Half-A-Millionaire Men’s Club

Brittney Martinez (left) and Cody Calafiore (right) have a heated discussion early Friday morning. Cody would wind up nominating Brittney a few hours later.

Brittney Martinez (left) and Cody Calafiore (right) have a heated discussion early Friday morning. Cody would wind up nominating Brittney a few hours later.

To be totally honest, it was probably one of the dullest weeks in recent show history. The house circled their collective wagons to dispose of former minor league ballplayer and father Devin Shepherd, who’d be the first to tell you about his daughter in his stay in the house. The odds were in favor of the house succeeding, as they often are when it is thirteen against one, and Devin knew he was a goner when he lost the Power of Veto competition the previous Saturday.

I found the feeds unwatchable most of the week, with a no-brainer decision ahead of the house, plus world events (such as the deliberate downing of a passenger aircraft by Russians or their sympathizers) really didn’t lead to captivating viewing. One side of the house, mostly led by men, were running up the score on the inferior opposing side, led mostly be women who have yet to figure out that they need to pool their efforts. It does not make for exciting TV to watch a baseball game in the third inning with one team sporting a ten run lead, so watching a house where one side is in total control is a bit dull. The dominant side of the house, seemingly led by Providence policeman Derrick Levasseur, has grown a bit more arrogant, wanting to break up the rest of the women in the game before they finally realize aligning with each other is in their best interests. The one upside to this group’s now arrogant ways is it will probably led to their breaking up sooner rather than later. I could easily see Zach Rance rubbing Frankie Grande the wrong way (no pun intended) or Cody Calafiore.

The house did have a touching moment or two, however. Donny Thompson, the previous week’s POV holder, made a symbolic move in saving Georgia minister Jocosta Odom from the block. Odom made history in that competition when she became the first nominee in show history not to compete in the POV contest due to exhaustion and dehydration. Donny made no bones about showing Jocosta his veto medallion and making his intentions known as soon as he won. He’ll gain a lot of fans for doing that, but the landscape of the game as it stands now probably means he will go home sooner or later. Being a honest player or a total liar usually sends you home by the more skilled players at neither end of the truth spectrum.

Thursday brought the unique spectacle of the CBS primetime show promising live coverage of the ongoing Head of Household competition that began as the show concluded, then reneging on the promise when the feeds came back a half hour later with winners already determined. To me, it was another “bait and switch” by production who has been doing such tactics for years, who tell you the feeds are 24/7, but reserve the right to interrupt that whenever they chose. It would be nice if the powers that be would air a POV or a Battle of the Block competition live on the feeds at least once a year. As Mike Myers said in the Austin Powers movies, “Throw me a frigging bone here!”

The comp itself was one of those random pairings of two events where one team attempts to complete a task before the other teams do. Cody, the man who would be HOH from the men’s side in week two, and Frankie wound up the winners. The stratagem of putting up nothing but the women was continued in the fourth round of nominations, with Brittney, Jocosta, Amber Bozotra, and Victoria Rafaeli being put up on the block. The team of Amber and Jocosta won Battle of the Block, keeping themselves and opposite HOH Cody safe another week, and thereby keeping Brittney and Victoria each eligible for eviction going into Saturday.

Friday night brought a rather bizarre incident involving Victoria and the Diary Room.  Rafaeli was summoned to the DR repeatedly around 5-6 pm PT/BBT, with Rafaeli distraught every time she reemerged back into the house. When other houseguests asked what was up with Victoria, she told whoever questioned her that the topic was out of bounds. If it came up, the feeds would go to fish for several minutes at a time, re-emerging at some other conversation point. From what I read on social media on Saturday, it involved allegations and violations of rules by Victoria, but that’s about all I could gather.

It was another incident, with all due respect, that shows production’s continuing lack of transparency. Imagine watching an NFL game where a penalty is called, but the referee can’t tell you the foul committed. I realize I probably harp on production a bit too much in my rantings, and that it’s not an easy job to run a house inside of a studio, but if we’re paying over $20 for the feeds, we shouldn’t be crapped upon anytime production pleases.

Yesterday brought word of a “holiday miracle” with Victoria winning POV, and other competitors winning and trading punishments and rewards. That win probably seals Martinez’s fate come Thursday, with Donny the like renom with little chance of eviction. Brit likes to speak about which of her fellow houseguests are the most deserving of being there, something the game is designed to decide beyond reasonable dispute. Much like Devin this week past, Brittney will be reunited with her children sooner rather than later,  and if she can’t win, that seems the most humane fate for her.

Talk to you all next week, and a special thanks to the over 450 of you following me on Twitter.

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The Officer Reports For Duty

Devin Sheperd sits at a table alone on July 11th, while a group gathers at a kitchen.

Devin Sheperd sits at a table alone on July 11th, while a group gathers at a kitchen.

As this Sunday approaches, season sixteen is now more than 25% over with. Currently, Derrick Levasseur is the reigning HOH holder, while Donny Thompson has again won POV. Jocosta Odom (who did not compete in the POV competition due to hydration and exhaustion) and Celeb Reynolds are the nominees, with Odom likely to be replaced by Devin Shepherd. Shepherd appears to be on his way out come Thursday, although there is a bit of a move to get rid of Caleb instead as this entry went to press.

Zach Rance lured Shepherd, the previous week’s HOH, into nominating him Monday in an interesting gambit that showed Zach’s pure genius and immaturity simultaneously. A series of arguments immediately followed the POV meeting, in which Rance and Paola Shea (who was evicted Thursday past) each called Devin a liar and a disgrace to his much talked about daughter. The vote itself was academic, with Paola the 10-2 loser, keeping the “model always goes out second curse” alive another year. A brilliant move by Mr. Rance for sure, but that much effort to survive the second week might bite him in the ass later.

The week was made to order for the TV show, but failed to show that Frankie Grande had lobbied Devin to put Zach on the block on Sunday, which is an important point. Without that point of context, TV show viewers thought Zach was the aggressor in the Zankie tiff, and not the other way around. Grande also lobbied for votes to get Zach evicted during the week, something else that went sight unseen on TV. Why give Frankie such a favorable push, and Zach such an unfavorable one? Do they want Frankie fans (and Ariana Grande fans by default) not to be fully informed on how he’s faring? An interesting point as time moves on.

The Team America alliance came together in the form of Derrick, Donny, and Frankie, and they were given the all important mission to…wait for it…spread rumors that a current houseguest is related to a former one, which was kind of mindless. I take that back: it’s ridiculously mindless. As I’ve been saying previously, I’d much rather not see audience participation in Big Brother, and let the houseguests play their own games.  Who knows if Zach, and the allegations of him being Amanda Zuckerman’s cousin, wind up hurting him at some point down the road?

As for the house, it appears at this point that once Devin leaves, the former members of the Bomb Squad minus Devin will be pitted against the six others: Brittany Martinez, Nicole, Donny, Hayden Voss, Jocosta, and Victoria Rafaeli. The Bomb Squad remnants appear more united and aligned than the rest of the house appears to be, but I look for Christine Brecht and possibly Amber Bozotra to emerge as floaters, especially if Caleb’s awkward relationship with Amber goes sour. Brittany should be the most vocal of the non-Bombers, and the most likely to jump to the other side if the right deal is cut. Depending on how the HOH’s and POV’s bounce, I look at Caleb, Victoria, and Brittany to be on the endangered list as the season progresses.

Finally, can we get rid of the whole Have Not business? It’s just not cool anymore, especially with Frankie’s circulatory issues and Christine’s need for gluten-free foods. I just don’t think watching people starve and putting them in rooms that might make them sick is exciting as a case of venereal disease. Talk to you all next week!

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Barbarian At The Gate

Devin Shepherd (right) holds a heated discussion on Saturday morning with Caleb Reynolds.

Devin Shepherd (right) holds a heated discussion on Saturday morning with Caleb Reynolds, not pictured.

There are weeks watching this show that there’s very little to talk about. This was not one of those weeks!

Joey Van Pelt, who entered the house first, was also the first evicted, an unprecedented event in US BB history. Scott Weintraub also entered first and left first back in season four, but his departure was an expulsion, not an eviction. Joey’s game seemed doomed from the beginning, as she instantly tried to form an all-gal alliance, and was eventually busted for it by Amber Bozotra. While first cycle HOH “de tutti capi” Caleb Reynolds will get credit for the execution, but give Amber a huge assist, a bit of an oddity despite their relationship mainly based on Caleb’s grossly unrealistic expectations.

Many in social media (and host Julie Chen parroted this Thursday night, a clue that she mails in her appearances on the show and isn’t the most aware of what is happening) thought Joey played a horrendous game. I’m not that convinced. The only people that determine how good your game is are the people you play with. Joey didn’t catch good breaks early, and every move she made thereafter only accelerated her downward spiral. She was probably not the best of the “first out” players strategically (I think Sheryl Braxton and Mike Lubinski deserve that distinction), but definitely one of the most entertaining.

Donny Thompson replaced Van Pelt as a member of Team America, the in-house alliance that “we” vote to control, with two more to follow by the end of the week. As mentioned last week, I feel that these devices that let “us” (note how many times I use certain words in quotes, people) decide what houseguests do are totally unnecessary, as it seems to be open manipulation. Without getting into the various conspiracy theories that I already have in this blog (and one point of fact from BB8), I’d much rather see the houseguests play their own games, such as they are.

Amber and Devin Shepherd emerged as the HOH finalists (I find HOH too broad a team for the supersized structure of the early game, sorry) with Devin going around in the hours leading up to nominations telling certain houseguests who’s going up. The only problem with that is, Amber and Devin found a copy of the rule book and read how telling nominees what’s about to happen is not permitted. Sure enough, three houseguests told what was about to happen were indeed nominated, and production failed to enforce a rule MENTIONED A FEW HOURS EARLIER ON THE FEEDS!

If you haven’t gathered it yet, this is what drives me crazy about the show. A rule one year that’s enforced isn’t a rule another year, and goes unenforced. A fight one year that leads to no ejections (like the Beau Beasley/Janelle Pierzina drunken fight during BB6) is an expulsion another year (Willie Hantz, BB14). I’m starting to think the rules are just devices meant to be bent, as long as no one gets hurt, and when I think about it, there are more precedents of that then there are of an air-tight game, played above board. I mean, imagine a baseball player hitting a fly ball into the outfield, and the umpires ruling it a home run.

Shepherd emerged as the sole HOH after the second Battle of the Block, and like a few HOH’s in the game before him, he isolates himself to the point where nobody, not even his bestie Caleb, can’t make any sense of him. Devin is an intriguing character, but doesn’t do the stereotype of ballplayers being narcissistic prima donnas any good playing on this particular reality show. Even he himself realizes his time in the game may be likely coming to an end, and that he will not win the season. Probably true, unless a natural disaster swallows up the other houseguests, and Devin somehow survives.

Devin and Caleb got into it when it was suggested that the house didn’t want Brittany Martinez, a nominee along with Paola Shea, to be the one evicted next Thursday, and would get rid of “Pow Pow” instead. Devin reacted like someone ridiculously out of touch with the rest of the house, alleging that Caleb’s friend Amber (which would have been the big story this week if not for this fight) is the one suggesting such treasonous talk. Shortly after that, Devin declared his massive alliance of the Bomb Squad dissolved, fitting for somebody who only seems to know how to figuratively blow up the things around him.

On Saturday night, all was forgiven. But Caleb drops a bombshell on his way out of his meeting with Devin, that members of the former and now current Bomb Squad said they wanted the minor league ballplayer out. With minutes left before the POV competition starts, Devin calls a group meeting, and it doesn’t go well. Other members of the house crash the meeting, and before things could get good, the house is summoned to the competition! (CRUMB!) Looks to me that Devin was saved by the bell there, as the meeting seemed to be turning against him as the feeds were cut. Yet again, Mr. Shepherd catches a break from the powers that be.

Finally, Devin consolidated his power by winning the second POV contest. Shortly after his win, his behavior got even more bizarre, as he negotiated to save the very person who appeared to be his prey this week, Brittany. He had promised to save Paola a few days prior to this, but instead wanted to make a “power move” to advance his purposes in his game. While advancing his cause is what I’d expect to him, how can the rest of the house take him seriously when he speaks of having integrity and carries out the exact opposite?  With another day ahead of him, what other plans will change?

Talk to you next week.

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First Impressions

At 10pm Thursday night BB time, they gathered in the living to greet us...

