Hopelessly hooked on ''Big Brother'' | EW.com


Hopelessly hooked on ''Big Brother''

See the DVDs that go unwatched while Dalton waits for Julie Chen. Plus: obsessing over co-worker Josh Wolk's book ''Cabin Pressure,'' the five best pre-''Sopranos'' series finales, and your mail

Julie Chen, Big Brother

(John P. Filo)

Hopelessly hooked on ”Big Brother”

Oh, no. Here we go again. Summer means many things — long days, short sleeves, and the return of the Chenbot. That last one would signify Julie Chen, host of CBS’ Big Brother, now on the verge of entering its eighth season. Past readers may be well aware of my love/hate relationship with the show. I love it and hate myself for loving it. There is so much about the show that is so bad — the cheesy contestants, shameless product placement, lame-ass food competitions, horrible exit interviews, nonsensical twists…OK, you get the picture. Yet I can’t help but watch three hours a week, and then spend another three hours emailing back and forth about it to equally obsessed coworkers. Now, wasting this much time is pathetic enough, but I never truly realized what a sorry state I was in until I glanced up at my overflowing shelf of DVDs that have sat there (often for years) unwatched. If I could skip just one summer of houseguests stuffing slime into their bathing suits, I could finally put a dent into the stack of DVDs mocking me from across the room. Here’s just a few of the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of titles playing second fiddle to the Houseguests:

Rodney Dangerfield: No Respect
True, this collection of network and cable TV specials features guests like Jeff Foxworthy and Andrew Dice Clay, but there’s also Andy Kaufman, Bill Murray, and Jerry Seinfeld. And let’s not forget about the star of the show. I thought Rodney was the funniest human alive when I first saw Caddyshack. Hell, I even thought he was funny when he yelled at his wife to hang up on me a few years back. So why does this three-disc set remain in its shrink wrap? I blame Big Brother.

Team America: World Police
Puppets having sex?!? How can I not be watching this?

This Spanish-language HBO series is supposed to be as excellent as it is gruesome. But why spend all the effort reading subtitles when there are wannabe actresses with breast implants putting oversized keys around their necks?

From the Earth to the Moon
Another HBO series, but from before I had cable. I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that takes place in outer space, and stuff on HBO is pretty reliable as long as Robert Wuhl is not starring in it. I probably could have traveled from the Earth to the moon myself in all the time I’ve wasted on Big Brother over the past seven years.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 1
I’ve made it through most of these episodes (including the one with a struggling young actor named Aaron Spelling) but never polished it off. Hitchcock would probably have me killed if he knew he was taking a back seat to people named Boogie and Bunky.

Crime Story
Great 1980s cop-meets-Mob drama starring Dennis Farina. Watched Season 1. Never made it to Season 2. I suppose there’s only so much Farina one man can take at a time.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Unrated
I actually saw the ”rated” Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and although I’m quite aware that this version will not feature Miss Jolie rolling around with her gozongas hanging out, one can’t help hoping that there might be a little more Angelina to take in, and a little Angelina goes a long way.

The Docurama Awards Collection
Now, this is just embarrassing. This box set of 12 Academy Award-winning or nominated documentaries has remained unopened for over two years now. The thing is, I love a good documentary, and all of these (including Murder on a Sunday Morning, Scared Straight!, The Weather Underground) are supposedly top notch. It just seems like there is always something else I need to watch instead. Like houseguests competing to win a private screening for a not-so-subtly product-placed motion picture, for example.

Evel Knievel
Why is Evel Knievel sporting such a bitchin’ tan? Because George Hamilton is the one playing the legendary stunt cyclist in this 1971 film told mostly through flashbacks. I too enjoy flashing back to before the year 2000, when my summers were my own.

Viva Knievel!
There are a few things that Viva Knievel! has going for it over Evel Knievel. For one thing, it stars the actual Evel Knievel. For another, it features an all-star cast including Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen (as someone who is trying to kill Evel and use his truck to smuggle cocaine back into America — I don’t get it either), Lauren Hutton, and even Gene Kelly, who is in full-on slumming mode as a mechanic who may or may not be mentally retarded. (I’m not saying this to be funny. I seriously can’t tell.) I caught most of this genius piece of filmmaking on cable — including the part where Evel somehow heals a crippled boy — but missed the very beginning. In fact I could probably scan that part during one of Big Brother’s boring-as-hell food challenges if I could just tear myself away.

