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TV Review: CBS hopes quick start for 'Big Brother 2' will keep viewers watching

Saturday, July 07, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The women talk about sex more openly.

The guys go shirtless more often, as if they're auditioning for the next Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

And more people seem to have weird names (Hardy, Bunky, etc.).

'Big Brother 2'

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays on CBS.

HOST: Julie Chen



The pace of the second "Big Brother," which premiered Thursday on CBS, was certainly more brisk than the original. No question, "Big Brother 2" makes for better TV than its boring predecessor, but it's still no "Survivor" in content or ratings ("BB2" came in second behind NBC's 8 p.m. hour Thursday night). "Survivor" has an exotic setting. "Big Brother" takes place in a gussied-up double wide trailer.

Like "Survivor 2," the cast of "Big Brother 2" was apparently chosen for their hot bods and well-defined personalities aimed at providing maximum dramatic conflict. That's de rigeur for TV's so-called "reality" shows, but with "BB2" it seems more calculated.

How else to explain Bunky? He's a 36-year-old gay man from North Carolina who chooses to stay closeted and allow the others to think he's married.

"A wife named Greg is not going to work," he says.

Opinionated loudmouth Kent, 46, from Powell, Tenn., discusses who the token gay or lesbian in the cast might be, telling Bunky it's a "deviant, perverse lifestyle 90 percent of Americans don't want."

When Bunky eventually reveals the truth, and I'm betting it will be sooner rather than later, Kent will look like a jerk, but so will Bunky for lying.

Already "BB2" cast members have been pigeonholed. Personal chef Nicole, 31, is the new Jerri. Physician Will, 28, is the smart guy. Autumn, 28, is the seemingly slutty, self-esteem-free mother of a 4-year-old who climbs into bed with hottie Hardy, 31, and asks, "Do you mind being affectionate with me? I mean, touching me, does it bother you?"

"Not yet," replies Hardy, a native of York.

Say what you will about the first "Big Brother" cast. They were boring to watch, had pathetically overblown expectations of their popularity, etc. But they were more honestly themselves, especially when they debated bolting from the house and putting an end to the series. "BB2" cast members appear far more conniving in comparison, which will probably make for a more interesting program, but it's also a little sad.

Already "BB2" is off to a zippier start, beginning quicker than the first season did last summer. Viewers saw contestants say goodbye to their families and arrive at the "Big Brother" house within the first 15 minutes of the program.

"You deserve it," one mother says when her daughter learns she'll be locked in a house with 11 other people for up to three months. Talk about a cruel statement. Does anyone deserve this besides criminals?

Host Julie Chen is back. As last summer, her greatest contribution is to make "Survivor" host Jeff Probst look good by comparison.

Other things have changed, including the addition of a new twist whereby one cast member each week is chosen "head of the household." Picking the "HoH" is a confusing process, but the winner gets a bedroom to himself or herself for a week and gets to choose which two people will be nominated for banishment the following week.

Fans of the first season -- and yes, there were people who watched religiously -- are in an uproar over CBS's decision to charge for live video streaming from the "BB2" house (it was free last year) beginning Monday at http://cbs.com/ ($19.95 for the whole season or $9.95 per month). I can't say it bothers me.

It's a free-market economy, and I wouldn't waste my time or money on "BB2" Web streaming. Having to keep tabs on the TV show will be payment enough.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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