Welcome to another summer of Big Brother! This season, I'm going to be writing a weekly commentary after the live show, with a recap of the show, along with my thoughts and reactions.

It was really fun on JokersUpdates on Thursday as we got ready for the BB premiere. We were so hyped that I prepared myself to be let down when the show actually aired. That certainly happened to me last year. So, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that we could be in for the best season yet of BB.

I'm not saying that means that BB has changed and suddenly developed taste or class. But, this year's crop of HGs looks like they could be more interesting than last year's. If nothing else, overall, most of the HGs seem to be at least a little smarter than those on BB5 last year (although that's not saying a whole lot).

And while previous twists like the "X factor" (bringing in old boyfriends and girlfriends) fell flat, the newest twist—that each of the HGs is part of a secret team of two, and thinks that they are the only team—has the potential for having a real impact on how the game is played. Unfortunately, we can't count on that. The HGs are already figuring out the pairings, and it's not clear yet how that will affect game strategy.

On to the show.

Julie Introduces the House and the Houseguests

Julie started out the show in front of the new FOTH (front of the house). The new FOTH is fancier, but kinda ugly. I'd characterize the style as "LA Tacky"—the old FOTH was just as good. (BTW—That's not a slur on LA. Every city has its own unique style of tacky.) As usual, Julie stood stiffly when she talked, holding her cue cards at her crotch. Why does she do this? I understood it last year because several times the cheapo wardrobe folks couldn't manage to get the new Mrs. Moonves a pair of well-fitting pants, thus treating us to some legendary camel toes. But, on the premiere show Julie was wearing a skirt. And, why does Julie need cue cards anyway? It's not as if she ever looks at them. Who knows? Maybe the cards she's holding are really her shopping list or love letters from hubby Les.

Next, Julie demonstrated that she can walk down stairs. Julie now has a new larger room for her interviews. The new room isn't much different than the old room, except for some large windows.

Note to Julie: Julie, I like you. And, over the past seasons of BB we've been treated to occasional glimpses of a Julie that is intelligent, witty, and comfortable. Why don't you show it? I know they told you in Reality Host School that you have to talk and act like a robot, but heck, Jeff Probst has broken out of the mold. Why don't you take the chance and do it, too? Okay, I know it was the first show of the season and you're just getting back in the groove. But, this season, why don't you treat us to some post-eviction interviews that let us see a pro interviewer at work? We've seen you do it on The Early Show. Otherwise, they might as well just use a cardboard cutout of you, so you could tape your lines ahead of time and save yourself the flight to LA every week.

Julie—Just one more thing. Why did you change outfits in the middle of the premiere show? All it did was make it obvious that the show was filmed on different days. Also, the V-Neck of your peach suit was just a little too low and we saw a glimpse of your bra. I suspect it was a careless "wardrobe malfunction" but you may want to tell the wardrobe staff to be more careful in the future. The "show the bra" look is all very well for Britney Spears wannabes, but is generally a fashion "don't" for successful career women who want to be taken seriously.

Next, Julie took us on a short tour of the house. I'll have more to say about the house later.

Last, we got a brief introduction to each of the houseguests as they were given their BB key, and told they had only an hour to pack. We didn't find out much about the HGs at this point, except that a lot of them have dogs. Interesting. Do wannabe actors not have cats? Or are cat owners eliminated in the interview process?

We did find out a few interesting tidbits the short HG introductions. Ivette is first seen with her (Cuban?) family and then tells us "I'm Ivette and I have a secret," at which point the camera moves over to show her kissing her girlfriend. (Isn't this the first lesbian HG ever? Or am I forgetting someone?) Since most of the cast of BB6 is pure white bread, Ivette fulfills two roles—the token lesbian and the token Hispanic.

We also found out that James doesn't exactly love women. He commented, "Girls are a lot more sneakier than guys are. They're more evil. They're better liars." And, as James walked out of his room, he said "See you in three months, b*tches." Nice.

Despite the fact that his CBS bio says that Howie is from Chicago, he lives somewhere with palm trees. So, unless he lives at the Chicago Botanical Garden, he doesn't live in Chicago. (Actually, one Joker's poster identified the location where Howie was standing as a weather map at a local Florida TV station. Maybe Howie is going to weatherman school in Florida.)

