Big Brother 4 Contestant Preview and Analysisby Brian James -- 07/07/2003
Big Brother 4 starts this coming Tuesday, July 8, and I, for one, can’t wait. Last summer, before I started writing for this site, I was glued to the shows, constantly refreshing the live feed update boards on the Internet to get the latest dirt, and developed such a massive crush on Jason it was pathetic. This summer, I’ll be one-third of a strong lineup covering the show here at RealityNewsOnline: I’ll be recapping the Tuesday episodes, editor David Bloomberg will be tackling Wednesdays, and C. Brian Devinney will be covering Fridays.
Late last week, just before the holiday weekend, contestant information was finally released on the CBS.com website, which promises that “…the 13 HouseGuests chosen through this difficult process are strong, interesting, compelling, and competitive strangers from diverse backgrounds.” We’ll just wait and see how truthful that proves to be - although I suppose they couldn’t really say, “Six are interesting and compelling; one sits around, scratches his ass and does squat; one’s an irritating whiner with a high-pitched screech that’s worse than nails on a chalkboard; another’s completely devoid of any personality whatsoever; then there’s…” could they? It also would seem that the preferred official spelling of the term is “HouseGuest,” which seems rather awkward to me, but I don’t make these decisions. Also, it’s interesting that while they talked about rigorous “physical, psychological and mental” screening, they didn’t mention anything about background checks. So, hey, repeat DWI offenders? Shoplifters? Embezzlers? Drunken gropers? Mattress tag rippers? Bring ‘em on, I guess!
Only nine of the HouseGuests’ identities were revealed; the remaining four, as part of the “X Factor” twist, will be the exes of four of the contestants - to the best of my knowledge, their identities won’t be revealed until the season premiere on Tuesday. Also in keeping with the “X Factor,” none of the contestants are married - all are single with the exception of Jack, who’s divorced.
Now, it’s time to meet the HouseGuests! Good grief, I sound like Julie Chen. If you find me at any course of the season using phrases like, “It’s been a busy week in the Big Brother household,” please shoot me. Anyway, rather than regurgitate the contestant Q&As and favorites lists from the official CBS website, I’m just going to offer you my take on each contestant based on their more interesting/telling responses. (I should warn you, though, that when I go back and look at some of my fearless predictions for High School Reunion, I laugh uncontrollably, so bear that in mind.)
Alison, a 22-year-old retail manager from Pittsburgh, is the contestant whose profile most made me need an insulin injection - and I’m not even diabetic. Her motto is, “Irwin [her last name] backwards spells WIN-IR!” First off, that’s an anagram from rearranging the syllables, not spelling it backwards. Irwin spelled backwards is “niwri”; rearrange that and substitute some letters and you come up with “nitwit,” which might be more appropriate. Her personal hero is Britney Spears, her “kitty” is named Meow Meow, and the news she’ll miss most from the outside world is who won Miss Pennsylvania. No, I’m not kidding. Even many of her favorites are überperky: Cosmopolitan! Shape! Smart Start cereal! Malibu and diet! (Diet anything, I guess - that’s all she listed.) She does list The Golden Girls as her favorite show, however; being that she was four when the show premiered, she must have picked up on it in reruns, which is kind of interesting. Alison is almost definitely going to be sweet; the question is whether she will be sickeningly so.
When asked why he wanted to be on the show, Brandon, a 28-year-old computer engineer from Newport Beach, California, responded, “To test my leadership skills in a proactive adapting environment.” That’s not a reason; that’s a resume objective. He also feels he brings “stature” as a strength. Your guess is as good as mine. The interesting thing about Brandon, though, is that there seems to be a lot of dichotomy in him - things that wouldn’t normally seem to go together on first glance. He’s a computer programmer and a surfer (when it comes to outside news, he’ll be missing the swell forecasts the most). His favorite music types are punk, house, and trance. He has a lot of typical “manly” favorites on his list: Maxim, Stuff, The Rock, Natasha Henstridge, Jackass, Punk’d, power bars - yet he lists gardenias as both his favorite flower and scent (as opposed to past reality contestants who have said things like “that’s a girl question!”) and includes quirkier fare like The Princess Bride, more serious fare like The Purpose-Driven Life, and seeming jokes: “underwater basket weaving”? Also, between his motto being the Golden Rule and the summary I read of The Purpose-Driven Life on Amazon.com, I’m sensing he may have some strong Christian beliefs as well. He says he plans to win the show by manipulating the confidence others put in him. I have a lot of duality to my nature as well, which has helped me to better understand a wide variety of people; if the same is true of him and he’s adept at figuring out what makes the others tick, he may just pull it off. [Oddly, Brandon’s picture no longer appears on the CBS site. It looks like he is already off the show! More info as we get it.]
