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Oh Brother!
August 10

One of the things I look forward to when it gets to mid-summer is the annual return of Big Brother. A dozen or so attention-hungry new initiates engage in various competitions with the aim to get opponents evicted and win the ultimate prize: $500,000.

But you probably knew that. After all, the show has been on the air in this format since 2001. (The very first season, in 2000, was closer to the international format: everyone nominates someone, and the two least-liked are put up for a public phone-in vote and the loser is cut. The other gets a yellow card reprieve. It didn't go so well here, so we have what is essentially Indoors Survivor.)

What makes the show entertaining year after year is the challenges, the new features, and the twists. But this year, I think the show bit off a bit more than they could chew with the twist, and one player in particular.

The 'twist' for this year is already done, but the idea was that each of the thirteen competitors was part of a high school clique: either the brains, the popular crowd, the athletes, or the “offbeats.” Back in my day, these were called the “dorks,” but I guess we've moved on from that.

Anyway, if someone from your faction, er, clique won the head of household competition, you were safe from being nominated for eviction. That's a pretty darn sweet prize, right there. The loser of what used to be the weekly food competition would be christened the “have nots” for the week. They get oatmeal, the most Spartan of accommodations, and no hot water for bathing. Also something to compete to not be stuck with.

My main gripe is that there's no need to go “back to high school.” This could have been accomplished by giving each player a designated color, with no one worse for the wear. And since the cliques have already been disbanded, it seems odd to have gone through all that for nothing.

My other gripe has to do with something that doesn't have to do with the actual competition, but with the people competing in it.

At some point during the first week or so, one of the houseguests allegedly said some things that are unsavory at best to racist at worst. They were edited from the CBS show, but kept on the live feed. I realize that since we're not voting to keep or kick anyone it doesn't matter overmuch, but it bothers me that the editing bay has that big a hand in setting the tone of the characters that we're spending a summer getting to know. It amounts to stacking the deck or cheating. I don't care what the FCC rules are, or the “opinions expressed by contestants do not necessarily match those of the production company.” Give us an even-handed account, please. (Full disclosure: I don't get the live feed and I don't remember any of those nasty words; I'm just going by what I've read.)

Secondly, I'd like to wag my finger at Russell Kairouz. In a confrontation worthy of being the climax of a John Hughes film, Russell called out current Head of Household Ronnie Talbott for playing both sides of the house. While America got their tubs of popcorn and got ready for a throwdown, Ronnie ensconced himself behind the locked door of the HOH Room, and could only be coaxed out by the producers who had to beg Ronnie to go to the Diary Room. Why? Because Good Ol' Russell was waiting there ready to pounce on Ronnie, in true bully style. Since physical fighting is disallowed, Russell let loose with just about every name in the book, and it drove Ronnie to the bunker, to live only on the various noshes that are supplied to the weekly winner of that competition. I don't care that Ronnie basically played his hand too early and tried to ride the fence, there's no reason for Russell to conduct himself in that fashion. Fie on the producers for letting Russell behave that way, perpetuating the stereotype of the jock ragging on the bully.

I realize that people argue, and shout, and life is like that. I suppose I'm old-fashioned in not liking that. But I draw the line at in-your-face bullying, and I wasn't all that happy to find out that the producers were selling us two different storylines earlier. I'll watch the episodes to see what the challenges will be, but at this point they may as well be played by caricatures.

Travis Eberle can be reach'd at