Each of the HGs recited a cute little saying about how they will win the game. I'd repeat the cute little sayings for you, except that they were almost certainly written by some cute little intern, so they gave us no real insight into the HG's personalities. My favorite saying was Maggie's, the emergency room nurse, who said "All the other HGs are going to need a nurse when I get done with them," as she snapped on her rubber gloves. Hmmm, that could create a whole new (painful!) penalty for losing a challenge.

The House

During the show, we got to see the new BB in detail. The new house is quite a change from the old house—and yet it isn't. The new house feels much more spacious because of the second story (which contains the HOH room), but in terms of actual living space, the new house didn't add as much as I'd expected in actual living space. The house contains mostly the same rooms as were in the old house, but some of them are in different places.

One big difference in the new house is the large "camera run" in the middle of the house which essentially cuts the house into two parts. Since there no longer is a bedroom near the bathroom, it is a long trek to the bathroom from the bedrooms.

As for decor of the new house, I suspect the BB folks would describe it as "eclectic" and "colorful." To me, it looked like they rounded up some design students, gave them copious amounts of medicinal weed laced with hallucinogens, gave each stoned intern a room, and set them loose. The result is a nauseous combination of a red and blue kitchen, a pastel living room, and walls of multiple clashing colors. Also, the metallic look must be "in" this year, because a couple of walls are covered with metallic "stuff." (I would have thought that metallic walls would play havoc with the camera lighting, but what do I know?) Upstairs, the hallway wall is a cityscape that looks like it was acquired secondhand from a failed TV talk show. The overall decor best described as "IKEA on bad peyote."

The only room that shows even a modicum of taste or restraint is the HOH room, which is positively luxurious, and includes its own bathtub and separate shower.

The main HG bathroom is bigger this year with two sinks, but the sinks are the "bowl" design that I hate because there is nowhere to put your stuff. The shower is double, with smaller glass doors. With any luck we could be treated to more gratuitous shower shots this year.

On the premiere show, they went through the usual routine of showing the HGs entering the house and picking beds. This time, all the beds were in one bedroom, with some being fairly nice, others being army cots, and some HGs getting stuck with sleeping bags. However, since the HGs entered the house several days ago, one HG is now in the HOH room and the secret bedroom (or "gold room" as the HGs are apparently calling it) was discovered early, so all the sleeping arrangements have changed since the show was filmed. (Actually, I was disappointed that there was a second bedroom. I liked the idea of all the HGs sleeping in the same room.)

We didn't see much of the backyard on the premiere show, because it was set up for the food/HOH challenge. It looked bigger than the previous backyard, but the pool is in a funny place—very close to the house. I figured there had to be some logic for the placement of the pool. After seeing the elaborate setup for the first challenge, I wonder if the pool was put near the house to maximize the yard space for setting up challenges. Allison Grodner said in an interview that the pool would be large enough to swim in. Maybe it was the camera angles, but the pool sure looks like it wouldn't take more than two or three strokes to swim its length. That made me wonder if they have installed a "current" machine so that a swimmer can swim in place. If so, it hasn't been discovered yet.

I know that the purpose of the wildly decorated house is to make it more psychologically uncomfortable for the HGs, but it was probably also to answer complaints that the prior house looked cheap, clinical, and boring. Unfortunately, I think looking at the house is also going to be psychologically uncomfortable for those of us who watch the live feeds, and we're going to be darn sick of it by the end of the summer.

I do think that the new house is going to change some the dynamics of the game. The previous HOH room was right in the middle of the action and not very private. It will be interesting to see if there are differences in the impact of HOH room now that it is more secluded and away from the general traffic of the house. Also, the fact that the bedrooms and bathroom are so widely separated will make it harder to overhear conversations between rooms. We'll see how this plays out.

