Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Big Brother

"But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother." - George Orwell

Before I watched an episode from this season of Big Brother, I wondered how I'd managed to go 15 seasons without ever seeing it. There are entire communities devoted to obsessing over the doings and transpirings taking place in what I assumed was some sort of heavily fortified compound made to seem hospitable (like Acapulco), but for whatever reason I'd never bothered to watch it myself.

After watching a single episode, I'm more convinced than ever America has too much goddamned time on its hands.

Something significant happened on Day 1, or so we're led to believe. in addition to allowing the Head of Household (or HOH, because sure) to nominate two HouseGuests for eviction, the television audience now appoints someone MVP, who can also nominate a candidate for eviction. So even though there is still only one person evicted a week, there are three nominees instead of two. Surely this is the most momentous electoral shake-up since the 26th Amendment.

[A guy named McCrae won HOH last week. He kind of looks like Geddy Lee after several unsuccessful trepanning sessions.]

Of the contestants, I guess I like Amanda, the real estate agent, because she possesses above average intelligence and breasts. Jeremy the boat store employee hails from Katy, which should make y'all extremely proud. Houston also boasts former Miss USA contestant/Houston Texans cheerleader Candice, who appears to rub people the wrong way for reasons I guess were edited out of broadcast, considering she has hardly any screen time. You can always check out the "subscribers-only" live feed if you hate life that much.

And I guess it makes sense the people who'd sign up for this would be experts on the past (sigh) 14 seasons, and I was quickly lost with references to past contestants like "Evil Dick" or Rachel, the Season 13 winner whose sister Elissa -- surprise! -- happens to be a contestant this time around. This will be of inexplicable import later.

Watching a bunch of borderline sociopaths conspire to oust their fellow morons is, perhaps not surprisingly, less exciting than you'd imagine. The late night meeting of "the Moving Company" (I guess "Brometheus" was taken) comprising HOH McCrae, Howard (youth counselor), Nick (entrepeneur), Jeremy, and Spencer (railroad engineer ... seriously?) made me realize why this show doesn't air when there's a professional sport going on that anyone gives a shit about. It makes The Sims look like Grand Theft Auto.

Then we cut to the next day, where HouseGuests are encouraged to conduct coed 1-on-1 meetings in hammocks, the better to facilitate "showmances" (oh lawd). It's just a pity David the lifeguard is clearly getting played by model (and racist) Aaryn. Against my better judgment, I like David. He reminds me of a more vacuous Owen Wilson, if such a thing is even possible.

The Elissa = Rachel's Sister thing is hilarious, if only because everyone acts incredibly offended that she didn't divulge the information straight out. And if she had, she'd be an idiot for showing her hand. She comes clean to HOH McCrae, which would seem to be a strategic move if everyone in the house didn't already know.

And of course, there are competitions. HouseGuests on the losing team (of three) become the "Have Nots" and are denied things like hot showers and a decent bed. I'd worry about how this would effect their self-esteem, but I imagine everyone here abandoned that years ago. The first competition involves inner tubes, leading to our first great revelation: some people have never been in water in their lives.

The Have Nots also offer us another opportunity for audience participation (they get to decide what the Have Nots eat ... for a small $1 charge). I'd say we're less than 20 years away from letting the audience decide whether they want the HouseGuests to use Louisville Sluggers or cricket bats to bludgeon losing contestants to death.

This all leads to the nominating party, where they pull keys out to determine who's safe. Candice and Jessie are this week's nominees. But of course, we (meaning you, because i'm never watching this again) have to wait four days to find out a) who the "MVP" is, and b) who the first will be to get evicted.

I opened this Reality Bites with an Orwell quote, and I'll close with another one: "The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better." 5.78 million people watched Big Brother last Sunday. If you're looking to draw any solace from those numbers, consider that's a good 2.5 million more than watched Celebrity Wife Swap. Silver linings, people.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar