What a season! Reeling from the backlash against season 15’s controversy-laden and strategically paralyzed group of houseguests, the Big Brother powers that be got it together for season 16. They upped the ante with game-changing twists that actually changed the game, they came up with a slew of fun and interesting competitions and, most importantly, they filled the house with people worth watching. From “America’s Favorite Houseguest” Donny whose big heart proved the antidote to memories of Aaryn, to the hilariously intense and impossibly earnest self-titled Beast Mode Cowboy, emotional fire-starter/puppy dog wannabe-villain Zach and his sparkly cutthroat soulmate Frankie, batshit Devon, cutie pie sweethearts Nicole and Hayden, and the most legendary floater ever Victoria. We even got the most deserving top two in over a decade with near-perfect mastermind Derrick winning easily over one of the most likeable contestants ever on the show (handsome, charming, funny, smart, quirky, kind and a decent strategist- how is Cody even real?). But, as we learned with Survivor: Redemption Island (aka the triumph of Boston Rob), perfection has the potential to be boring, especially when the mastermind is a nice guy who’s not secretly mocking everyone in the diary room (here’s looking at you, Will).
The recently wrapped BB16 was labeled the Best Season Ever when it had barely begun. Now that it’s over, our BB recapper Tim and I decided that the only thing to do would be to place it in the pantheon of its predecessors. How did Big Brother 16 stack up against the legendary seasons of yore? Was it really The Best? Kelly and Tim share almost none of their favourite players (she’s a Dan girl, he’s a Janelle guy) and she didn’t even watch one of his favourite seasons ever (6, the year she tried to quit Big Brother only to return for All-Stars) but can they agree about BB16? Read on to find out.
Kelly’s Ranking: N/A
Not me! I’m pretty sure season one doesn’t even really count as Big Brother. It had none of the same rules or gameplay and only one returning player ever (whatup, Chicken George!). Everything starts with season two. (Note: this show has been on for so long that it’s next to impossible to find a photo of season one on the internet!)
Kelly’s Ranking: 4
The most famous player ever, Dr. Will Kirby first played back when BB was new and fairly simple. Between him and Nicole, this was probably the best final 2 ever- the leaders of the house’s two major factions; nemeses with opposing styles, (almost) equally deserving of the prize. Also, Bunky.
Tim’s Ranking: 10
To me this is always the season where strategy played a big role. The secret Danielle/Jason alliance was great. We had one of the first dislike-able alliances between the two couples and Josh. Lisa’s decision not to bring her BF back when the houseguests got to vote back in a member, was probably the first time strategy beat showmance. And Amy loved Wine and Cheese and I loved her.
Kelly’s Ranking: 5
The first season I watched live. Danielle Reyes remains my favourite female player ever and there were plenty of other memorable characters (Marcellas! Amy!). Most importantly, the intro of the veto was the single biggest (and best!) twist in a reality game ever (yes, including hidden immunity idols).
Kelly’s Ranking: 7
I loved Alison. She and Danielle were a breed of female player that seemed to disappear in later seasons- cutthroat manipulators like the best of the male players. But the only other thing I remember about this season is the producers making fun of Jun’s weight gain.
Tim’s Ranking: 5
Project DNA- Still a great concept. The birth of the backdoor plan. We had the villain in Jase, the underdog in Nakomis (when she realized she was no longer in the majority alliance), the showmance in Drew and Diane, and the break up of said showmance when Drew wisely brought Cowboy to the finals.
Kelly’s Ranking: 8
Project DNA was too crazy not to love. Like, CRAZY. Adria and Natalie switched places periodically throughout the season! Two contestants didn’t know they were brother and sister! Meanwhile, Nakomis revolutionized strategy and we saw the birth of the seemingly insurmountable all-male power alliance (reprised year after year after year).
Tim’s Ranking: 2
This is still one of my favorite season ever. The Soverign Six versus the Nerd Heard was really the first big group rivalry. And Janelle was SO awesome this season. And there was the secret partners twist, which was okay for a bit until it was revealed. This season was so good that they clearly did all-stars just to bring people back.
Kelly’s Ranking: N/A
After season five’s ridiculousness, I convinced myself to be a productive human and give up Big Brother. Apparently I chose the wrong summer to leave because season six is incredibly beloved. Alas, the producers lured me back in for season seven with the promise of All Stars and I’ve yet to turn away again.
Tim’s Ranking: 4
I think while watching season 7, I thought it was my favorite but in hindsight it hasn’t stood the test of time as well. I was happy to see Janelle back but her flirtation with Will ruined her game. Mike won which I still hate. It was probably one of my least favorite final twos.
Kelly’s Ranking: 2
I totally agree about the final two- absolutely ridiculous. But this was the only true Chilltown season (it’s easy to forget how quickly Boogie was booted in season two) and their combination of comedy and strategy is unmatched in entertainment value. One by one, a slew of great players fell to the promise of being the third member of Chilltown- what a way to go out.
Tim’s Ranking: 8
The rivalry twist was similar to the ex’s twist but really this season was only good because of Dick and Daniele. I loved Daniele and loved to hate Dick. So seldom can two allies make it to the finals together and somehow these two did it.
Kelly’s Ranking: 10
See, but I hated Dick. Couldn’t stand the guy. He blandly bullied and called it strategy when the real reason they made it so far was that Daniele (who I found whiny and irritating this season) was an unbeatable comp beast. I really liked Eric, Jessica and Dustin, though, and found myself really rooting for Jen despite her villain edit (perhaps it was the intensity of Dick’s abuse). What I remember most about this season is Julie screwing up a key HOH competition by giving away an answer.