The Houseguests

As the weeks go by, I'll spend more time talking about the personalities of each of the HGs. Frankly, at this point, I can barely tell a couple of the women apart. (Funny, isn't it, that I can easily identify each of the men, but I'm having trouble with the women.) Despite some downsides, I think this group of HGs promises to be much better than last year's. As I said earlier, the new HGs seem more intelligent, and probably because of the pairing, generally seem more aware of their planned strategy in the game. The downside of the "pairing" twist is that the HGs are less diverse. There is a token African American and a token Hispanic, who also fill the roles of the token gay and lesbian. (Whether other HGs prove to be gay or lesbian we have yet to find out.) There is also a Muslim/Iraqi HG. But otherwise, the HGs are all white, with the youngest being 22 and the oldest only 36.

The other "sameness" about the HGs is that they are the most physically attractive bunch yet. No purple hair here. Clearly the producers think that they will get more viewers with prettier, younger contestants.

Here's my quick take on the HGs based on the little we saw on the premiere show. I'm sure that at least some of my opinions will change as we get to know the HGs better.

--April, 30, Pharmaceutical Sales Rep, Dallas, TX. So far, the main way that April has distinguished herself is by the fact that she's a newlywed. Other than that, April seemed nice but "under the radar" right now.

--Ashlea, 22, Fashion Design Student, Plantation Florida. Ashlea is one of the brunettes that I'm having trouble distinguishing right now. Overall, my first impression was that Ashlea is young, and maybe isn't really prepared for the game (she cried when she was nominated). So far, it looks like Ashlea's main strategy is to use her sex appeal (but unfortunately, most of the other women in the house are equally or more attractive).

--Beau, 25, Personal Shopper, Pembroke Pines, FL. Beau is the token gay and the token African American. So far, Beau seems to be doing his best to fulfill the usual gay stereotypes with his flamboyant mannerisms and dress. (He made sure he packed his rainbow boa—and I'm not talking about the snake of the same name.) We didn't see much of Beau on the premiere show, so I didn't get a good feel for his strategy. I also can't tell yet whether, in the long run, Beau's flamboyance will prove to be fun to watch or get tiresome.

--Eric, 36, Firefighter, Boston, MA. One result of 9/11 seems to be that reality shows have to include a token firefighter. (For example, there were two firefighters on The Bachelorette last winter, as well as Tom, the last Survivor winner). Unfortunately Eric is no Tom. Eric has a very good body, but he made a lot of depressingly chauvinistic remarks about how the women will work against the men in the game. Eric is very intense, and is already playing hard and forming alliances. On the show, we saw Eric working to form a men's alliance, but dismissing Beau as "one of the girls."

--Howie, 34, Meteorology student, Chicago, IL. Houseguest Jennifer summed up Howie very well on the premiere show, "If (Howie) kept his mouth shut, he'd be a hottie." Howie has a good body, but seems to have stopped at about age 16 in his emotional development. Among other "lovely" things Howie said/did on the premiere was to get excited that he'd made his first fart on BB6. Plus, Howie wears a mandanna—enough said. However, we got a few hints on the premiere show that that Howie may be a smarter player than he first appears (so we could be stuck with him for awhile). My least favorite HG.

--Ivette, 25, Waitress (former teacher), Miami Beach, FL. At least on the premiere show, it didn't look like Ivette had told the others she is lesbian. I didn't get a good picture of her personality or planned strategy at all.

--James, 29, Loss Prevention Manager, Atlanta, GA. James may turn out to be one of the more enigmatic players. On one hand, James' demeanor suggests that he is the classic, nonthreatening "nice guy." But, on the premiere show, just when I'd start to like James, he'd come up a strong anti-female remark that was totally unexpected from his "nice guy" image. Part of James' strategy is that he has told the other HGs that his is teacher, because he thought that would seem less threatening. (Huh? Since when does a "loss prevention manager" seem like a threat? Many times it's just a fancy name for "security guard.") And, I'm not sure James is as smart as he thinks he is. He told the HGs that he used to teach 9th grade philosophy, but is now going to grad school. Surprisingly, all the HGs seemed to buy this. Since when have they taught philosophy in 9th grade? James has an Internet site where he expresses some very conservative political views. It will be interesting to see how James handles this, because it could hurt him in the game (as it helped to hurt Mike in BB5).

