This season of Big Brother has reached its midpoint — the finale is October 28, making September 16 the exact halfway point — and with that in mind, Heavy wanted to check in with some of the foremost Big Brother experts on the web to see how they feel about the season so far.
The writers we interviewed via email include Andy Dehnart from Reality Blurred, Branden from Big Brother Network, Brian and Patrick from Reality BBQ, Dingo from Hamsterwatch, Jerrica from Big Brother Access, and Mike from Big Brother Gossip.
The overall consensus seems to be that the season has not lived up to their expectations, but there are some interesting reasons why. Read on for more details about their excitement, what they have found disappointing, and what surprised them most about the season so far. And look for part II of the interview on Thursday, September 17 — the answers were so good that we had to split them into two articles.
Answers lightly edited for length. Also of note: These were written prior to the events that will play out on the Tuesday, September 15 episode.
Pre-Premiere Excitement Level
How excited were you about this season as compared to other seasons? Did it being all-stars make you more excited?
Andy: New seasons of Big Brother generally fill me with a little bit of hope and a lot of dread, since so many of them have devolved into garbage.
But I was genuinely excited about this cast and especially excited to see some of these all-stars play again, like Kaysar, Janelle, and Ian. And I was also excited that, instead of a cast of single 20-somethings, we had a cast of older players whose lives were well-established. That makes for more interesting conversations and television.
Branden: When I heard we were getting another all-stars season after all this time, my passion for the show was completely rejuvenated. And when I saw the cast included Janelle, Kaysar, Keesha, Dani, and Memphis I got even more excited.
Brian & Patrick: Whenever summer rolls around, my enthusiasm for a new season is high, even in the face of some less than stellar past seasons in recent years. The show, the game, the strategy, and the ability to watch it play out live through the feeds without a forced TV edit makes Big Brother something special.
Given the challenges that 2020 has presented us … just hearing that we were going to get a season at all after a year of disappointments raised the excitement bar for BB22 off the bat. To raise that even higher, the news started to leak out that this was going to be an all-stars cast … then came the casting leaks. … All of that led to an elevated excitement level for BB22.
Dingo: I can appreciate that they went ‘all-stars,’ as it made the casting process easier under pandemic conditions, but personally I never want any vets on the show. The main draw for me is getting to know them on the feeds, and seeing if they can adapt to the game and the rest of the cast, and if they’ll play clean or dirty and how they’ll go about that. Along with the fact that vets know how to self-edit what they say and do (although several this season seem to have forgotten that!)
Jerrica: To be honest, I was not very excited about this season. I covered Big Brother Canada 8 for Big Brother Network in the spring, and production got shut down on it because of Covid-19. That really put a damper on any Big Brother excitement, and I believed Big Brother 22 may suffer the same fate with another statewide lockdown. Additionally, with how racially charged Big Brother 21 was and the Black Lives Matters (BLM) protests going on, I feared that if any of the microaggression seen in Big Brother 21 showed up here, it would once again become hard to watch as a viewer, and as a viewer of color. However, seeing all the other fans, my Big Brother Access team, and other BB update accounts excited for the all-star season, made me hopeful that my fears weren’t warranted and this could be a fun escape for a few months.
Mike: I was a bit apprehensive about this season given the current pandemic, but I thought it would be a great thing for CBS if they could pull it off, as people were clamoring for new content and the “live feed” part of Big Brother might actually make it even more popular. When we realized it was going to be all-stars, I wondered how many of the actual all-star caliber houseguests would actually be willing to play? As we found out that number wasn’t as high as we’d hoped.
Has BB22 lived up to your expectations? Why or why not? There seem to be a lot of fans who have found it pretty disappointing, do you agree with them?
Andy: I do, for many reasons, but especially because of the way the game has played out. While there hasn’t been the kind of overt racism we’ve seen too often in the past on Big Brother, there has been a very troubling pattern: every single nominee has been a woman or person of color, and no white man has been nominated for eviction. That said, it’s not surprising that implicit bias has found its way into this season — systemic racism is everywhere, even in reality TV — but it is disappointing.
Branden: Despite all of [my] excitement, it has not lived up to my expectations. Three of the five people I was most excited about have already been evicted, and the other two, Memphis and Dani, are in an alleged pre-game alliance with some of the “new school” houseguests. So I’m most disappointed in the pre-gaming that went on. And we know it happened because of what we’ve heard on the live feeds. And of course, this always happens when there’s an all-stars or a season with returnees. It happened in BB7 and it happens in Survivor. But the way this pre-game alliance was set up is so unbreakable, and that makes for a really boring season.
Brian & Patrick: To say BB22 fell short of expectations so far is an understatement. The entire pre-jury phase took out fan favorites and a large alliance dominated the game. Large alliances in this game that never fracture or break apart kill any chance of voter flips, power shifts, or social manipulation that can make the show entertaining and unpredictable.
Adding on to the large alliance issue BB22 faced, there are quite a few cast members who have absolutely no idea what is going on or the dynamics in the house. While this can be funny and entertaining when you have multiple of those comprising the minority alliance in the house, you are setting the season up for a steamroll and those are never fun. … The lack of opposition to the main alliance is also dragging the season down. BBOTT was loved because power shifted weekly. The first half of BB20 is iconic because of the battle between FOUTTE/The Hive and Level 6. There has been none of that this season and the season suffers for it.
