After a two-year hiatus, CBS is bringing Celebrity Big Brother back for a third season to do what the show was originally commissioned for in 2018: counterprogram the Winter Olympics. The three-week sprint of a mini-season will gather together a group of willing celebrities to live inside the Big Brother house, compete against each other, and try to follow in the footsteps of past winners Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tamar Braxton. While both seasons of CBB had the potential to be utter trash (casting Omarosa Manigault-Newman and Anthony Scaramucci certainly set things off along that path), they ended up being compelling seasons of television, mostly thanks to intelligent casting that somehow added up to the right chemistry, combining likeble players (Ross Matthews, Kandu Burruss) with intriguing oddballs (Tom Green, Kato Kaelin) and fast friends (Real Housewife Brandi Glanville and Miss Universe runner-up Ariadna Gutierrez).
With the casting for Season 3 under wraps for the moment, we asked Big Brother scholars Joe Reid and Kevin O'Keeffe to put their heads together to fantasy cast the new season, with an eye to the types of celebrities the has cast in the past (and the types likely to be willing).
Joe: Kevin! You're the only person I would want to fantasy cast the new season of Celebrity Big Brother with. Both American seasons of CBB have been shockingly entertaining, surpassing what were, for me at least, very low expectations. A lot of the credit for that goes to the casting. While certainly not flawless, the casting for both seasons turned up a handful of celebrities who were fun, feisty, and good TV. Casting will once again make or break Celebrity Big Brother 3, and I know we both have thoughts on who the show should cast.
Kevin: In theory, it should actually be pretty easy to predict who will be cast. That’s because, if you look at the first two seasons, we saw a lot of the same archetypes cast across them. You had reality veterans in Omarosa and Tamar Braxton, ‘80s and ‘90s kid TV stars like Keisha Knight Pulliam and Joey Lawrence, and Real Housewives alumna in Brandi Glanville and Kandi Burruss. I think we’ll likely see them cast along those lines again, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see their penchant for casting Trump alums change in the wake of how that presidency ended. Of those types, is there anyone in particular you think is a shoe-in? Because I’ve already got my money on Lisa Rinna being this year’s Housewives representative.
Joe: Lisa Rinna would absolutely be the right kind of Bravo-lebrity to cast on Celebrity Big Brother. She's shameless, she's devious, she knows how to create storylines on TV, and she seems to know everybody in the entertainment industry. We saw CBB got a lot of mileage out of the preexisting relationship/rivalry between Tamar and Kandi, so any players who know each other could be a boon.
You mentioned '80s and '90s TV stars, so I'll follow that trail for a moment. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Family Matters' Jaleel White or Saved by the Bell's Mario Lopez. Jackeé Harry would be an amazing option, but she's currently gainfully employed by Days of Our Lives. Maybe go for the '90s talk show host route and cast Ricki Lake?
Of all the casting buckets that CBB has liked to choose from, none has been more verstuffed than professional athletes. Season 2 runner-up Ricky Williams was among four athletes on that season's cast. This was after two athletes appeared on Season 1, including former NBA star (and unlikely fan fave) Metta World Peace. I feel comfortable guessing that we'll get two athletes at a minimum this season. One obvious place to look is the Summer Olympics that just passed. It feels like gymnastics gold medalist Suni Lee would be too optimistic a get, but if we're going to truly fantasy cast this, I'm claiming U.K. diver Tom Daley, who wrapped up his Olympic career in Tokyo and hasn't exactly been publicity shy in his life or career. For a second athlete, not to load up on Brits or anything, but English track and field star Louise Hazel was an absolute standout on MTV's The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars, willing to strategize in a way athletes usually aren't on these shows. Do you have any sport-related celebs you'd like to suggest, or do you want to move on to someone who'd fit the Marissa Jaret Winokur archetype, our Season 1 winner?
Kevin: I'm happy to leave the sports to you, but I do think Louise is a great call. As we saw with Lolo Jones in Season 2, athletes with some prior reality TV experience are good bets. In terms of Marissa, we’ve got two potential buckets to fill here: someone who is famous for their work on the stage, and someone who has been a co-host of CBS’ chat show The Talk. I think, from a brand perspective (not to mention a “friendly with host Julie Chen-Moonves” perspective), the latter classification matters more. The current co-hosts all seem unlikely, although it’s worth noting that Amanda Kloots just wrapped up a run on Dancing With the Stars, so she’s very much in the reality TV space.
Instead I think we should look at past co-hosts, and in particular Aisha Tyler. (I'd include Eve too, except she's currently very pregnant and could well give birth while the show is in production.) Aisha feels like a great bet. She’s adjacent to the reality space, having guest-judged on a couple of seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race (never a bad thing — hello, Ross Mathews), and she’s appeared on competition shows before, including a stint on Celebrity Jeopardy and a Lip Sync Battle appearance. She’d be competitive, and as a comedian, she’d be able to deliver sharp Diary Room confessionals.
One more thought to bring up, though: If the “Marissa slot” actually skews more performance-focused, and a Drag Race connection helps your cause, then I think we should prepare for Todrick Hall to join the cast this season. Like Marissa, he’s proven himself to be a huge Big Brother fan, what with letting most of the Season 23 cast stay at his house after their season wrapped. One has to assume that got him on producers’ radar, no?
