Every summer (and one winter writers' strike in 2008), over a dozen houseguests enter the Big Brother house, fighting for a chance at $500,000 and reality TV fame, which ranks far below actual movie star or TV star fame. In the summer of 2000, the reality TV boom began with Survivor on May 31st and Big Brother following in July. The initial concept offered little drama, as ten people played random challenges and the audience voted each week who should stay and who should go after the houseguests would vote to nominate two people to be "banished" from the house.
A lot has changed since that first season. Initially, the series aired five new installments each week: one live banishment episode, along with four 30-minute episodes with the best parts of the week. Once Season 2 began, the format had been drastically altered: banishments became evictions, one person held power each week called Head of Household (HOH), the HOH nominated two people for eviction each week and the audience participation vanished. In future seasons, the Power of Veto, America's Choice and Coup d'Etat were introduced, though only the POV remained each season, empowering one person to remove an HOH's nominations.
But who cares about the technical aspects of the game? Big Brother is the guiltiest pleasure of the summer because of the people that partake each season, some more than once. What better way to look forward to the 14th edition of the summer hit than to look back at the best, worst and most notorious players in Big Brother history. The best aren't always the winners and the most notorious sometimes go very early on. Here now are a few of my favorites, all for very different reasons.
**Will Kirby (Seasons 2 & 7: All-Stars)
There are no best player lists as it pertains to Big Brother that do not include Dr. Will Kirby. Perhaps the reason Big Brother still exists today, Will took part when the series was dying to go from a boring look at ten people (in Season 1) to an intense, drama-filled house of eclectic personalities (in Season 2 and beyond). Will is the prototype. Without him, many of the show's best players and villains would not exist. He set the standard and honestly, who has stood up to equal or surpass him? No one. Will is the original.
Of course in All-Stars, the odds were stacked against him. So what did Will do? He feigned apathy. Essentially, he told everyone "Yeah, I'm here to boost my profile for a few weeks but then I'm outta here!" And wouldn't you know it, they bought it! Season 6 favorites banded together early on and got rid of a few other notorious players before Season 6 imploded. Dr. Will was left standing when the dust settled with Mike Boogie, his Chilltown compadre. Mike Boogie was never as popular as Dr. Will, and despite becoming victorious in the All-Star season, Mike Boogie has never been seen by viewers as more than a coat-tail rider to Dr. Will.
In what remains as the single worst moment in the show's history, the final immunity challenge in All-Stars involved Mike Boogie, Janelle and Erika fighting it out in the endurance portion. Mike Boogie dropped before the live show ended, telling Janelle and Erika they needed to take him to the end if they wanted to win. The shock of the moment forced Janelle to let go herself, erasing her chances at victory and leaving them (the show) and us with the worst case scenario for the finale: Mike Boogie and Erika. The worst showmance ever. A terrible final two for All-Stars. And a guaranteed win for a guy too wrapped up in himself to realize people only remember him because Dr. Will let him be remembered.
**Janelle Pierzina, Howie Gordon & Kaysar Ridha (Seasons 6 & 7: All-Stars)
Season 6 boasted one of the worst alliances in the history of Big Brother: The Friendship. It's not the worst at gameplay, since the final two consisted of Friendship allies, but it was the worst for viewers. It was cult-like, with Eric the Fireman as their leader. That's why it was fun when Kaysar, Janelle & Howie banded together against The Friendship. Kaysar's popularity soared when he let Maggie know he knew about her partnership with Eric (it was a season of secret partners) and the anti-Friendship alliance took form. Kaysar overplayed his hand and was evicted twice (upon being voted back in, he was promptly re-evicted).
But it was Janelle and Howie that were the heart of their group. They were underdogs in both their seasons and psyched each other up before every challenge. Janelle went on to be one of the most popular players ever, playing her part like an intelligent Paris Hilton. Unfortunately, she failed twice at making the finals. But her legacy remains intact.
**Jessie Godderz (Seasons 10 & 11)
Revered by himself and Allison Grodner and reviled by everyone else, Jessie was a preening, posturing muscle head, with a serious love for himself. He's widely considered one of the worst players of the game, and certainly one of the least favorite players with viewers. But even after a dismal shot in Season 10, Allison Grodner trotted him back for Season 11, and he pulled off back-to-back failures by getting evicted in the first few weeks. I include him here because he's simply one of those players that virtually everyone hates. He made bad jokes, thought highly of his place in the game and still fell flat on his face.
