, the control room missed that moment.
Was this premiere a cry for help? It appeared intentionally lethargic, with everyone on screen looking either bored or scared. The big reveals were presented with all the enthusiasm of watching milk curdle.
Big Brother 25’s first episode was so weird that I started creating conspiracy theories to explain it. Is this Paramount Global’s message to striking actors and writers? We don’t need you! We can fill three hours a week for more than three months with a show that created an entire act break of prime-time television out of people sprawled out on the ground!
Maybe this whole show is a subversive advertisement for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, and the need to similarly unionize reality TV cast and crew? I’m here for that!
After 30 minutes of the either delightfully cheesy and/or insufferably staged cast intros, depending upon your level of sobriety, Julie Chen Moonves gathered the houseguests on the stage. Then she made them stand awkwardly for another 20 minutes.
“Who’s ready to hear this season’s big twist?” she finally asked, and instead of hearing that they were shown the “time laser” sketch with Danielle, Britney, and Frankie attempting to act while looking at nothing. (My favorite part was how clearly visible the tape marks were on the floor, indicating where they should stand and place the time laser.)
Pre-season, Big Brother 25’s cast seemed particularly strong, and not just because of two of their connections to a much-better CBS reality competition: Survivor legend Cirie Fields’ son, Jared. Survivor 42’s second-out Zach Wurtenberger’s brother, Cory.
And I must admit I fell in love with the BB25 houseguests a little more when they reacted to the time laser with these faces, perhaps a sense memory of their own awkward attempt at acting surprised when they were given their fake key.
I also fell in love with Felicia who, when Julie said “Felicia,” started walking toward the door, trying to leave as soon as possible. I’m right there with you, Felicia! Julie said: “Hang on. Just. Listen. For. Your. Name. And then. I’ll. Direct. You.”
Julie Chen Moonves delivered almost every line like that. Did someone realize they didn’t have 90 minutes of content, so they told her to fill time?
Speaking of the cast: Rumors of Cirie Fields’s appearance on BB25 have been floating around for days now, and I admit I was skeptical. Why would a legend Cirie debase herself by appearing on CBS’s worst show?
When she appeared, I did momentarily feel a twinge of sorrow that she’d agree to this—but then I realized that it must have been very tempting to walk away with $750,000 after bowling over 15 starstruck players and her own kid. And that’s half a million more than she received for winning The Traitors.
The other twist, such that it was, is that “the Big Brother universe that you think you know has completely changed,” as Julie Chen Moonves said while the moon orbited the earth several times. After a commercial, she offered more meaningless words: “things went horribly wrong”; “the Big Brother multiverse”; “changed the game, creating the most unpredictable season of Big Brother ever”; “a lot still remains a mystery.”
Probably still a mystery to the producers too, huh? But props to them for really reading the pop culture moment and deciding that the multiverse felt fresh and new, and ripe for mining here in mid-2023.
The “four universes [that] have taken over” are the Comic-verse, the Humili-verse, the Scary-verse, and the Scramble-verse. They couldn’t even make those grammatically parallel, going with two nouns, an adjective, and a verb.
Each of those was tied to a competition in the backyard. The challenges were not for HOH though. No, the big, dramatic twist was delivered to us and then to the houseguests with all the energy and excitement of filling out a tax form.
“So the houseguests are ready to compete,” Julie said, and then paused for about 14 years. “Uh oh. It looks like the scramble-verse is about to twist up premiere night.” She told them, “you need to know the scramble-verse has just changed the game. … The game has been scrambled, and you are not competing to become HOH. That’s right, this is not a Head of Household competition. This is a nomination competition.”
I don’t think any of them heard her because they’d all slipped into unconsciousness. But yes, the losers were
nominated for eviction put on the block before an HOH was appointed, which effectively turns Big Brother into Survivor, if challenge losers are going to be the only ones who are vulnerable.
The first challenge was to undo a puzzle, placing the pieces in a box—so really, a puzzle, though I’ll give it points for cleverness. What makes great television? Watching people run back and forth to retrieve puzzle pieces without talking, with discordant stock music appearing from nowhere to fill the space.
“Remember: the key here is, don’t be last in this competition. Otherwise, you will be nominated for eviction tonight,” Julie said, in case any of them dozed off earlier.
Big Brother challenges have definitely improved in recent years, at least in terms of set design, though plenty still involve giant phalli and stuff ejaculating in people’s faces.
These four challenges? Bad television, even the ejaculating one.
When people completed the first puzzle and pressed their buzzer, there was no sound or hoopla. A dim light turned on, and after a long pause, Julie switched herself back on to declare them the winner or runner-up.
Oh: The first three people nominated for eviction were three of the four Black players: Jared, Kirsten, and Felicia. I share Maryanne Oketch’s reaction.
“The four of you make this look easy,” Julie said during the fourth challenge, as NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENED. This show and what it does to me!
Cory was the fourth loser, so both players related to Survivor players are in danger. Cory lost the final, lying-on-the-ground competition, where Julie said he’d “disappear into the nether-region. How long will they be gone? Only the Scary-verse knows.”
Does the Scary-verse also know the most-common definition of nether regions?
After that, everyone went inside, where Cirie Fields was there with champagne. “For the first time ever, a Survivor legend will be playing Big Brother,” Julie said.
That it’s taken 23 years for someone to go from Survivor to Big Brother really tells us something about Big Brother, and so does the fact that this premiere felt like it was 23 years long. Just 99 days to go.