Dana, a 28-year-old karate school manager from Queens, gave one of my favorite answers for “Personal Hero”: “The jury’s still out on this one.” Thank you. Normally that category tends to be all gushy, so it’s nice to see something a little more blunt and pragmatic. She’s either a fan of alliteration or thinks the show’s being sponsored by the syllable “per”: the three adjectives that best describe her are “persistent” and “personable” (that was only two; I’m guessing the screening questionnaires didn’t lean too heavily in the math department), and she’ll be bringing her strength of “personality” to the game. One thing that struck me about Dana was just how generic a lot of her favorites were: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, chocolate chip cookies, the Yankees and Knicks, and music style choices of rock and alternative; it’s almost as if she copied down the top answers in a popularity poll. On the other hand, if she is truly that mainstream, it may enable her to mesh and blend better with the others. While her motto is “Losing is not an option” and she brings the “non-quitting spirit” to the game, her strategy is to “let other people win the game for me.” Eh? If she means in the sense of letting the others hang themselves, that’s certainly not a bad idea, but it would seem she might want to consider something a little more proactive to go along with it. Overall, I get a gregarious, friendly vibe from her.
David, 21, is a “former army ranger” from Deerfield, Florida. Translation: he’s unemployed. Have you noticed that every season on one of these shows there’s the guy who gives quick, flip, smartass answers to every question in his Q&A that are generally funnier in his own mind than on the page? That would be David. The three adjectives that best describe him are “who,” “really,” and “cares,” not one of which qualify as an adjective (again, the section on grammar in the screening questionnaires must have been awfully skimpy - and yes, I get that he wasn’t being serious about it. Neither am I.), his personal hero is Fred Flintstone, his biggest fear upon entering the house is wrestling a sumo midget, and his favorite board game is Hit Yourself In The Face With A Board. He doesn’t list a favorite sport because he hates referees, so you can add in a dislike of authority figures as well. His wondering if his brother’s still in Iraq as far as news he’ll miss could be serious, but given his other answers, it’s hard to tell. Generally, past contestants who have answered questionnaires in this manner have tended to be obnoxious, cocky, and have gone quickly, although once in awhile they’re genuinely funny and stick around. That’s my prediction for David: he’s either going to be incredibly funny or incredibly obnoxious with no in between. I will give him a point for his motto, though: “Life’s a bitch and she’s back in heat!”
Erika, 33, is a Pilates instructor from Los Angeles, although it would seem she has some Chicago in her background somewhere as her favorite teams are the Bulls, Bears, and Cubs [Editor’s Note: OK, she has my vote to win!]. She also gave an answer I loved: she won’t miss any news from the outside world because it’s mostly all bad. Honestly, that’s why I tend to avoid the news too: I get depressed very easily by it. I figure if there’s anything truly earthshattering it’ll show up in Yahoo! Headlines. Anyway, Erika is the most likely to be considered a threat, and indeed, her greatest fear is being voted out first. Everything about her suggests determination and focus. As a Pilates instructor, obviously she’s in great shape physically. In her Q&A answers, she describes herself as strong and competitive, lists her weaknesses as “Never heard of them!”, and plans to win by having a strong working alliance with each HouseGuest and making secret alliances, which is certainly a coherent game plan. Yet she also describes herself as “compassionate” and says that her biggest strength is her “ability to relate with anyone,” so she would seem to have good people skills as well. Her personal hero is “any person that dedicates his or life to helping others,” which is certainly admirable even if it does sound somewhat like a pat beauty pageant contestant answer. Really, the only quibble I have with Erika is her choice of nonalcoholic beverage: Diet Sierra Mist?!? That’s something that’s given away in product placements, not a voluntary choice!