Tim’s Ranking: 16
This is the only season I didn’t watch in its entirety. I made it halfway through and stopped. I hated this season. The thought of Big Brother during the winter season was so exciting, but the casting was so awful. Worst cast ever.
Kelly’s Ranking: 14 (the lowest since she didn’t watch seasons 1 and 6)
The winter season with the “love” theme. Oy. Because there was nothing else on television (damn you, strike!), I actually watched this season avidly, but anyone I liked even a little bit was voted out very quickly resulting in an infuriating final two after weeks of nonsense. It’s telling that I clung to the unexpected fortitude of a Bikini Barista as the only viable narrative of the season.
Tim’s Ranking: 9
Another season I loved while watching but it really doesn’t leave much of an impression. If you take Dan out of the equation, it was a boring season. But Dan was in it so it beats many others.
Kelly’s Ranking: 6
It took me a long time to warm up to Dan, which I’m so ashamed of in retrospect because he’s a super great guy (in addition to being a great player). He actually had a similar season to Will’s first in that all his allies were voted out early (I still maintain Bryan could have been great) and he had to lie low for much of the season. Meanwhile, the more annoying cast members got in one of the biggest fights ever (remember Keesha’s birthday?!) and Jerry happened (Judas!). Also, Renny.
Tim’s Ranking: 11
I did love Jordan. At the time, I wasn’t crazy about her but she continues to grow on me. I liked the initial breakdown of the popular kids, the geeks, the athletes…but not a big season for strategy.
Kelly’s Ranking: 13
The high school theme. eeeeugh. I hated Everybody this season (except Kevin, I guess I liked Kevin okay). I’m really not into Jeff & Jordan so this season and its wildly generous editing that set those two non-strategists up to be so-called “BB legends” just makes me mad. However, it did give us the single greatest BB meltdown ever- Chima vs. the microphone.
Kelly’s Ranking: 9
Extra points for Britney’s virtuosic Diary Room performance. I will also admit to liking the Brigade sometimes. But my favourite Brigade member (Matt) was the one they evicted early! This was also the season of the biggest twist misfire- the Saboteur. It could have been so cool, but she was voted out immediately.
Kelly’s Ranking: 11
One of my least favourites for sure, possibly because they brought back 6 players I really really didn’t like. However, the first few weeks I ended up really enjoying this season because Dani Donato finally won me over. She was killing it this season (and her allies- Cassi and Dominic- were the only newbies I really liked) but she played too hard too fast, got evicted, and somehow the only good option became rooting for irritating underdog Rachel. At least Rachel is a badass, despite how irritating she is (and I do enjoy looking at Brendon). Also, Dani ended up marrying Dominic, which makes this season awesome in retrospect.
Tim’s Ranking: 3
I actually ended up liking the Coach twist. I liked it even more when the coaches got to play. This was the season of Britney and Dan for me. Dan was so good. Britney was so funny. It was one of the best.
Kelly’s Ranking: 3
I agree, a rare twist that worked well. I loved the early team gameplay from Boogie (so interesting to see him operate without Will) and enjoyed watching Britney step up her game in search of redemption (also, her DR commentary, again). A few likeable newbies (I especially liked Wil) kept pace with the flashy coaches until Dan’s complete domination in the final few weeks (his funeral will likely never be topped as the single most legendary moment on the show). Then there was Ian’s superfan arc, distinguishing himself by stabbing his hero (Boogie) in the back and ultimately beating the greatest player to date in one of the best final two showdowns yet.
Tim’s Ranking: 14
One of my favorite seasons initially ended in the worst way possible. Getting rid of all the popular players and physical threats was so smart. I really thought it would come down to Amanda or Helen for the win, and the dumb Exterminators (aka the Floaters who finally decided to work together) ruined the season.
Kelly’s Ranking: 12
Worst. Final. Four. Ever. Also, racism. Helen flipping the house in week 2 was amazing but this group of houseguests was wildly unlikeable and that was the one and Only great move of the year. I still maintain that Nick Uhas is a brilliant BB strategist in an alternate universe but in order for this season’s only good person to distinguish herself, she had to evict him out of the gate. I also maintain that the MVP was a good twist in an alternate universe but it makes no sense in a season with the sibling of a fan favourite (how did you not anticipate that, producers?!). I did, however, enjoy the moment when Amanda and McCrae had to face each other to win the veto and survive one more week, knowing that the loser would be evicted and they would be separated; he was admittedly very charming.
Tim’s Ranking: 1
In 5 years I will probably not remember this season. It has the best cast, hands down…but I’m not sure it will be SUPER memorable. I could be wrong. For now, it’s in my number 1 spot but we’ll see.
Kelly’s Ranking: 1
Best all-round cast by a mile. First of all, I literally didn’t hate anyone. That has Never happened. The worst people this summer were an overly loud lady in a bowtie and a hipster barista whose intelligence we all overestimated; not too shabby. Not only were there more superfans and strategists this year but they were all interesting, diverse and honestly worth rooting for. I also totally approved of the Battle of the Block twist (though I don’t want to see it again for awhile because the best strategy is pretty clear- all Victoria, all the time). The only thing that could have made this season better was a stronger threat to Derrick. Right now he looks like the most flawless player ever in the game but the legends before him managed to get out of much hotter water. Derrick’s low-key perfect game was intellectually stunning, but the moment of the season was still Frankie winning the BoB by himself with the whole house against him. I loved this cast so much I would watch them all over again; let’s call season 17 Big Brother: Re-match and send in the exact same houseguests to play a more conventional set of twists.