“Big Brother” starts anew on Thursday, bringing another highly addictive season of lies, backstabbing and tacky home decorations to CBS.
For the initiated, “Big Brother” is the grand champion of reality TV shows, a massive three-night-a-week timesuck that manages to offer up some of the most engaging, gooey reality TV around. To those who don’t watch it, it’s a curiosity that prompts questions of, “that show’s still on?”
The second group doesn’t know what they’re missing. (Or maybe they have lives.) This post is for the die-hards, the ones who subscribe to Showtime just to get the live “Big Brother After Dark” feeds every night. (But it’s not for the ones who watch the “Big Brother” feeds on the internet. Those people are a little too hardcore, even for me.)
Here is my list of the Top 10 players in “Big Brother” history. The list is skewed toward the present, if only because those players are fresher in my memory, and it takes into consideration personality and entertainment value just as much as individual gameplay and success in the game. Got a favorite that I left off? Drop ‘em in the comments.
Cue up the Chen Bot, let’s go!
10. Ragan Fox (Big Brother 12)
Ragan wasn’t the strongest physical competitor nor did he even make a run to win his season (he came in fifth), but his verbal dressing down of Rachel Reilly (he calls her “Ra-tress”) ranks as one of the most thorough takedowns in reality TV history. Watch it again, because it’s the best. (You got served, Ra-tress.)
9. Jessie Godderz (Big Brother 10-11)
You’ve got to love a guy that calls himself Mr. Pec-tacular. CBS certainly did, bringing the musclebound (and muscle-brained) Jessie back for two seasons in a row, despite the fact that, well, he was never that good at “Big Brother” (he came in 10th on his original season, then came in ninth the next year. An improvement!). Jessie’s gift of utter blankness made him stand out in a sea of contestants whose blankness is their chief attribute. He has yet to make a splash in his beloved pro wrestling industry, but perhaps that’s because he’s just too good for this world. Yep, that’s it. Don’t ever change, Jessie.
8. Jordan Lloyd (Big Brother 11, Big Brother 13)
Oh, Jordan. The doe-eyed beauty from North Carolina was an airhead among airheads — she once admitted she didn’t know how to tell time — but she was one of the most sweet, loveable airheads to ever grace our television screen. She was smart enough to link up with superstud Jeff Schroeder, which helped grease her path to win it all on Big Brother 11. And when she came back for Big Brother 13, she placed a respectable 4th. The ability to tell time is overrated, it would seem.
7. Britney Haynes (Big Brother 12)
The Arkansas beauty queen at first seemed like the second coming of Jordan, but she soon revealed herself to be quick-witted and wickedly sarcastic, which she displayed in her fiendishly funny diary room sessions, which were the most entertaining in the history of the show (she had a penchant for mock-offing herself in increasingly creative ways). She seemed like a lock for post-Big Brother stardom, and it was a minor shock when she wasn’t brought back at all or even mentioned in Season 13. That said, she’s heavily rumored to be one of the four returning houseguests this season. Our fingers are so crossed it’s not even funny.
6. Rachel Reilly (Big Brother 12, Big Brother 13)
Pathetic devil woman or fierce-hearted competitor? Rachel Reilly was both. Yes, she’s easily one of the most annoying personalities in Big Brother history, and her codependency with Brendon Villegas is sickening. (These two are the evil dopplegangers of America’s Sweethearts, Jeff and Jordan.) Yet when her back was against the wall and she faced elimination on Big Brother 13, Rachel completely changed her gameplay and realigned all her relationships in the house and went on to win the whole darn thing. She earned her victory, as well as the begrudging respect of Big Brother viewers.
5. Janelle Pierzina (Big Brother 6, Big Brother 7)
If there’s a Queen of Big Brother, it’s Janelle. She’s a tough competitor, runs a cutting social game, and rocks a mean bikini. She comes on like a typical blonde babe but on the inside is a fiery warrior princess; she’s Cameron Diaz by way of Serena Williams. If there’s an alley behind the Big Brother house, you don’t want to meet Janelle in it. She’ll take you down.
4. Dan Gheesling (Big Brother 10)
The high school football coach from Dearborn quietly (well, except for his diary room sessions, where he TALKED THE LOUDEST) played a flawless, perfectly executed game, possibly the cleanest, most pure game of Big Brother that’s ever been played. When he won his season, no one else really even came close. Gheesling played like a Level 7 Yoda Zen master, which I just made up but seems like the only way to describe his gameplay. Rumors that he blew all his winnings on hair gel have yet to be substantiated.
3. “Evel” Dick Donato (Big Brother 8, Big Brother 13)
“Evel” Dick is probably not the type of dude you’d ever want to hang out with or meet in a bar or live with inside a house while TV cameras capture your every move. But as a viewer, “Evel” Dick was perfect: A villain playing the villain role to such a high level it was impossible to tell whether he was being a villain or just being himself. At one point he went around the house in the middle of the night banging on pots and pans daring his roommates to vote him out. They were never able to, and he won his season. The only reason he’s not higher on this list is the cloudy circumstances revolving around his sudden exit from Big Brother 13, which were never thoroughly explained.
2. Jeff Schroeder (Big Brother 11, Big Brother 13)
The All-American guy. Jeff is a cool bro, a great athlete, he’s incredible looking, he’s got killer hair, he seems like he’d be fun to drink beers with, and he met his princess — the thoroughly loveable Jordan Lloyd — inside the Big Brother house. What more could you want? OK, he might not be the smartest dude in the room — he infamously spelled the word “technotronics” in one of the Big Brother competitions, a word that’s not even close to a real word — but that’s part of the reason we love him. If we were looking for brains, would we be watching Big Brother in the first place?
1. Will Kirby (Big Brother 2, Big Brother 7)
No one will ever top Will Kirby. “Dr. Will,” as he was dubbed, was the perfect player for Big Brother at the perfect time. The show was coming off its soul-crushingly dull first season and was in desperate need of a game changer. Enter Dr. Will, who was so smarmy, smart and dangerously good looking that he was like a “Melrose Place” bad guy come to life. On the surface, he played the game like he could care less about it, purposely not winning any competitions and kind of mocking the whole enterprise in the process. (In a sense, his attitude helped define Big Brother.) But behind the scenes he was earning his nickname of “The Puppetmaster,” subtly controlling his fellow housemates but doing it all so slyly that he managed to keep the blood that resulted from his moves off his hands. (At one point he orchestrated a hunger strike inside the house pretty much only for his own amusement, and he also pioneered the reality TV “Showmance” concept.) In his bizarre final speech, he managed to anger just about everyone in the house, but was so good at the game they couldn’t help but make him the winner. When he came back for “All-Stars” in Season 7, where his diary room sessions with his pal Mike “Boogie” Malin became instant classics, he laid out his game plan early and practically begged everyone to vote him out. He made it all the way to 4th place. If there is one Big Brother, it’s Will Kirby, and he is reality TV royalty.