Joe: Ah yes, the Todrick Hall Hotel for Big Brother Refugees. How could I forget? Yes, after Ross Matthews performed so well on Season 1, I think grabbing another RuPaul's Drag Race judge would make for a great fit. And if the Big Brother producers wanted to double down on the Drag Race universe, casting one of the many drag queen alumni of the show would be a home run. Alaska Thunderfuck was tremendously entertaining on VH1's Scared Famous, and Trixie Mattel was just a judge on Queen of the Universe. But since we're fantasy casting here, I'm hoping for Bob the Drag Queen, one of the three stars of HBO's We're Here.
Do you want to take a stab at someone from the Scandal and Infamy bucket? Former CBB cast members of this type have included Omarosa, Kato Kaelin, and Anthony Scaramucci. I think you're on the right track that anyone associated with the Trump administration is probably too toxic for TV at this point (I … hope?). The fact that Olivia Jade appeared on the most recent season of Dancing with the Stars makes me think she is probably on some kind of a shortlist, alongside another DWTS alum, tabloid denizen and Selling Sunset star Chrishell Stause. If it's gonna be someone from Selling Sunset, I know we'd all rather it was Christine Quinn, but I'm also preparing myself that it could be one of the Oppenheim brothers.
Kevin: I think you’re on the right track to look Chrishell’s way, considering the fact that she’s a Big Brother superfan. She was even in the audience for the Season 20 finale, similar to how Ross was in the Season 1 finale audience. I personally think she could be great: she’s a sweetheart, but she’s also got a cunning streak. (My kingdom for a Davina Potratz villain arc instead, though.)
There are a couple of categories we haven’t quite touched on yet, and that’s a slot for an actor or actress of some renown — think Shannon Elizabeth or Jonathan Bennett — and a former boy band member. I have ideas for both, and the more I think about it, the more confident I grow in my first guess: Miranda Cosgrove. Not only is she a noted Big Brother fan, but she’s also currently starring on Paramount+’s reboot of iCarly. Can you say “brand synergy”? Considering Paramount+ wasn’t around when Celebrity Big Brother last aired — it was just lowly CBS All Access back then — I imagine we may see several opportunities for cross-promotion like this.
And then in terms of the boy bander, I’m actually intrigued if Lance Bass makes good on his fake appearance on The Circle — in which he was a catfish identity for his assistant, Lisa Delcampo — and goes all in for Celebrity Big Brother. Again, he’s a fan, and he’s proven he’s willing to do reality television. (Remember when he hosted Logo’s attempt at a gay Bachelor, Finding Prince Charming?) If he and Trixie do both get on, look for the two close friends of Lisa Vanderpump to team up — and if Lisa Rinna is in there, too, I’d say that could be a battle for the ages.
Joe: Well now I'm just incredibly excited for this fantasy season we've created. Your point about Paramount+ synergy got me thinking, though, and I wonder if CBB might want to pull someone from the two seasons of The Real World Homecoming that they've aired in the past year. This feels like Eric Nies' time to shine. He was sidelined from the New York Homecoming season with COVID, but they brought him back for a guest appearance with the Los Angeles cast. He is incredibly available; the only question would be if he's vaccinated. He's such a crunchy faith-healer type now that I would bet against him being vaxxed, but I have to imagine they wouldn't have let him on Homecoming L.A. if he wasn't? Or am I giving too much credit to production on these shows.
Are there any last wild cards you want to throw into the mix before we send this wish list off to Julie Chen Moonves? Charo? Lo Bosworth? Tiffany "New York" Pollard? The floor is yours. I have one person in mind, but I want to save them for my grand finale.
Kevin: I do have one last request, which I know is a popular one online (and for good reason): Keke Palmer. She’s probably too famous to do it, but the Hustlers and Proud Family star would give, bar none, the best Diary Rooms we’ve ever seen. She’s so off-the-cuff funny, and you know she’d have some amazing observations about her fellow houseguests. More to the point, I think she’d be both incredibly likable and actually competitive. Give us Keke, CBS!
Who’s your final suggestion, Joe?
Joe: My final suggestion has an asterisk because she's been going through some significant health problems in the last year and might not be up for it, but I'd kill to see Kathy Griffin show up in the Big Brother house. She's a huge, opinionated personality and a veteran of reality TV, from her old My Life on the D-List show as well as turns on Celebrity Mole. She's also survived cancer as well as the whirlwind she reaped after that Trump photo caused such a stir. She'd be great, she'd have a lot of fun, and she'd likely say about seven things that would grab headlines, which seems like it's been a priority of the producers in the first two seasons.
These are our official recommendations, CBS! Feel free to steal from them liberally. We'll be looking forward to the new season of Celebrity Big Brother no matter what, but a few of the above bolded names would make for a truly memorable few weeks.
Celebrity Big Brother's third season is set to premiere Wednesday February 2nd at 8:00 PM ET.
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TOPICS: Celebrity Big Brother, CBS, Paramount+, Aisha Tyler, Chrishell Stause, Eric Nies, Julie Chen, Kathy Griffin, Keke Palmer, Lance Bass, Lisa Rinna, Miranda Cosgrove, Olivia Jade Giannulli, Ricki Lake, Trixie Mattel