Jack, 58, is a retired FBI agent from Birmingham, Alabama, who frets that he’ll be voted out first if his job background comes to light. Really, the most notable thing about Jack’s Q&A and favorites is just how utterly impossible it is to pick up on anything about him beyond him seeming like an affable middle-of-the-road family man. His personal hero is John F. Kennedy and his favorite musical artist is Bruce Springsteen, so in that respect he kind of seems like a typical boomer as well. (It just hit me that there are probably some potential American Idol contestants out there who might not have a clue who either of them are. Hold on - “Gramps” here needs to catch his breath before continuing.) The news he’ll miss the most is “terrorism,” and I’m certainly hoping he meant to put “updates on” in front of that or it would seem rather ghoulish. Overall, though, I’m not left with much of a strong impression of Jack one way or the other.
Jun is a 27-year-old investment manager from New York City whose responses are refreshingly candid. Witness why she wants to be on Big Brother: “All the attention I want AND a 1 in 13 chance at half a million? C’mon!” As far as favorite sports: “Um, go U.S. Olympics team? Sorry, I’m not even going to pretend.” (She also admits that when it comes to challenges, by no means is she an athlete, although she doesn’t mind volleyball.) Her favorite TV show is Sex and the City and she does have that sort of vibe to her: shopping’s a hobby; the type of news she’ll miss the most is fashion, nightlife, and celebrity gossip; her favorite magazine is Cosmopolitan (although she also likes magazines that are more traditionally “men’s” like Playboy and Maxim), and her drink of choice is the high maintenance-sounding Midori sour. Perhaps she thinks she’s going to be spending the summer locked in a sensory deprivation tank, because what she’ll miss the most from home is “everything about my bed - my pillows/sheets/dreams.” She plans to win the game by “doing what she does best: charming the men and befriending the ladies,” but her biggest fear is “being portrayed inaccurately or unfairly; I would like to pick up my life post-BB4.” She won’t have much to worry about on this show: the 24/7 live feeds that capture all the action negate any editing slants on the televised shows. My one reservation: people who describe their sense of humor as “wacky” generally should be reaching for the adjective “grating” instead. Overall, Jun has a very strong, distinct, urban personality; I have a feeling I’m going to like her, but she might be a little much for some of the other contestants.
Nathan is a 23-year-old personal trainer from Edmond, Oklahoma, whose biggest fear upon entering the show is “no privacy.” On this show, I would think that’s more of a reality than a fear, myself. He wants to be on Big Brother because “this show is what I’m good at.” Eh? His biggest strength is that he’s “hard to read and understand.” Evidently. Meanwhile, his biggest weakness is that he “gets aggravated very easily.” His personal motto is “Live the dream!”, which sounds frighteningly like a late night infomercial slogan. His favorites for the most part are pretty middle-of-the-road - U2, Friends, Sports Illustrated, and the like - but the news source he’ll miss the most is The O’Reilly Factor, which could indicate rightwing leanings. It’s honestly really hard to get a good read on Nathan; he’s going to be the one I’ll really need to see on the show to form any real opinion. For some reason, though, I see him as either staying in the background or a somewhat bratty younger brother type.
Finally, Scott is a 33-year-old waiter from Chicago, which - and I speak from experience, not malice - means he’s really something else. The question is what: Actor? Writer? Musician? Maybe even a basketball player manqué - he lists it as his hobby, sport to play, and outdoor activity; his favorite team is the Knicks; and his favorite magazine (besides Playboy and Penthouse) is Slam, a magazine covering the sport. The three adjectives he uses to describe himself are “beat to own drummer (sic),” “high energy,” and “crazy,” which, more often than not, turn out to be synonyms for “highly annoying.” His weakness is his “hairy back,” but that didn’t stop Bunky from making it to the Top 5 in the second season. His favorite actor is Vince Vaughn, which is one thing, but in the company of some of his other choices (Old School, Fastlane) and the dated knit cap/shades combo, I’m afraid it means he’s going to be calling things “money” a lot… because that didn’t go out of style in 1998, to be generous, or anything. (Paradise Hotel’s Melanie and Scott also apparently missed the memo.) Yet the guy’s not a total idiot: his favorite author is Robert Frost when some of the other people (Nathan, for example) can’t even name one. He’s also the only HouseGuest to list Big Brother as one of his favorite TV shows. Overall, though, while there isn’t just one specific thing I can point to, the cumulative effect is that I have a feeling Scott will be the most annoying male HouseGuest, and quite possibly the most annoying one period.
