Once upon a time, I spent my days in a large house filled with loud, sometimes obnoxious people. Sleep was rare. The food was awful. Privacy was nonexistent.
It was a place called college. And I longed for the day I'd leave the dorm, get a job and make some money so I'd never have to live in such conditions again.
For 11 summers now (plus an extra run during the winter of '08), CBS has trotted out the reality show Big Brother. On the surface, it's much like a college dorm. Only this one (unlike mine) is co-ed. Some of the residents are chosen because they're obnoxious (rather than it simply being an unhappy accident), and everything is recorded, 24/7, to be telecast to a rapt viewing audience. These cohabitants do not have classes to distract them from their pranks and schemes, nor can they walk off campus and get a frosty at Wendy's if the pressure's too much. No, they're all locked in this sad, sad, dormitory of a house, where they form alliances, hook up with one another and, somewhat incongruously, play "games" together.
It's an atmosphere designed to generate as much tension, stress and unhappiness as possible. And these people subject themselves to all this for what? A chance at winning $500,000? Is that the going rate for lasting sanity these days?
Then again, at least the contestants have a shot at getting paid for their time. Viewers who tune in thrice weekly have no such motivation. Fans aren't making a dime. Rather, they're squandering their time in unreturnable, hour-long chunks.
Maybe that's not completely fair. They are getting a few little somethings in return for their investment. They're getting cursed at, first of all. Big Brother contestants have long been notorious for blue language during broadcasts. And while their most egregious words are typically bleeped, CBS hasn't caught them all. Not that incessant bleeps change the equation all that much.
They're also getting "treated" to makeout sessions, girl-on-girl kissing and naked pool parties. Bikinis are practically a house uniform in Big Brother-land. Hookups are normal—with intimate sessions getting filmed and aired. (Hard-core fans who've tired of the prime-time censoring are invited to switch over to CBS' sister channel, Showtime, for Big Brother: After Dark.)
Finally, they're rewarded with so much wallowing, whining, plotting and lying as to make Survivor contestants look like they're just out for a day-trip to the spa. How bad is it? Well, one of this season's slippery souls is telling his opponents that he needs to win the money to pay the medical bills for his wife's terrible illness. He's making it up. It's just a "strategy," he whispers.
"Live Eviction #3/HoH Competition #4"
Andrew makes a bizarre speech to his fellow housemates that, among other things, exposes Hayden and Kristen's relationship. The move backfires, and "Captain Kosher," who is often referred to as an Orthodox Jew, gets booted. All Julie Chen seems to want to know is why he didn't try to "blackmail" Hayden and Kristen instead of betraying them.
Meanwhile, Matt's lie about his wife's supposed illness is still holding: "Everybody's buying into it hook, line and sinker." Matt's wife has her say about the matter and, while she says, "I don't agree with what he did," she confesses that she helped further the fib with a letter she wrote to Matt. "He's not evil or malicious," she says—though Matt himself claims to be a "diabolical supergenius."
We see some kissing, watch Rachel walk around in a towel and hear such words as "p‑‑‑" and several misuses of God's name. The f-word is bleeped.
Rachel wins the Head of Household competition. But the stress seems to be getting to her. "I am so sick of living in a house full of haters," she tells the camera. Didn't she watch the show before she signed up?
"PoV Competition #3/Veto Ceremony #3"
"I thought God loved me," Andrew tells the camera after he finds himself on the chopping block. "What sin did I do this week?" He then proceeds to cook up a devious push-back plan with Brendan, but it seems to lose Andrew support rather than gaining any.
We see both power couples, Hayden/Kristen and Brendan/Rachel, kiss. Rachel rubs Brendan's back and later wraps her legs around him. Kristen wears a revealing bikini top throughout the episode, and during an Arabian Nights-themed challenge, we see Rachel in a pretty low-cut outfit.
Tarot cards factor into a competition, as does a pitcher full of fish eyes. Viewers hear such words as "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and several misuses of God's name, along with several silenced/bleeped s- and f-words.
"Nomination Ceremony #3"
Not everyone would take kindly to being called a "diabolical supergenius." Matt, however, aspires to be Big Brother's very own Gru, and uses the moniker to refer to himself, perhaps because the rest of the house isn't convinced that he's either a supergenius or diabolical. Of course, they don't know—yet—that he's lying about his wife's disease.
It's Matt who wins the week's Head of Household honors by balancing on a surfboard longer than anyone else, and he immediately schemes with hated rivals Rachel and Brendon, the resident power couple—who viewers see frolicking in bed (while clothed). We also see Rachel straddling Brendon to give him a flirty haircut. Other housemates mock the pair and their propensity to preen and show off various, highly toned body parts. Hayden and Kristen have also paired up, and we see them smooching in bed, with an underwear-clad Hayden on top of her.
Several obscenities are bleeped or muffled—though most of the time it's easy to spot them for the s- or f-words they are. Unbleeped profanities include such words as "p‑‑‑ed," "a‑‑," "d‑‑n" and misuses of God's name. Women walk around in bikini tops and short-shorts, and men go shirtless.