--Janelle, 25, VIP Cocktail Waitress, Miami Beach, FL. Janelle is one of the blondes and you can't miss which one she is. As far as I can remember, Janelle is the first BB contestant whose normal working uniform is a white lace teddy, garter belt, and stockings. We didn't get to see a lot of Janelle's personality on the first show, except that she whined that her feet were cold in the challenge. We didn't get any indication of intellect, but who needs brains when you're genuinely beautiful with large boobs? If Janelle is more than her body, we haven't seen it yet. In the meantime, I'd say she is arguably the best female BB eye candy ever.

--Jennifer, 27, Arena Football League Dancer, Plano, TX. Jennifer is another one of the "brunettes." She seemed to be following the same strategy of Ashlea, that is, winning by flirting. But, Jennifer's flirting could backfire on her.

--Kaysar, 24, Graphic Designer, Irvine, CA. I like Kaysar. So far he seems gentle, smart, and despite being a devout Muslim who prays five times a day, he keeps it low key. Personally, I find Kaysar attractive, and, if nothing else, he would get my vote because he was the only man who didn't make anti-female remarks on the premiere show. Unfortunately, the fact that he is different is already working against him (since he was nominated for eviction), and he is probably showing too much of his anxiety. However, Kaysar appears to be a strong player, and his alliance with Eric and the other men could save him from getting sent home next week.

--Maggie, 26, Emergency Room Nurse, Las Vegas. So far, Maggie is one of my favorite HGs. She seems nice and smart, and is already thinking strategically. She also has a sense of humor. When she told the other HGs she was a nurse, one HG said, "So, if anything happens....." and Maggie kiddingly replied, "It depends...."

--Michael, 28, Artist, Orange County, CA. I haven't figured out yet whether Michael is a nice guy or not, but he gets my vote as the hottest guy in the house. Between those blue eyes and his goatee (I'm a sucker for facial hair on men), Michael will be my feed-watching favorite. Michael also seemed fairly intelligent with some game strategy in mind. If he plays his cards right, he could go far in the game.

--Rachel, 33, Horse Breeder, Parker, CO. We saw a lot of Rachel last night because she won the first HOH competition, and I liked what I saw. She seemed smart and nice, with a game strategy in mind, but not overplaying it. She could do very well in the game.

--Sarah, 22, Retail Manager (Lingerie), Chicago, IL. Sarah is another of the "brunettes." We didn't see much of Sarah on the premiere show, but my first impression of her was "young." We'll have to see if there is more to Sarah. Otherwise, she could go home early.

Whew! That's the list. I'll be interested to compare my opinions of the HGs now to my opinions when September rolls around. I tend to the extremes. I'm either very insightful, or my first impressions are totally off-base.

The Food/HOH Competition

Julie introduced the food/HOH competition by saying, "For the first time on BB, the HGs will compete for food and the coveted HOH (Head of Household) position in one game." It's comforting to know that some things on BB don't change from year to year—namely the lame lines Julie has to deliver. Julie is obviously a real pro to be able to deliver her lines with a straight face.

The food/HOH competition was actually pretty good. I think that the one thing that has steadily improved each year on BB is the competitions. After the HGs randomly split into two teams, they were told to change into their swimsuits and go in the backyard. (I'm sure it was a coincidence that the competition on the first night involved showing as much skin as possible. Yeah right.)

Outside, a large above-ground pool had been set up, which contained two surfboards. The seven HGs on each team had to balance on their surfboard while one HG threw coconuts into the mouth of "The Big Kahuna" (a large fake-looking tiki figure). The task turned out to be harder than it looked (at least for one team), and the orange team slaughtered the blue team with a score of 23 to 7. This meant that the blue team members get to eat only PBJ for the next week, while the orange team gets regular food. (BTW, I was disappointed that the producers decided to continue the PBJ tradition. A constant PBJ diet makes the HGs lethargic and boring, and they constantly talk about being constipated. Surely the producers could have dreamed up a different type of penalty, or switched to a different food combination, such as beans and rice.)

For the record, the members of the two teams were:

Orange Team (Winners—Regular Food): April, Howie, James, Jenelle, Maggie, and Rachel.

Blue Team (Losers—PBJ for a week): Ashlea, Beau, Eric, Ivette, Jennifer, Kaysar, and Michael.