Now, let’s take a look at how compatible the HouseGuests may be based on their listed favorites. Brandon and Nathan can watch Gladiator together, while Dana, Erika, and Jack would most likely opt for a Tom Hanks film festival, particularly one that would include Dana’s favorite movie, Forrest Gump. Watching movies in general is a hobby of both Nathan and Alison. Scott would be fine with Nathan wanting to watch Friends as his favorite actress is Courtney Cox Arquette; afterwards, Nathan would be only too happy to throw on a CD of U2 for Jun as it’s their favorite group. Need to send flowers? Alison, Brandon, Erika, Jack, Jun, Nathan, and Scott would all prefer you said it with roses. Scott’s favorite scent is “a woman,” while David more specifically likes the smell of “chicks’ hair”; meanwhile, Brandon and Erika could bond over the scent of a nice gardenia. In the mood for some board games? Invite Erika and Scott for Scrabble and Nathan, Jack, and Dana for Monopoly. Dana also is a Trivial Pursuit buff, while Jun loves all three games! As far as video games, Jack doesn’t play them at all, Jun isn’t a huge fan, and Erika and David both go for Ms. Pac-Man.
Perhaps they should change the backyard basketball hoop to a volleyball net: only Scott is a hoops player, while Dana, Erika, Jun, and Nathan would all be up for a good spike. Afterward, Scott and Dana might like to attend a Knicks game together. As far as musical styles, Scott, Alison, and Jun all like rap and hip-hop; Alison and Jun are R&B fans as well. Make it rock for Jack, Dana, and Nathan; there could be some shared ground between David’s classic rock and Jack’s oldies as well, while perhaps some of Brandon’s favorite punk bands could fall under Dana’s definition of “alternative.” (Erika just likes “anything that inspires her to dance”!)
Poor Jun may not get a minute’s peace with her magazines: Alison will be asking to borrow her Cosmopolitan, Brandon will be wanting her Maxim, and Scott will be hounding her for her latest Playboy. As far as cookies, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip for Alison, Dana, and Scott, although Erika only likes her mother’s recipe and Nathan wants Rainbow Chips Ahoy. Margaritas are a drink of choice for Jun and Erika; Jack and Erika have champagne tastes; Dana and Brandon opt for vodka tonics, although Dana prefers Grey Goose vodka while Scott just likes Ketel One straight. Nathan and Brandon may quibble over which “Long” Iced Tea is the best - Beach or Island, and while Jack is happy with beer in general, Dana prefers Amstel Light and David goes for Guinness. Both Nathan and Scott listed a parent as their personal hero: Nathan his mom and Scott his dad. Finally, Brandon, Erika, and Nathan are better at physical challenges, Jun, Jack, and Scott are better at mental ones, and Alison, Dana, and David consider themselves equally good at both.
Of course, none of these shared bonds are likely going to mean very much once the game is underway, just as all my predictions and analyses could be completely off base: going into it, I think I’m going to like Brandon, Dana, Erica, and Jun; I’m neutral on Jack and Nathan; and I think Alison, David, and Scott will inspire the most “shut ups” in my recaps, but a week from now I could be eating these words. As I’ll be recapping the premiere episode, I’ll see you then when we can all find out together!
Brian James is an actor/writer/singer in New York City. An avid reality show, Passions, early Ryan’s Hope, retro music, and Internet discussion board junkie, he can be found holding up "Will Snark For Food" signs in subway stations as he continues to search for that elusive "day job." Brian would like to stress that his writings are based solely on what he sees in each episode, and realizes that there may sometimes be more to the story and that people may behave quite differently under normal circumstances. Comments and cybertomatoes accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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