At 10pm Thursday night BB time, they gathered in the living to greet us…

They are in the house. We’ve seen them on TV, and now they’re on the live feeds for us to see for a small pittance.  I’ve spent most of the past couple of days watching, wanting to get a gauge on how they’re interacting in the house. I thought this week I could go through what I’ve learned from each of them. Some of the information is going to contain SPOILERS as to the events as presented on the TV show, so be forewarned. Let’s get this started…

Amber Bozotra strikes me as not just a pretty face, but a pretty serious gamer. Her game will probably be bolstered by shunning the advances of Caleb Reynolds if she so decides to do that.

Brittany Martinez has the “mother hen” role on lock in the house. She an Victoria Rafaeli were nominated by Frankie Grande in their eviction ceremony, but won the “Battle Of The Block” to get a pass to next week. (Apparently, winning BOTB is like winning the veto in that it keeps you safe from being placed on the block again.) She got into an argument Saturday night with Devin Shepherd that seemed to weaken Devin in the house to many.

Caleb, the current HOH “di tutti capi” (Italian for “boss of bosses”), seems a personable guy, but the pre-show talk of his personal issues (as evidenced in his Instagram posts) seems spot on. However, to this point, he’s not creating controversy and bad press, so there’s that. His obsession with Amber is a significant story-line in the early part of this game that is beyond creepy. Let’s just hope something stupid doesn’t happen.

Christine Brecht is someone I’m pulling for. I enjoy watching the superfans interact with the house with the “uber models” they always put in the house to bring in the ratings. Brecht seems to have a great understanding of the game and life in general. Will she mature in front of our eyes like Ian Terry did two seasons ago?

Cody Calafiore has been the quiet one so far, but seems to have a good set of morals. He quietly took fellow houseguests to task for using the word “retard” Friday night/Saturday morning. Seems a straight up guy, just which there was more of him to see as he moves through the house.

Derrick Levasseur I think of as the house profiler. He’s not telling anyone he’s a policeman by trade, and seems to be fitting in. Can he keep the house on surveillance for 90 days? Might be tricky. Does seem to have a bit of game, though.

Devin seems to be fighting OCD issues in the house, and that, along with being a prima donna, is not earning him any points. Baseball players (as Devin was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization) seem to fight OCD problems more than most because of the routines and superstitions they keep. Generally, athletes don’t tend to do well in this game (although hockey player Jon Pardy did win BB Canada this year) because they have to think not for themselves, but in terms of what goes best for a group. Also worth watching is Devin’s mean streak, which he seems to have problems controlling at times. Read between the lines of all of that.

Donny Thompson has already established himself as a fan favorite. He won the first POV season and will rescue himself off of the block, leaving someone else to go home first. He’s the houseguest that seems to keep everyone else grounded, and is doing a good job at it. His southern expressions and sayings will keep the TV audience in stitches during the CBS shows.

Frankie has the house wrapped around his finger presently. He’s just got good general leadership skills, and everyone in there at present seems to like him. I don’t see his game ending well, though. I think others will be frothing at the mouth to find an excuse to get rid of him and some point, leading to a Judd-like mourning when he does go.

Hayden Voss (not to be confused with Hayden Moss, the BB12 winner) has surprised me. Thought his game would be weaker, but he just loves to play the streaker. Definitely one of the more unique characters in the house up to now, so I hope he stays around and makes an impact.

I had Jocosta Odom pegged as an early casualty in the game, as her upbringing and life as a minister struck me as someone who would have problems bonding with the rest of the house. I have no such concerns now, but I would like to see her interact more and use her humor, which she does has.

Joey Van Pelt is the first member of the forced upon “Team America” alliance. (More on that next week…I think the Team America twist is a terrible idea!) Surprised the live feeders Saturday night by attempting to shake the game up. Seems likely to go up in Donny’s place once the POV meeting take place, and I look for her to do some serious campaigning to keep from being BB16′s “Gigli” on Thursday night.

Nicole Franziel was one of the three “picks to click” I had prior to the launch of the season. But she reminds me a lot of Frankie, someone who’s going to get plucked down the road because of her naivete.  Maybe she’ll surprise me, or catch a lucky break game-wise or gets into a good alliance.

