Josh Wolk
October 01, 2000 AT 12:00 PM EDT

”Big Brother” ends with a whimper

After the first week of ”Big Brother,” when most viewers had abandoned it in favor of more rewarding pursuits — like, say, doing jumping jacks with underwear filled with broken glass — I made a vow to see the series through to its end. After all, being able to claim that I had seen this historic televised misstep in its entirety would come in handy someday when I have children, and they’re sitting around complaining about, for example, how awful ”The New Johnny Lipnicki Variety Hour” is. I will gather them around me, and say, ”So you think that’s bad? Come a little closer and I’ll tell you about the time I spent 14 weeks watching ‘Big Brother.”’ Oh, the respect I’ll receive.

But sticking with it until the end was hardly easy, especially considering the abominable moments I had to endure over the final two weeks. Just try to leave a TV on while watching roofer George misspell ”Ma” and slowly lose whatever sanity he originally squeezed into his shingle size brain. And then there was the footage of ”All Perky All the Time” Brittany (whose glittered/ splattered face looked like a Jackson Pollock canvas if he had had a ”sparkly” phase) on her first acting audition, where her nuance free Minnesotan Valley Girl inflection made me glad she hadn’t read from a scene from ”Sophie’s Choice.”

And then there was Jamie’s expulsion, where in subsequent interviews — one on ”Big Brother,” one on the CBS’ ”Early Show” — Julie Chen collected any journalistic ability she could find under the cushions of the sofa her ”Big Brother” paycheck bought her, but still could not wrench an honest answer out of the lip gloss spackled beauty queen. By the end of the series I had to surround my own television with chicken wire so I could not reflexively kick it in.

Finally, last Friday, it ended, with Eddie the victor. When Chen finally made the announcement, with Frat Boy Supreme Josh getting second and the Guffawing Wonder Curtis taking third, I was filled with neither joy nor surprise nor anger nor gastric distress. The only feeling I emerged with was relief that it was over, and a vague distaste for how I had spent my summer. What incentive was there for caring who won? Unlike ”Survivor,” there was no ”man you love to hate.”

No, they were all the man (or woman) you felt indifferent to being indifferent to. Sure, I have mixed feelings about Eddie winning. Yes, he technically deserved the money since he had medical bills to pay. But if you take his tragic story of losing a leg to cancer, you were left with a guy whose behavior veered toward the unrewardable. Wasn’t it he who once hopped around a stone faced African American Cassandra banging pots and doing what sure looked like a parody of a tribal dance, and who later discussed the pleasure clotheslining Jamie would give him? Kind of puts a bad taste in your mouth that you couldn’t get out with a $500,000 toothbrush.

But looking at his competition, no one else deserved to be the victor either, for the main reason that nobody since Will Mega (the first one out) ever copped to actually wanting to win (preferring to blather on about enjoying the ”experience”), something unforgivable in a game show contestant. As Gene Rayburn, host of ”Match Game,” might say, these phonies made me want to shove their radio mikes up their Blanks. At the end I had a faint preference for Curtis, if only because he was the only one of the finalists who admitted to wanting to win (Oh, the hubris!). But even that admission was couched by rapid fire disclaimers that everyone else deserved it too. If he can’t stand tall and demand the prize, the hell with him.

Yet there IS still one ”Big Brother” moment that I am looking forward to, more than any banishment or nomination episode. I am salivating for the day I hear an enormous thud emanating from Los Angeles, which will be the noise made when all of the housemates’ showbiz dreams collectively plummet to the ground. Because even in an industry built on vacuity, there is no room for slates as blank as theirs. Oh, the irony: While each of them refused to disagree on camera for fear that a little ”attitude” would ruin their images and hurt their future showbiz opportunities, the resulting blandness made them eminently unmemorable and uncastable. So if I ever see Jamie on the street, her face streaked with mascara running from tears that only the news that you’ve been rejected for a guest hosting gig on USA’s ”Strip Poker” can elicit, then and only then will ”Big Brother” make me feel the thrill of life.

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