After the food competition, the seven members of the orange team competed for HOH. They were told to get on their surfboard and the last person standing would be HOH. This was definitely not a "tough it out" group of people. Almost immediately they decided that they would agree to keep each other safe for a least the next week (or maybe two), and the others would voluntarily get off the board. The HGs asked who wanted to be HOH, and only Sarah, Rachel and Howie wanted it.

James was off the board in 10 minutes, saying he had a leg cramp. The others stayed on longer, mostly for show. In the end, only Howie and Rachel were left. The two of them agreed that Howie would get off, leaving Rachel as HOH. In total, Howie and Rachel were on the surfboard for two hours and 35 minutes. I was surprised they stayed on for even that length of time.

A little later in the show, we were treated to the usual ritual of the new HOH showing off their new digs. BTW, it didn't look like Rachel got a gift basket with letters from home, CDs, etc. (Maybe she did, but it wasn't shown.)

Nomination Ceremony

The staff must have used up all their creativity coming up with the food/HOH competition, because the nomination ceremony for HOH was exactly the same as previous years. Do I even need to repeat it? As always, the HGs gathered at the kitchen table while Rachel brought in the box of keys and put it on the lazy susan. (Do they even make lazy susans anymore? I associate them with the metal kitchen tables of the 1950's.) Then Rachel pulled out the first key, called out a name, then passed the box along to that person to read the next name etc etc. Rachel even made the exact same speech as previous HOHs, saying this was nothing personal, just that she hadn't gotten to know the nominees very well.

In the end, Kaysar and Ashlea were nominated. Ashlea cried, which made Rachel feel guilty, but the crying didn't win Ashlea any points with the other HGs. Both Kaysar and Ashlea said they would fight this week to stay in the house.


I had expected Julie to reveal the various pairings on the premiere show, but I should have known better. Instead, they will be revealed next week. On the premiere, we got some good clues about a couple of the pairings, but didn't learn much. However, in watching feeds, during the day on Friday (7/8) the HGs were already figuring out the pairs. Here is what I saw on the premiere show.

--Kaysar/Michael—Everyone was expecting these two to be a pair since they both live in Orange County, CA. And, from the way they interacted on the premiere, it was pretty clear that they were a pair.

--Howie/Rachel—This is a pair I never would have guessed. I wonder how they know each other? (Some posters are speculating that they are brother and sister, or otherwise related.) Several remarks by Howie when he and Rachel were the last two on the surfboard made it pretty clear that they are a pair. Howie told Rachel it was unfortunate that they were the final two on the surfboard, but they could say that they had talked because they were the final two. Howie also made a remark to the effect that "We're in this for the long haul." I was surprised when Howie let Rachel become HOH. I was figuring that Howie was such a macho attention-grabber that he'd take it. But, the two of them decided to let Rachel stay (which I think was a better strategy--at least for Howie), so maybe Howie is a better player than he's letting on. When the nominations were announced, Rachel put Howie's key last, and Howie put on a big show of being scared, then being relieved when he wasn't nominated. Howie's act was overdone, but since Howie tends to overdo most things, it seemed in character.

--Eric/Maggie—This wasn't as obvious on the premiere show, but it seems likely that Eric and Maggie are a pair. Apparently Eric moved to Las Vegas several years ago, although the CBS material says that Eric is from Boston. This pairing would make sense—Eric could have met Maggie in the emergency room on paramedic duty. During the show, I wondered for a bit if April was paired with Eric, because she was wearing a sweatshirt with same logo as the shirt Eric was wearing. However, that would be a pretty obvious clue, so maybe she borrowed the shirt from Eric.

Other than those three pairings, we didn't get many clues from the premiere. However, as I said earlier, it appears from the feeds that the HGs are now figuring out the pairs, and feed watchers will probably know the pairs before we're told them next week.

Preview of Next Week's Show

Along with telling us that the pairings will be revealed next week, we also saw footage of Rachel discovering the secret bedroom, which the HGs on the feeds seem to be calling the Gold Room.

And, for this week, there will be no show on Saturday July 9.

In weeks to follow, I'll probably add some closing comments here, but I think I've said enough for tonight. This should be a fun summer. See you next week!