**Evel Dick Donato & Daniele Donato (Seasons 8 & 13)
As loved as Will is and hated as Jessie is, Dick and daughter Daniele fall in the middle. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I loved them both when they pulled off 1st (Dick) and 2nd (Daniele) in Season 8. Daniele rocked POV challenges while Dick stood up to his enemies. He made life hell for the opposing alliance when all seemed lost for the tattooed dad, waking them up with pots and pans and spewing insults. They both stayed that week, thanks mostly to America's Choice. Dick's behavior bordered on bullying and Daniele's complaining irritated many, but they are inarguably two of the best to play the game. In Season 13, Dick left early due to a family emergency, while Daniele went on win two HOHs before finishing 8th.
Personally, with Russell Hantz's brother Willie participating this year, I'd love to see a showdown between Dick and Russell Hantz someday. It might be epic.
**Jeff Schroeder & Jordan Lloyd (Seasons 11 & 13)
Jeff & Jordan were the It Showmance in Season 11, cozied up to one another while their chances of victory evaporated with each week, as their alliance members fell each week to Jessie's crew (the loathsome Chima, Natalie and Kevin). While audiences loved Jorff, it wasn't likely either one would make the finals. Finally, when Jeff scored the Coup d'Etat (from an audience vote), the tide turned for the duo and it seemed like they might go all the way. Unfortunately, Jeff finished 5th, but Jordan stuck in there and defeated Kevin and Natalie in the end to win $500,000.
Unfortunately, the charm of Jorff was gone two seasons later, when their self-entitled attitude erased some of the sheen. Still, you can't deny how much fun it was to root for them in Season 11. She may not have been a great player, but it was great fun to see her defeat Natalie in the final vote.
**Brendon Villegas & Rachel Reilly (Seasons 12 & 13)
Brenchel was the antithesis of Jorff when they debuted in Season 12. They were obnoxious, arrogant, difficult to watch and all around a pain to watch. "No one comes between me and my man!" indeed. But something changed one season later. Somehow I started... rooting for them? And I kind of hated Jorff? What the hell? It's true. And their behavior never really changed. But there was something about them that made them an underdog. After a while, when someone is hated by everyone, you start feeling sorry for them.
After Brendon was evicted last season, Rachel spent time in the house for the first time without Brendon. In that time, she stopped playing for Brendon and started playing for herself. I'm not saying she became a sympathetic character, but she was more tolerable playing to win $500,000 than playing to win Brendon's heart.
Rachel remains the only returning houseguest to ever win the game while playing against newbies. Mike Boogie of course won All-Stars, which, you know, featured all-stars.
The duo went on to place third on last season's The Amazing Race. It's a fairly strong testament to their impact on Big Brother, good or bad, that Brenchel were able to make a crossover to The Amazing Race and almost win. Part of me hopes they re-appear again somewhere else. Part of me hopes I never see them again.
OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS
**Chicken George (Seasons 1 & All-Stars)
Somehow, the Big Brother survived after the first season and one of the few standouts was Chicken George. Mostly silly, not really funny, never taking things too seriously, Chicken George was the only Season 1 cast member ever asked to return. While he does have one more HOH win than Dr. Will, he's certainly not one of the greatest players ever, but he's the only one worth mentioning from Season 1.
**Danielle Reyes (Seasons 3 & All-Stars)
Screwed by the show before it became a regular thing, Danielle played the best game anyone could play in Season 3, aligning with one guy and systematically taking down the house, without anyone ever suspecting she was a mastermind. Then when the jury saw her Diary Room tapes, they couldn't vote for her, after her comments about them. Talk about screwing someone over! Future juries weren't allowed to see Diary Rooms, but the damage was done for Danielle, who fared worse in All-Stars.
**Cowboy & Nakomis (Season 5; Nakomis returned for All-Stars)
Season 5, subtitled Project DNA, featured a whole mess of family drama. The most notable was the reveal that two people were, unknowingly, half-siblings. Of course it would be the man-child dressed as a cowboy and the rainbow-haired hippie. Nakomis is most notable for first constructing what would eventually become the Backdoor, not at all as sexual as it sounds.
**Britney Haynes (Season 12)
One of my favorite players ever to watch, Britney was sarcastic, snarky and entirely entertaining. She was the audience's best bet to take down Team Meow Meow (Enzo, Hayden, Lane, Matt), but failed to do so, placing 4th. Her legacy could possibly be redeemed should she be asked to mentor a few past houseguests? Just sayin'.
So there you have it, my look back at a few of the most noteworthy houseguests in Big Brother history. There are plenty I didn't mention that maybe deserve a nod, which is up to you. Sound off below in the comments section if you're a Big Brother fan and let me know who are your favorites.
Next time I'll offer the second part of my Breaking Bad series, chronicling Season 2. Until then, stay tuned.