I don’t find Paola Shea as irritating as some of the other tweeters and social media-ites.  She’s on the block at the present time, and might wind up the first out of the house, joining us on the sidelines. She’ll have to win friends and influence people to stay in another week, but at this point her departure on Thursday seems likely.

Victoria I can see emerging as a house villain down the road. Not saying a lot now (outside of an incident where she lost a great deal of her hair a couple of years ago), but I think as the season progresses, she’s going to find her voice and make some serious moves.

As for Zach Rance, this dude has some serious game potential. He acts like he hates the other contenders from time to time, plus he doesn’t mind throwing in a little commentary, which was a Mike “Boogie” Malin trait during BB14. Dr. Will Kirby spoke on his Twitter feed about “tutoring” a couple of the houseguests on this season, so perhaps this is one of his students? Wound up Joey successfully, launching her into a tirade against Devin and Caleb Saturday night, as she campaigned not to be placed on the block in the coming veto meeting.

More for you next week. I only do these blog commentaries once a week this season. Keeps me grounded when I get excited, but it also keeps me grounded when I get pissed off. Trust me, it’s a good thing. If you need more immediate commentary, be sure and visit my Twitter feed.

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Stacking The Deck?

And there they are: the BB16 houseguests.

And there they are: the BB16 houseguests.

We have a cast, we have a refurbished house, and we have a twist. That is, at least for a little while.

Everything we need to know was revealed over the past weeks, and as usual, the revelations left more questions than answers. Let’s take things in chronological order, shall we?

First is the twist that turns the algebra that is the weekly game play elements (one HOH, two nominees, a power of veto that finalizes the nominees) and turns it into calculus (two HOH, four nominees, the possibility of at least one HOH being eligible for eviction, plus other unknown elements including this new “Battle Of The Block” contest). I can’t see how they can have two HOH’s and not have some sort of team concept. Would HOH 1 have knowledge of the nominees that HOH 2 has plans on? Can a houseguest be nominated by BOTH HOH’s? Can HOH’s compete in consecutive weeks?

This is my pet peeve with production the last few seasons. They show you the mansion in the distance, but they don’t Google Map or GPS to tell you how to get there. Details are important, my friends in BB production-land. When you don’t tell us the “how,” it makes us feel like 14 year olds on our first date.

I give the twists a B-plus, pending further information. I’m sure this is some sort of “front game” which won’t last the duration of the season. Like we had in BB’s 9, 13, 14, and 15…and I’m probably forgetting a few.

As far as the houseguests go, I give the cast a B-minus. Why? I think the CBS executives saw our worrying about veterans returning and had some sort of panic. From the information on Twitter, it appears that the cast was highly recruited as opposed to gathered from the tryouts and gatherings over the country the past several months. But I don’t mind a heavily recruited show, because you get players who don’t know the game mixed in with those that do know the lay of the land. You get novices taking out veterans, and veterans whining like poker legend Phil Hellmuth, that they got taken out by someone who can’t spell Big Brother.

What is bothersome to me is that one of the houseguests is Frankie Grande, brother of singer and actress Ariana Grande. Many of you remember that Elissa Slater was cast last year, and took every “MVP” crown each of the three times it was offered. If season sixteen has a similar such element, it would be a cinch that Frankie would take such a title repeatedly as long as he’s in the game. Hence, he becomes a “voting mule” that may have an easier road to the jury, if not the end, then the others.

Is it fair? I think not. But when has the game ever promised fairness?

Looking at the rest of the cast, I’m looking at three particular contestants to shine and make a serious run at the big money. Christine Brecht, a young Arizona barista, is a super-fan who looks like a bit of a wild child submerged by an apparent nerdy exterior. (By the way, I like nerds, or those considered nerdy.) Michigan’s Nicole Franzel has a similar look and appeal, plus she’s a nurse, which would seem her a solid social game threat. Earlier in the week, I thought Kentucky’s Caleb Reynolds might be a good third pick, but I’ve had second thoughts on picking him. (Closer to this post’s Sunday press time, it turns out that Caleb has some…shall we say, baggage? Doesn’t seem to like our current president, for one.) Instead, I’m thinking Devin Shepherd might have it in him to have a good run instead.

