To me, the Big Brother series peaked with the third season. It was a nearly flawless cast, it had changes in the gameplay that kept the houseguests on edge (like the new Power of Veto competition), and had some highly dramatic moments yet to be rivaled in the history of the series.
Whether it was a good thing or not, it also introduced a considerable amount of nudity on the live feeds, thanks to Tonya Paoni and her…ahem…enhancements. One afternoon in July gave all the male followers watching the feeds or the Internet followers sites their own versions of global warming when she stood naked as a jaybird as she and two other female houseguests donned bikinis made of peanut butter.
The third season also featured what I like to call “The Battle Of The Boozers” between Amy Crews, the first houseguest to that point to be evicted twice in the same season, and Chiara Berti, a chatty New Yorker. It was north against south, a New Yorker against a proud lady from Memphis. I kept wondering if a cat fight was going to break out. Never did, but Amy did get the last laugh, sending Chiara packing without the $500,000 prize.
This was also the season I started to wonder if the show was being manipulated. Now, before I go on, let me be clear. Reality shows are not covered by the same laws game shows are covered by. Game shows had their own scandals in the 1950’s thanks to a little show called Twenty One. But every now and again, you’d see something in the news or online, and the BB3 cast member that was mentioned would be gone within a couple of weeks. The most notable example of this was Eric Ouelette, the Connecticut firefighter. Word broke in the third HOH cycle that he had used up all of his overtime and had to return to the house or face being fired, if I remember right. Sure enough, he was gone the following round. But this wasn’t the only time that happened, and I’m always a believer that too many coincidences can’t be coincidence by themselves.
The most memorable moment in the show’s history in my opinion came when the number of houseguests were down to the last five. Jason Guy won Head of Household, but Marcellas Reynolds won Power Of Veto. Up until that point, the POV holder can’t give himself or herself safety from the nomination process, but could use that power to replace his or her other nominee. I think the producers did that to give someone on the block to give them a better match-up, but it also caused the POV to only be used once. Gerry Lancaster saved Marcellas in the opening HOH cycle, and was widely criticized in the house for doing so long afterward. In the last POV competition, the rules were changed so that should the POV winner also be a nominee, he or she could remove himself. Marcellas had this new found power, but refused to used it. The vote was a 1-1 tie, so the HOH holder Jason broke the tie and sent Marcellas home.
I think I would have done what Julie Chen wound up doing, softly slapping Marcellas on the back of his noggen. The most knuckleheaded move I’ve ever seen on a reality show.
The finale was also controversial in a historical way. BB3 was the last season not to have a sequestered jury, where those in the final nine who didn’t make the final two decided who won. So when the season came down to Danielle Reyes and Lisa Donahue, the houseguests were able to see Danielle’s diary room entries which explained her gameplay in detail as they watched the show transpire online and on TV. Lisa won the grand prize vote going away, but had the game been played under post-BB3 rules, Danielle may have very easily been victorious.
A great season, but 2003 would bring a new wrinkle to the series. I’ll talk about that sometime in the near future.