Can you believe TV’s “roommates secluded in a house” reality show has been capturing America’s attention for 16 seasons? (In case you’ve been living without electricity: Big Brother, hosted by Julie Chen, follows people living in a house outfitted with more than 52 cameras and 95 microphones recording their every move, 24 hours a day. Each week, the house guests vote someone out of the house.)
To kick off the new season, we asked executive producer Allison Grodner to round up her 10 favorite moments from the past 12 seasons. “What can I say?” Grodner says. “They’re all my babies. It’s hard to have a favorite, but there are some that are just such ‘wow’ moments for us. It’s a roller-coaster ride, and that’s what I love about Big Brother. It really is unfolding live—not only in front of the audience’s eyes but before our eyes. We set everything in motion and we do everything we can to make it the best season as possible, but it’s a reality show. And it really is one of the most real reality shows out there. The right things are set in motion, and whatever happens, happens.”
No. 10: ENZO REVEALS “THE BRIGADE” TO BRITNEY (SEASON TWELVE)
A secret alliance formed the first week made it to the end of the game without anyone having a clue of its existence. When it got down to “the Brigade” and Britney left in the house, it was time to finally let the cat out of the bag. Britney was shocked and devastated when she realized her chance at the half-million had just disappeared.
Grodner’s take: “This moment was big because Britney and many of the other players were huge BB fans and very smart, but yet continuously said, ‘This is a strange season, because there don’t seem to be any alliances.’ But indeed, it was one of the strongest alliances that ever existed in Big Brother.”
No. 9: DICK AND DANIELE WIN BIG BROTHER (SEASON EIGHT)
When they came face to face on opening night, estranged father and daughter “Evel” Dick and Daniele Donato were shocked that they’d be stuck in a house together. Over the summer, the two not only mended their relationship, they managed to be the last two left standing on finale night.
Grodner’s take: “We couldn’t have scripted it any better. They hadn’t actually spoken in about a year, and they did not expect each other to be in that house that night. It was really interesting to see that it started very cold and frosty, but you could tell the love was there. Some of the best scenes we’ve ever had on the show weren’t even about the game, they were about pure human drama. By the end, to see them sitting side by side was something we could have never predicted.”
No. 8: DICK AND JEN AND THE CIGARETTES (SEASON EIGHT)
Dick and Jen spent the summer fighting and in the ultimate act of revenge, Jen decided to destroy Dick’s cigarettes. The result was a blowup for the ages that ended in Jen breaking her food restriction and eating a turkey burger to get kicked out of the house.
Grodner’s take: “Dick and Jen—for whatever reason, Jen just got on his last nerve. He could not help himself—he just kept going at her. And she finally decided to get back at him. We were watching, going, ‘Oh, boy, an explosion’s about to happen.’ ”
No.7 : THE “EX FACTOR” OPENING NIGHT (SEASON FOUR)
Six houseguests discovered they would be locked inside the BB house for the summer with their ex-boyfriends and girlfriends.
Grodner’s take: “This was a great moment because it was the first time we did a big casting twist. The idea was to surprise people by having to be locked in the house for the summer with their exes. It’s probably everyone’s worst nightmare, and it was for this group. When the two groups came together, jaws were on the floor.”
No. 6: THE GOLDEN VETO (SEASON THREE)
Nominated and facing eviction, Marcellas won the Golden Veto and the opportunity to keep himself in the game. On eviction night, he shocked the house and the audience when he chose not to use the veto to save himself and trust his roommates instead. He was promptly sent packing, even though he had been cocky enough not to pack his bags.
Grodner’s take: “This will go down in history as the worst play of all time. It’s known as the Golden Veto Mishap. It was incredibly cutthroat competitive. He was walking out of the house with clothes streaming out of his arms. Then he walked in Julie’s studio, and Julie whacked him over the head with her script, and it was one of those moments we’ll never forget.”
No. 5: KAYSAR IS VOTED BACK INTO THE HOUSE (SEASON SIX)
More than 5 million viewers voted to send fan favorite Kaysar back into the house and into the game. He lasted one week after being tricked into handing a 14-hour endurance challenge win to his archenemy, Jen.
Grodner’s take: “Kaysar’s family was from Iraq, and we had just entered war with Iraq. He talked a lot about his culture and his religion, and we knew he was incredibly likable, and this was an incredible testament to him and to the audience that they wanted him back in the house at such an interesting moment in history.”
No. 4: DR. WILL’S VETO SPEECH (SEASON SEVEN)
One of the best players in BB history gave an unforgettable speech early in the All-Star season telling every houseguest that he hated them all equally and warning them to get rid of him. Of course, they chose not to vote him out, then had to sit back and watch as he almost won the game for the second time.
Grodner’s take: “Dr. Will was one of the most dynamic, interesting and charismatic people to ever play. Everyone knew his strategies, and he made it to the final four.”
No.3: AMERICA’S PLAYER REVEAL (SEASON TEN)
Throughout the summer, America secretly controlled a player in the game. The houseguests had no idea until it was revealed on finale night that their roommate Eric had secretly been doing the viewers’ bidding the whole time.
Grodner’s take: “We were looking for a way to have the viewers become alot more interactive with the show, so we gave them a player. America controlled his vote, and that was interesting. He was sort of playing his own game.”
No. 2: JEFF USES THE COUP D’ÉTAT (SEASON ELEVEN)
After being awarded secret power to overthrow the head of household by the viewers, Jeff chose to shock his roommates and use it on eviction night. By saving his pal Russell and sending villain Jessie out the door, he changed the course of the game. The Jessie alliance, overwhelmed by his sudden eviction, held an impromptu memorial, crying and carrying on as if he had died. The result was one of the most melodramatic and unintentionally hilarious moments ever on Big Brother.
Grodner’s take: “America voted for someone to have the Coup d’État. Jeff was flattered to get it, although he couldn’t pronounce it—which was a funny moment. He knew he had to get rid of his archenemy, Jessie. So he did. They were speaking about Jessie as if he had passed away. It was so over the top.”
No. 1: THE TWIN TWIST REVEAL (SEASON FIVE)
Unknown to the houseguests, a pair of twins played the game as one person, secretly switching out in the diary room. Halfway through the season on the live show, Julie revealed the secret to the house as one person suddenly became two.
Grodner’s take: “With Big Brother, it’s always about how long a twist like this can last. They could’ve been discovered on the first day; every time they switched, we’d watch the monitors and hope they’d make it. They could have blown it—and almost did on a number of occasions. We didn’t anticipate that the people in the house would be so self-involved that they wouldn’t notice the differences between the women. But if you’re not looking for it, why would you?”