Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Countdown to BB14 - A Look Back at BB1

As we countdown to the premiere of Big Brother 14 in July, I'll be taking a brief look back at all of the previous US seasons.  We've come a long way, and a lot of things have changed...

Eddie McGee, winner of BB1.   Eddie was a Long Island guy with one leg.  If I remember correctly, Eddie had cancer at a young age, resulting in the loss of his limb.

The early days of Big Brother USA were quite different than today's version.  Before the US premiere of Big Brother, there was a lot of press about the original British version, which gave the show a fair amount of publicity.  I set my VCR (!) to record the show and watched every episode.  It wasn't very good, but I found the concept fascinating, particularly the fact that the show aired every night.  (Is that true?  Does anybody remember the schedule?). 

The live feeds were free back then, but since I didn't have a computer at home I wasn't watching them (!).  I lived on Long Island when this show aired, so there was a lot of local news coverage about Eddie as the season progressed.  I think he was from Commack.  The first series of Survivor also aired around this time, with another Long Island contestant getting his own share of news coverage (Remember goofy Dr. Sean Keniff?).

Here are some of the highlights of the season, as best I can recall:

1.  BB cast ten "regular" people, including Karen the unhappily-married housewife and Chicken George.  The cast members who were controversial were Brittany Petros, a pharmaceutical sales rep with pink hair and fake nose piercings, and Jordan, a former stripper who may or may not have used her real name on the show.  They also cast a big guy who we learned was active in some sort of militant black political organizations, and Jamie Kern who was the reigning Miss Oregon (or something like that).

2.  They had a garden in the back yard, with chickens to look after.  Karen got upset when George started feeding the chickens, resulting in his nickname.  Feeding the chickens was Karen's gig on the show, and she was very bitter about it.  But Karen was bitter about a lot of things....

3.  The house guests used to "cuddle" at night, pulling all the mattresses on the floor and sleeping in a pile like a litter of puppies.  I think this was a girls-only activity, if I remember correctly.  You probably would have had to watch the live feeds to confirm this--not sure CBS featured the "cuddling" very closely on the CBS broadcasts.

4.  The house guests had to vote to nominate the two people up for eviction each week in the Diary Room, since there was no Head of Household.  There was no strategy or game play---they could never give a decent reason why they were nominating someone, and they all seemed embarrassed to admit they wanted to win.  (Jamie Kern:  "I flipped a coin!"  Did she even have a coin?  I think not.)

5.   The public voted to evict each week, sometimes with disastrous results. Early in the game, Chicken George was nominated against Brittany.  As I recall, Brittany was kind of a teen sensation at the time, with her unorthodox hair and sassy attitude.  It seemed clear that the public (as well as the Producers) would want Brittany to stay in the house, rather than a middle-aged, boring guy with poor language skills.  But George's wife took matters into her own hands, having phone banks installed and rallying their whole town to show up and vote.  And vote, and vote, and vote.  Even though there were claims of voter hi-jinx, the vote stood, and Brittany went home with tears in her eyes. Say what you want about Brittany's "look", but there was no one else who looked like that on network TV back then.  Brilliant casting, but she would have had better luck if cast on later seasons..

 6.  Similar to the British version, there was a live audience outside to meet the evicted house guest each week, including members of their families.  Guess who else was there?  Dr. Drew from Love Line (yes, Dr. Drew) was outside the house on the live eviction night to chat with Julie about the house guests' state of mind.  

7.  Booze used to flow freely in the Big Brother house, with the contestants often getting drunk enough to fall down.  Even Eddie.  This practice came to a screeching halt during BB2, when one house guest held a knife to another's throat during a drunken flirting session.  But we'll get to that later. 

 If you think Big Brother is cheesy now, you obviously never watched Season 1.