Back-to-Back Fives

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Last night saw the season premieres of Big Brother 5 and The Amazing Race, both in their fifth seasons. Big Brother is one of the most successful reality shows in the world, and yet admitting you watch it in the United States is akin to showing off your John Tesh collection. But if a rising tide raises all ships, surely the influx of such dreck as The Swan, The Littlest Groom, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee makes Big Brother sparkle like freshly fallen snow. OK, so it's no Survivor. But the contestants all know what they're signing up for, and the Machievellian shenanigans deliver vicarious tension that's often lacking in the summer months.

This season, the show has trotted out an unlikely hook under the absurd moniker of Project Do Not Assume, or Project DNA. Two of the houseguests, unbeknownst to each other, are actually half-siblings. By the end of the first episode, Michael-- who never knew his real father-- has already figured out that Jennifer is his younger half-sister. He hasn't told her yet for fear of the connection hurting him in the game. I doubt that'll last long, especially since Jennifer will undoubtedly be one of the first on the chopping block. When the cast was first introduced, Jennifer-- a plain, perhaps even homely girl with six tattoos and hair dyed blue who asked everyone to call her Nicomus-- seemed completely out of place, more suited to Mad Mad House than Big Brother. Her connection to Michael makes her presence make more sense. Still, that one blood connection would be an awfully thin tendril on which to hang an entire season's hype.

And so there's a second twist. One houseguest will have an identical twin switching off with him/her throughout the game, with none of the other houseguests knowing. We've seen this in sitcoms, and I'm sure real twins are constantly fooling people, but it'll be interesting to see how long they can keep up the charade in such an insular environment where any conversation can come back to bite you.

Meanwhile, do NONE of these people take Basic Strategy 101? After the first food challenge, Lori was offered $10,000 to betray the group and force everyone to live on peanut butter and jelly for the week. If they declined, each other houseguest in turn would receive the same offer until someone accepted or everyone declined. Lori took the money, thereby tattooing "Evict me!" on her forehead. I suppose $10,000 for a week's effort is a pretty good outcome, especially since the vast majority of players will leave with nothing. But in taking the money, Lori shot a big hole in her chance of winning the $500,000 grand prize. First rule of eviction games: get in with the biggest crowd early, and keep your head low. Do NOT start out by a) getting $10K ahead of your competition, and b) taking food out of their bellies.

The Amazing Race 5 follows and, in a crossover casting first, features the second-place contestant from last season's Big Brother (Alison), who is apparently unlikeable in any reality format. No "virgins" or gay couple this time around, but this year's stunt casting is a partnership that includes a "little person" who, stubby legs aside, appears far more up to the challenge than her full-size cousin. Sadly, there's also no standout team to root for yet. Bring back the clowns!

Weekly updates to come.

1 Comment

Here's my take on Lori and the $10K: Remember that if she turned down the deal, the same offer would be passed on to another houseguest, and so on down the line until someone took the money or everyone in the house turned it down. So it only makes sense to turn it down if you are sure EVERYONE in the house is gonna follow suit. And there was NO WAY that money was gonna get past Holly, who is probably vomiting up her last sandwich even as we speak.

Unforutnately she didn't communicate this out loud at the time. She should have. She should be spending the next few days making this known to the house whenever someone starts to gripe about it. Make sure the HoH takes a long, deep look within himself before passing up on putting her key in the lock.

Actually, if you ask me, it would have been a far more interesting dilemma if an immunity from eviction (not HoH, necessarily, that would be TOO much) were included as part of the deal.

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