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TV Series Review

Once upon a time, I spent my days in a large house filled with loud, sometimes obnoxious people. Sleep was rare. The food was awful. Privacy was nonexistent.

It was a place called college. And I longed for the day I'd leave the dorm, get a job and make some money so I'd never have to live in such conditions again.

For 11 summers now (plus an extra run during the winter of '08), CBS has trotted out the reality show Big Brother. On the surface, it's much like a college dorm. Only this one (unlike mine) is co-ed. Some of the residents are chosen because they're obnoxious (rather than it simply being an unhappy accident), and everything is recorded, 24/7, to be telecast to a rapt viewing audience. These cohabitants do not have classes to distract them from their pranks and schemes, nor can they walk off campus and get a frosty at Wendy's if the pressure's too much. No, they're all locked in this sad, sad, dormitory of a house, where they form alliances, hook up with one another and, somewhat incongruously, play "games" together.

It's an atmosphere designed to generate as much tension, stress and unhappiness as possible. And these people subject themselves to all this for what? A chance at winning $500,000? Is that the going rate for lasting sanity these days?

Then again, at least the contestants have a shot at getting paid for their time. Viewers who tune in thrice weekly have no such motivation. Fans aren't making a dime. Rather, they're squandering their time in unreturnable, hour-long chunks.

Maybe that's not completely fair. They are getting a few little somethings in return for their investment. They're getting cursed at, first of all. Big Brother contestants have long been notorious for blue language during broadcasts. And while their most egregious words are typically bleeped, CBS hasn't caught them all. Not that incessant bleeps change the equation all that much.

They're also getting "treated" to makeout sessions, girl-on-girl kissing and naked pool parties. Bikinis are practically a house uniform in Big Brother-land. Hookups are normal—with intimate sessions getting filmed and aired. (Hard-core fans who've tired of the prime-time censoring are invited to switch over to CBS' sister channel, Showtime, for Big Brother: After Dark.)

Finally, they're rewarded with so much wallowing, whining, plotting and lying as to make Survivor contestants look like they're just out for a day-trip to the spa. How bad is it? Well, one of this season's slippery souls is telling his opponents that he needs to win the money to pay the medical bills for his wife's terrible illness. He's making it up. It's just a "strategy," he whispers.

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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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