It would be nice if I could commit to Big Brother abstinence and plow through these and the hundreds of other titles (Man on Fire, Patton, Ali G Indahouse, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, etc….) that have been gathering dust, but I’m a realistic man. If I can just get through the two Knievel movies and catch some kinky puppet intercourse while still sitting through my summer obsession, then everyone’s a winner.

I hated summer camp, I mean hated it. Back when I was 11, my parents shipped me off against my wishes for eight weeks to North Carolina while they tried to save their marriage. It turned out we were all miserable. I was homesick as hell, split my thumb open with a Swiss Army Knife, and my best friend was a tape recorder that played ”Eye of the Tiger” over and over again. To make matters even worse, my parents split up soon after, so the two-month jail sentence was basically for naught. Now, as if my camp memories aren’t painful enough on their own, I also can’t help lumping them in alongside ones of my family splintering apart. It’s a bad place and I don’t go there often. So I was a bit hesitant to jump into Cabin Pressure, a book authored by EW coworker Josh Wolk, about his return to his boyhood camp as an adult counselor. We all know Josh is a brilliant writer (as evidenced by his Real World and Amazing Race recaps right here on EW.com), but still…camp? The only subject matter than could scare me off more is if he wrote about his enduring love of hospitals. The problem is, Josh sits in the office right next to me. He had already given me a copy of his book so he knew I had it. Every day I showed up for work and didn’t comment on it, was a personal dis and dismissal. Things would become way too awkward if I didn’t offer some kind of feedback. I really had no choice. Bastard! But here’s the thing: I finally sat down with it over my vacation last week, and it’s terrific. The humiliation, the dread, the overwhelming feeling of insecurity — it’s all there! For some odd reason, Josh seemed to revel in it, however, while I hid under a blankey and cried over the fact that I wasn’t tough like Clubber Lang. In any event, for anyone who went through a camp experience — either good, bad, or ugly — I heartily recommend you pick it up. To give you a little taste of the man behind the mission, I decided to pepper the author with a few probing questions. Although I suppose I could have just yelled them from my office to his, I decided to be even lazier and more impersonal and email them instead.

GLUTTON: When I first met you, your face was as smooth as a baby’s ass, yet for the past few years you’ve busted out a hairy beard. Why the decision to go all Brawny Paper Towel Guy on us
JOSH: I started growing the beard at camp. There is no incentive to keep yourself remotely presentable or hygienic when you’re at a boys’ camp, and you start letting yourself go fast. By the end, people around me were just lucky I pulled my pants down to go to the bathroom. But I got used to the full hairy, and when I re-entered society I thought it made me look distinguished. Upon returning to work, I added a tweed jacket and a giant Sherlock Holmes pipe, but was beaten up at the first EW meeting. My coworkers let me keep the beard only because it was harder to tear off — EW writers typically have little upper-arm strength. Don’t think I haven’t seen you struggle to lift your mail, Ross.

In your book, you write about taking part in a bonding exercise called ”Toilet Tag” in which you (upon being touched) have to assume the position of a toilet and wait for someone to come sit on your lap and flush you. Please tell me you’re not going to introduce this at the next EW retreat.
No, but I am waiting for my chance to pair everyone off for Trust Falls. But here’s the twist: While you’re all learning to support each other, I’ll split off to ransack all of your offices and take your choice DVDs. Trust that, suckas!

On the back of the book, I see raves from other notable authors as well as David Hyde Pierce. I don’t exactly how to say this but…what the hell?!?
Clearly you have not seen Wet Hot American Summer. Starring in that alone makes him a foremost authority on camp. And the guy just won a Tony. All I ever won was a pro-marksman riflery badge.

Sounds like you had a great time at camp that summer, which in turn led to lucrative book and movie deals. However, as a result, you also missed an entire summer of Paradise Hotel. Still think you made the right decision?
Actually, what bothered me more was missing Big Brother 4. Having seen every show before and after, I know with great sadness that I will never be the full BB authority that I have always dreamed of. Actually, what was surreal is that when I first arrived back at my old camp that summer, I was completely disoriented because the place looked exactly the same from what I remembered, but none of the old familiar faces were there. And at the end of the summer, when I finally felt comfortable at camp again, I got home and turned on the TV: there was the Big Brother house, looking so familiar with its tiny pool and crappy IKEA furniture…but none of the old familiar faces. The only thing I had to ground me was Julie Chen. Thank God she wasn’t at my camp, too.

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