I can't believe we're really here.
If you haven't figured it out by now, we have the recently resolved writers' strike to thank for the first-ever winter edition of Big Brother. Which reminds me, a little business before pleasure: Even though the strike's been resolved and the writers were supposed to get back to work yesterday on all those original episodes of Moonlight and Ghost Whisperer, CBS is insisting that it will keep its promise to air BB9 three days a week through May. (Fortunately, the uncertainty surrounding the return of The Unit, Shark, and Cane has provided some conveniently free time slots for the Chenbot's kids.) So unless BB9's ratings hit rock bottom, we can rest assured that we'll have almost three blissful months to enjoy the head-scratching 'Til Death Do You Part twist. And speaking of pure bliss, BB fans at EW like Kristen Baldwin, Jeff Jensen, Henry Goldblatt, and me will begin participating in our first ever Big Brother video talk show on EW.com next week. As that knucklehead Jacob would say, come see us ''turn the chicken up!'' (which I'm assuming has something to do with boosting one's game play and not with overcooking the poultry).
So let's get to the good stuff (I think). I must admit that I'm a bit overwhelmed by the notion that it's already time to check my intolerance for putzes and pinheads at the door so I can settle in, judgment-free, for a new edition of voyeur-palooza. I usually need a good 10 months or so to decompress from a summer of boorish behavior — to say nothing of the weeks and weeks I required this season to come to terms with how that Dick from BB8 managed to win last September. (Jameka and Whaamber, you have only yourselves to blame!) Now, I'm expected to gird my loins — and in February, no less — for Beaver State gals like Natalie who profess to like ''bikinis, coffee, and God''? It's a hardship, I tell you! But I think I will muddle through.
Some of you readers may recall that I asked you to suggest changes that you'd like to see in the show's ninth edition (some of which executive producer Allison Grodner addressed in our interview). Out of all of your proposals, I appreciated this short and sweet one from a dude named Matt Clark: ''This show needs to stop putting people in the house that know each other before coming in....Give everyone a shot!''
Dare to dream, Mr. Clark. After the much-anticipated arrival Tuesday of the hostess-we-like-to-roastest (nice knit dress, though, Chenbot!), we soon learned two couples had dated before they entered the house: Jacob and Sharon (she seemed none-too-pleased to see her cheating ex-beau walk through the door) and Ryan and Jen (she's an attractive little bartender if you ignore the veritable doorknob piercing her tongue). Really? I know the producers had, like, two seconds to bust out a winter edition so we wouldn't have to endure more of The Power of 10, but couldn't they have redirected the energy they put into that cool new mission decor and come up with a better surprise? Fortunately, we didn't have to wring our hands too long over this tired old setup since there was a far odder development to process: All 16 of these ''single'' players will be coupled for the entire run of the series. Obviously, I could see Jacob and Sharon's pairing coming from a mile away, but I actually enjoyed the loud roar coming from Sheila the cougar when she was paired with 29-year-old Adam. Though it was kind of harsh for him to make an ageist statement like ''It's you and me, Ma!'' to the 45-year-old former Penthouse Pet, she could have rolled her eyes back down in her head long enough to remember that (A) seniors are something of a rarity in the house, so it ain't like BB was going to pack the place with her peers and (B) it's just a freakin' game, Ma! You don't have to sleep with him!
NEXT: Forced intimacy