In a year that's seen traditional television production cease to exist, even a month ago the notion of a new season of CBS's long-running reality show Big Brother seemed like a pipedream. Yes, CBS has maintained since May that it was still planning to bring the show back for its 22nd season, but when its traditional launch date in early summer came and went with nary a peep from the network, it seemed like Big Brother had gone the way of so many other summer traditions this year. Then came word that the show's set was being worked on... and that past houseguests had been approached to possibly participate in a new All-Stars season. Finally, just two weeks ago, the network announced that Big Brother would indeed return with a cast of all-stars for what promises to be a season like no other.
Adding to the intrigue of a season that's faced any number of hurdles, safety concerns, and contingencies ahead of its launch is the fact that we know far less about what to expect than we have in year's past, with producers holding off on announcing who will be in cast and exactly how the game will be played until tonight's live premiere.
So what do we know about Big Brother 22 what can we expect from the first major primetime TV series to go back into production? Here's a quick overview:
As we've covered before, it seems before every new season of Big Brother brings with it rumors of a new all-stars season, something the US version of the show seems to have been resistant to doing, having only aired a single all-stars season in its 20+ year history. It's not known whether the coming season was always intended to be an all-stars edition or whether producers landed on th idea after strategizing how to cast a new season amid the pandemic, but whatever the reason, fans are finally getting their wish. As for who might in the all-stars cast... more on that in a minute.
Ever since California entered phase one of its re-opening, fans and industry watchers have waited to see when (and how) regular TV and movie production would resume. Although the state's reopening proved to be disastrous for its COVID numbers, pushing the likely restart date for most productions back indefinitely, there's always been reason to believe that Big Brother, of all shows, would be able to pull if off. It is, after all, one of the most socially distant shows on TV, even under usual circumstances. The cast members are isolated from the outside world, with no comings or goings alllowed; they're taped via remote controlled cameras and other apparatuses that are behind walls; and their contact with production has always been minimal.
On top of that, the show has enacted additional guidelines to help keep the cast and crew safe this season:
Additionally, a COVID-19 compliance officer will be on staff to ensure proper implementation of each of these policies.
While the fan community immediately began their usual obsessive digging for hints, clues, and scoops about who might comprise the cast, some former players who were long considered to be shoo-ins for s new all-star cast appear to be out of the running. Former winners like Dan Gheesling and Derrick Levasseur communicated that they would not be taking part in the season, and while cast members denying they're going to be cast members is an oft-used trope in the BB community, once the show had reportedly gathered all possible contestants for quarantine, it became a lot easier to see whose denials were for real, and Dan and Derrick do seem to be out. While it would previously have seemed inconceivable to have an all-star season without the show's most celebrated masterminds, the reality of the pandemic has meant that propspective players have needed to make some hard decisions about putting themselves in harm's way and isolating themselves from their families during an incredibly uncertain time. Understandably, many have said no, including two-time runner-up Paul Abrahamian.
And just to add a dose of Big Brother petty drama to the proceedings, there have been a truly ridiculous series of dust-ups among the Big Brother fan community — egged on by the former contestants themselves — that have led to some truly wild conspiracy theories. In particular, Season 18 winner Nicole Franzel has been rumored to be a producers-installed mole among the BB alumni community. According to this wholly unsubstantiated rumor, Franzel infiltrated a chat of alumni who were making alliances before the show started, ratted out Gheesling and Lesasseur, and that's why they're out of the All-Stars cast and Franzel is in. While this has led to some seriously hilarious memes blaming Franzel for everything from starting World War I to the extinction of the dinosaurs, it's also sadly indicative of the greater BB fandom's meanness towards certain players like Nicole.
With the contestants set to be announced and move in live on Wednesday night, casting rumors have been rampant. Prospective cast members have been required to quarantine for two weeks, which means every absence from social media has been heavily scrutinized. At the moment, the general consensus has settled on the following former players as being among the quarantined:
This list includes 20 people, and Big Brother seasons usually have about 16. But if the idea is that quarantine is meant to screen out anyone who might test positive for COVID, bringing in more contestants than are needed would be the way to go. Rumor has it that Josh Martinez and Kaycee Clark have already been dropped from contention for allegedly testing positive. There are also rumors that Danielle Reyes has either removed herself or been removed from contention, something that will bum out a LOT of old-school Big Brother fans who were hoping to see the return of the best player who's never won.
Still, even just among this rumored group of all-stars, some fascinating potential storylines emerge. For one thing, this cast is shaping up to have a record number of people of color, perhaps a response to the very valid criticisms of the show that have resurfaced over its diversity and its history of players making racist statements. In particular, David Alexander, who was "banished" from the game on Day 1 last season, the first of what many saw as Season 21's wholesale exile of people of color, would get a much-anticipated second chance to play.
Some other potential storylines among the rumored cast:
Of course, it's Big Brother, where "expect the unexpected" is the literal motto, so trying to predict what this particular group of returning contestants will do is complete folly. Undeniably, though, it's exciting to see what this unlikely cast of all-stars — maybe not the ones we'd have predicted, nor uniformly the ones we may have wanted — will do in this most uncertain season of Big Brother yet.
Big Brother Season 22 premieres tonight at 9:00 PM ET on CBS.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.