As Joey Lawrence would say, “Woah!” The second-ever American version of Celebrity Big Brother kicked off last night with the first half of a two-night premiere. The second half airs tonight. It served mainly as an introductory episode: To the house, to the game and to the 12 “celebrities” that will compete for the $250,000 grand prize. I am ecstatic to be bringing you “recaps” of Celebrity Big Brother this season and I for one feel like we’re off to a very interesting start!
So why were the words “celebrities” and “recaps” put in quotes, you might ask? Well, that’s because it would be hard not to notice that the 12 contestants this season are not exactly…how shall I say…household names. How do you know you’re not a celebrity? Well for one, you find yourself competing on Celebrity Big Brother, for a cash grand prize and not for your favorite charity. In the same vein – and much like my Survivor column for this very same outlet – what I plan to bring you this season isn’t exactly a blow-by-blow “recap” of the show, but rather my thoughts, analysis, and reaction to the episode (or episodes) that we just witnessed. In other words, I’ll assume that you’ve seen the episode(s) each time, so please, please, PLEASE, if you do not want to have the show spoiled, don’t read any further until you’ve seen the episode(s)!
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Before we dive in, I welcome you! In case you’re wondering, this is my first foray into covering any Reality TV show other than Survivor…if you’re not familiar with my work, I say to you kindly: What the heck? Do yourself a favor and start watching Survivor for the love of all that is good and holy! I’ve been covering Survivor professionally since Season 20, almost 10 years now, as the show gears up for its 38th – yes you read that right, 38th – season this February. Coincidentally, Celebrity Big Brother‘s two-hour Finale lands on Wednesday, Feb. 13th, and Survivor: Edge of Extinction Premieres with a two-hour episode the following week, on Wednesday, Feb. 20th. So you might as well just plan to stick with me through May!
Having the Celebrity Big Brother Finale on Feb. 13th also means that the celebrity-edition of the show is greatly condensed when compared to its…um…big brother. CBS is cramming a total of 13 episodes into this season, with FOUR of them airing this week alone…so things will be moving quickly. Stick around to the bottom of this article for some details on how I plan to cover this season, and what you can expect here on Reality Tea.
While those that know me know how deep my passion runs for Survivor (and for its host Jeff Probst…sadly my wife did not allow me to name my first-born after him…). I am also a huge fan of Big Brother, the game. I have followed it avidly since about season 8. So, I guess you can’t call me a real “die-hard” fan. Still, I’m definitely above “casual watcher.” I admit that I completely missed the last season of Celebrity Big Brother. I also confess that, until tonight, I had no idea who roughly half of these current contestants are. Maybe that qualifies me as an objective observer? One thing I can say, is that I know the game inside-and-out, so while I may not be able to pick Jonathan Bennett out of a line-up, I will surely be able to let you know my thoughts on his game-play moving forward.
Whenever talking about Big Brother, one must mention Julie Chen…or, Julie Chen Moonves as she’s known these days. The good ole’ “Chen-bot” is just as much a part of Big Brother as Jeff Probst is to Survivor.I usually live to see her scripted intros, and totally stiff exit interviews. Like so much of Big Brother, Julie Chen is a bit corny and seems strangely tuned, just like the game itself. In fact, cheesiness is the life-blood of the show, a virtue that makes casting D-List celebrities to play the game seem like more than a natural fit. Yes, Big Brother is cheesy, dumb and a total guilty pleasure, but that’s why we love it!
So what stuck out to me, a huge fan of the “normal” Big Brother and a layman as to who the heck these people even are? Let’s get into it!
Ryan Lochte. I’ve definitely heard of this 12-time-Olympic-medalist-turned-family-man, but wouldn’t have recognized him if I passed him on the street. But he definitely stuck out as one of the players you will probably remember following this first ep. He seemed charismatic and charming. His competitive drive led him to winning the first competition of the season. But his admission that he knows “nothing” about Big Brother will end up sinking this professional swimmer’s game. Just watch.
Natalie Eva Marie. Who dis? Never heard of her. She’s a WWE star? OK, cool story. Six seasons on E!’s “Total Divas” show? If you say so. She’s a podcaster and has a fashion line? Like, who doesn’t? But she won me over when she revealed that she was a huge Big Brother fan. She’ll be interesting to watch. We know that she’ll be around at least through the first eviction after failing to get picked…but failing to get picked may conversely be a sign that she is having a hard time making immediate connections in the game.
Tom Green. Hey everyone, it’s Tom Green! I am comfortable enough to admit that I am old enough to remember when “The Tom Green Show” was a thing. He has a few skits that still make me chuckle (among my favorites is his bit where he goes around asking serious questions to people on the street, with an actual piece of poo on the tip of the microphone that he holds up to people’s faces…) But he already looked to me to be too odd for his own good. He seemed awkward in all of his interactions with others. That is sort of funny to think that he too, like Anthony Scaramucci, was fired by Donald Trump on “The Apprentice,” although I’d argue that one’s firing is a bit more shameful than the others.
Lolo Jones. Funny enough, I only know of Lolo Jones – the three-time Olympic athlete – not as being one of ten people ever to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games, but from a featured piece that was done on her virginity on HBO‘s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” a few years back. I do fear that she will likely be targeted early, not only because some noticed her Olympic connection to Ryan Lochte, but because she’s intimidating as hell…not just to men but to women as well (didn’t mean for that to rhyme…). She’s a fierce competitor, she’s likable and she’s wholesome…all of which are reasons people get booted off Big Brother all the time.