Look for Frankie Grande and Paola Shea to be total wildcards who will either be contenders or pretenders based on their online followings, and if the group figures out they have such solid followings. Paola could be a “plan B” storyline should Grande falters early on.

Next week, a look at the first few days of season sixteen. Hey, I’m trying to pace myself for a long three months! For more current offerings, feel free to check out my Twitter feed. I wish everyone well in the game, and just remember, I won’t be the one making fun of you.

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Paging Albert Einstein

Jeff Schroeder interviewing Jordan Lloyd this week on the CBS BB live feed, with the BB 11 winner sporting a different look.

Jeff Schroeder interviewing Jordan Lloyd this week on the CBS BB live feed, with the BB 11 winner sporting a different look.

It’s four days shy of the BB16 cast reveal, and the online universe of fans, shills, haters, and what not are all frothing at the mouth, trying to figure out what the casting twist is before the casting twist is revealed. And it may not totally be revealed, mind you.  We just may get the majority of the pieces to the puzzle that day, as was the case for the BB14 reveal two years ago.

We do know that the premiere of the live feeds will NOT be on June 25th, when the first CBS show airs, but the night afterwards. That’s because the opening of the series this year is a two-part affair. Another Big Brother tradition continues on, in that any way producers can find a way to gyp viewers from watching the live feeds, they will find it.  They believe from time to time that less is more, so I guess that also means that more most of time is…less?

Meanwhile, the rumor mongering on social media rambles on. Most of the Twitterverse closely examines the feeds of former houseguests, looking for the days a former houseguest isn’t on and declaring that producers have sequestered said former contestant. It certainly appears that this year will have previous contestants on it, with the live feeds airing episodes from previous seasons. What shouldn’t be overlooked is the possibility that this could all be some kind of swerve. I’d give it about a 1 in 100 chance right now, but you know what they say: expect the unexpected.

If we do have former houseguests returning, it will be the third such season in the past four, the fourth such season in the past six, and the fifth such season in the past ten.  Unlike other networks for the most part (with notable exceptions), CBS seems to have a welfare system for their reality contestants where a contestant on one show winds up on another, or back on his or her own show a few years later to play the same game all over again.  CBS believes this is what you, the viewers, want.  The only way to get them to stop that line of thinking is to stop watching, which they believe you cannot do because you’re addicted to their shows.  Simple as that.  Then, a lot of these former reality stars will be holding “will work for…” signs on Ventura Boulevard out in Studio City, and no one wants to see that, right?

It was Albert Einstein who said insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Of course, in the world of reality TV, what seems insane in the real world is totally sane in theirs.

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Here We Go Again

On the live feed video series presently, Jeff Schroeder of BB 11/13 chats with Mike "Boogie" Malin, BB 2/7/14 houseguest and BB7 victor.

On the live feed video series presently, Jeff Schroeder of BB 11/13 chats with Mike “Boogie” Malin, BB 2/7/14 houseguest and BB7 victor.

We’re now 17 days removed from the launch of sixteenth US season of Big Brother. Never thought back in the 2000′s the show would get this far into the second decade of the 21st century, but yet here we are. Those of you who thought there would be a change in production for this season, I told you not to expect it back on September 22nd of last year, and sure enough, Frau Grodner and company are still in place, putting the ingredients together for yet another season of BB, trying to keep the show as fresh as it can be, which cannot be easy with this many editions.

As for me, I usually wait until the cast is revealed before I invest in a season, although this year I’ve already taken that plunge. To me, casting is everything. I tend to like seasons where the cast is all new (or all veterans, for that matter) as opposed to the mixed bags we got in seasons eleven, thirteen, and fourteen. I enjoy watching the maturation of the new houseguests, figuring out how they think and how they adapt, as opposed to watching veterans imposing their will and skill (or lack thereof) on the lowly newbies. I’m hoping that’s we get this year, but after the racial bigotry debacles of BB15, I’m thinking we get a vet/newb mix, if I had to guess.

Who is in the cast? Will there be newbies? Veterans? A mix thereof? We won’t likely know until June 19th, and I’ll likely cover it in two weeks on June 22nd.

But there was some recent good news: this year’s feeds are going to be in high-definition, which means when the houseguests are lounging in the backyard, you’ll see every sinew of their six-pack abs.

Back at you next week, hopefully with some more news…

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