Dingo: I’ve watched and reported on virtually every day of feeds for each of this cast’s prior seasons and I admit I wasn’t eager to see some of them again. But beyond that, I think it’s just been disappointing overall. Imagine going on Big Brother and refusing to work with Janelle Pierzina and Kaysar Ridha, both bonafide BB legends and known for loyalty in the game. … As a result, we lost both Janelle and Kaysar early and that was a huge hit to the entertainment value of the feeds in general, which is always my main priority. Most are playing conservatively this time and combined with a number of lackluster personalities, entertainment is hard to find.
Jerrica: I think I came into this season with my standards and expectations not very high. However, somehow I have still been very disappointed. The biggest crime of this season has been how boring it is to watch. Weeks and weeks of the same thing happening is just frustrating and almost insulting to fans, who these players already know want some type of ruthless, exciting, and surprising gameplay. I think what makes this season worse is that we can all pretty much guess who is going to be the final four, final two, and winner. It’s a long boring march to the end.
Mike: Once I realized the cast was not going to be a true all-star lineup, I lowered my expectations. However, I was optimistic about some of the cast. What we didn’t know was how quickly things would turn into an “old school” vs “new school” situation. In the first all-star season (Big Brother 7), the cast was selected from just six seasons of Big Brother and so they were all relatively fresh to having played. This season’s cast spans 17 seasons and things have changed dramatically since 2005 when Kaysar and Janelle first played. … Overall, the whole season has been lopsided and favored one “side.” As one who usually ends up rooting for the underdog, I’m used to disappointment, but this season has been giving even more of that than I am used to.
Has anything surprised you about this season?
Andy: It’s been surprisingly boring, and I think that’s because Big Brother’s format is broken. With big alliances, there’s very little incentive for people to rock the boat, and so this season, a big alliance has basically been running the game, and that’s not interesting.
Branden: A lot has surprised me about this season. I think I’m most surprised by how some houseguests have tarnished their reputations. Nicole Anthony went from America’s Favorite Player just last season to one of the most unpopular the first couple of weeks of this season. But she got out of the house before it could get any worse. I think the most surprising is Dani (Donato) Briones. She came into the house with a great reputation and fanbase, but after rejecting the old-school players, and the way she’s been playing the game has turned a lot of people off, including myself.
I was a big fan, but I no longer am. I still appreciate her past gameplay, but I’m not a fan of her Big Brother 22 gameplay or persona. I’m also shocked that there have been many racial microaggressions this season. I thought this would be a very aware group of people, especially considering they had to participate in bias training. It doesn’t seem like it worked very well. And on top of that, the pure cruelty of how some of the players have made fun of or questioned Ian Terry’s autism, just makes this show hard to watch. It blows my mind that these players aren’t more self-aware after many seasons of headlines and TMZ stories calling out houseguests for terrible behavior.
Brian & Patrick: The overall gameplay of some of the all-stars has been surprising. So many former players who were known to take no prisoners and take control of the game are just cruising with their alliance without a thought about how to put themselves into a better position. All-stars are simply voting people out without thinking how they can leverage those people to better their own game. Then there is the “what does the HoH want” problem we’ve seen recent seasons suffer – people that should know better are deferring decisions to what the HoH wants regardless to whether or not that decision helps them. The lack of desire to win is surprising.
The overall negativity and nastiness directed at people outside of the majority is a bit of a surprise too. A lot of these people are friends outside the house and have pre-existing relationships – to see a mob mentality form against people that are supposed to be friends is a bit of an eye-catcher. Janelle, for example, was blamed for every calamity that has occurred in the known universe and half the people leading that charge were people that are supposedly friends of hers outside of the house. None of that was game related so it’s a little shocking to see.
Dingo: Considering the publicity and reactions that BB21 generated for racial biases by several of the cast, including the winner, I’m surprised and shocked by the words and behavior of some of them this season. An hour before Week 5 HOH Christmas Abbott nominated African-Americans Bayleigh Dayton and Da’Vonne Rogers for eviction, she said “I’m gonna get shot, like somebody’s gonna put a fork in my face today,” adding that she was “scared.” And Memphis Garrett has repeatedly mocked BB14 winner Ian Terry, who is autistic, and called him “creepy,” while Dani Briones and Nicole Franzel have complained to each other about Ian’s “rocking.” Again, these people have all been here before. They know the kind of backlash that kind of thing will generate. It’s mind-boggling behavior from adults no matter what, and even more so since they’ve mentioned on feeds that they had bias training before this season began.
Jerrica: Yes, how many of the players are not enjoyable to watch. Going into this season, I thought at worse, I wouldn’t have anyone to root for to win, but at this point, I’m actively rooting against the majority of the houseguests to lose. I hope Julie Chen-Moonves just says on finale night, “there is no winner. We’re donating all the prize money to charity.” But seriously, I didn’t expect to become so annoyed with so many players, and especially this soon. There are so many more days left.
Mike: I was hoping to see some of the folks shine. Keesha and Kevin in particular from the early seasons and David from last season. Keesha went out very quickly without much of a fight. Kevin has proven to be very sullen, nothing like the conniving character that was a tiebreaker away from making the final two in Big Brother 11. David had such a short run last year and seemed to have the pulse of the house last year, as it turns out he really just isn’t very good at playing Big Brother.
A silly “surprise” would be why doesn’t Julie have to wear a mask when she interviews the evicted houseguests?
Big Brother 22 airs on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, though this week the Wednesday episode is airing on Tuesday, September 15 because of the ACM Awards.