Kato Kaelin. Of all of the contestants this season, I shake my head most when I think about Mr. Kaelin. He described himself by saying: “Never has a man done so little to be recognized by so many,” and that’s pretty perfect. Many people don’t realize that the Kardashians also became famous stemming from the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial (the girls’ father Rob Kardashian, was a close friend and attorney to O.J.). Such a horrific event to become a “celebrity” off of. Not only is Kato shamelessly appearing on Big Brother, but we got several O.J. Simpson jokes to go along with it. Yikes.
Of course, Kato always seemed like a hapless, likable dude, but something still just rubs me the wrong way about his so-called “fame.” Like, because he rented out a room from a murderer, he now gets to compete for a quarter-of-a-million bucks? We’re literally only a few episodes away from an “If the Power of Veto necklace doesn’t fit, you must acquit” joke. On National TV. In the year 2019.
Joey Lawrence. This actor and…OK, Joey, I’ll bite…producer…instantly became the player I’m rooting for, if only because he promised us that he’d do his famous catch-phrase if he were to win. That moment alone would make this season amaze-balls. I liked Tom Green‘s admission that he had a Joey Lawrence poster on his wall, in college no less. And if you’re wondering if he’s still considered a heartthrob, just take it from Tamar Braxton, who this episode said about Joey: “He fine, two times.” But can Joey win Celebrity Big Brother? Gimme a break (heh-heh).
Tamar Braxton. A Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and the younger sister of Toni Braxton, Tamar also co-starred for 10 seasons on “Braxton Family Values,” a show I’ve never heard of nor care to. She admitted that she was a Big Brother super-fan. She was definitely one of the stand-outs during this first episode. Clearly, she’s a veteran when it comes to reality-entertainment. Is her personality too bold, too big, to win? I think so.
Dina Lohan. The self-described OG “Mom-ager,” she’s the mom of Lindsay Lohan and a few other Lohans I’ve never heard of. She seemed like an interesting character to me, one that is obviously strong but one that may not land on many people’s radars. I could see Dina being a sneaky-pick to go far in this game.
Jonathan Bennett. The “Mean Girls” actor and host of The Food Network‘s “Cake Wars,” Jonathan won the prize for the best facial expressions during the first episode. He may very well become the first HOH, should he be able to figure out a way to beat Ryan Lochte in the upcoming competition. Jonathan seems like a perfect contestant for this game. He is one that will add to the show as long as he’s on it. I just think that he’s a bit too likable to really be allowed to go all that far. So, I don’t see him making it through many HOHs.
Kandi Burruss. She was once in the girl group “Xscape” and is a star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I know this because she told me so on TV tonight (sorry, Kandi is another one I’ve never seen or heard of until tonight). She didn’t quite do all that well during the first challenge. Plus, her past beef with Tamar will likely make her an early target as well.
Ricky Williams. Here’s a tip for Ricky: If you’re trying to change your image as one of the most recognizable potheads the NFL has ever seen, don’t go on National TV making jokes about getting high, or reveal to us that you are studying “Chinese Medicine.” Yeah, that’s totally something a pothead wouldn’t do. Ricky is a cool dude. He is obviously a good athlete, but he doesn’t strike me as having the right drive to win a game like this. If his Celebrity Big Brother career at all resembles his NFL career, he’ll be retired way early.
Anthony Scaramucci. It’s not my place to get political here, so I’ll leave that aside. Let’s just say that “The Mooch” is a polarizing figure, one that isn’t often taken that seriously. I’m not sure competing on Celebrity Big Brother and swinging badly will help his image much. Will the politics of the other houseguests play into his acceptance and his long-term role in this game? He’d be smart to keep politics out of it. However, his pre-game interviews suggested that he plans on talking a lot about it while in the house…is he in it to win it, or is he just there to extend his moment in the spotlight?
Episode Take-Away: Whether these folks are “celebrities” or not, the game of Big Brother is alive and well. We should be in for a fun-filled month of back-stabbing, front-stabbing, back-dooring, front-dooring and if we’re lucky, a visit from OTEV and/or Zingbot. Is it just me or is this cast a bit on the older side? The game has only just begun. We’ll have a much better feel for what we’re in for by this time next week. I for one am looking forward to it!
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! With the barrage of episodes coming our way, there won’t be a recap following EVERY episode of Celebrity Big Brother. However, you CAN expect a new article following each elimination episode this season. As Julie described tonight, there is a new episode on Tuesday evening (the next competition and HOH meeting). There is new episode on Wednesday (the POV). Then, the first elimination episode of the season will be this Friday…that means you can expect the next article following Friday’s elimination episode.
The best way to stay in touch and make sure you aren’t missing anything is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook. Those that have followed me also know that I am a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am also the national film critic for AXS.com and am a movie critic/TV personality in the Detroit area.
We will be back following Friday’s episode! Thanks for joining me this season, now let’s talk Celebrity Big Brother!
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER PREMIERE EPISODE? WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR TO WIN CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER? WHO ARE YOU ROOTING AGAINST?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Mary Kouw – CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved]