Everybody has their preferences when it comes to reality Tv competition shows; Survivor, The Amazing Race, even American Idol and The Voice qualify in this broad category. But in terms of pure psychological and physical warfare between competitors, nothing is more fun than Big Brother. What began as a Dutch competition show in 1999 has now broadened out to over 62 different iterations across the globe. As an American, I have always been exposed to the Julie Chen-hosted version, which recently wrapped its 23rd season in the autumn of 2021. Not all of the show’s 23 seasons have been memorable–Big Brother 9 and Big Brother 22: All Stars comes to mind–but within all these years, there have been some seasons that stand the test of time in terms of game-changing antics and sheer entertainment. Here are the top 5 seasons of Big Brother US.
Big Brother 10 (2008)
Back in the summer of 2008, and after year after year of game-changing twists, the series’ production team decided to take things back to basics–and the results were stunning. In a season that ran for only 71 days, the 10th installment of American Big Brother managed to collect its most dynamic and explosive cast of players yet. From the now legendary Dan Gheesling to the criminally-underrated Libra Thompson and Keesha Smith–one of the series best dynamic duos–each player of this short but dynamite season contributed memorable moments to the show’s legacy. Apart from being laugh out loud funny at times, this season also featured stone cold, ruthless gameplay from the players–and nobody was playing it safe for Instagram followers. This season is also memorable as one of the most tense and dramatic, with an argument breaking out what seemed like every single day. Keesha’s birthday, Memphis vs. Jerry, Dan vs. Ollie, Michelle and April vs. Libra and Keesha, Libra vs. Michelle, rinse, repeat. Truly the best.
Big Brother 7: All-Stars (2006)
Back in 2006, BB US aired its first season of an all-stars format, which saw some of the best players from the first 6 seasons (and Chicken George) return to compete. The results were some of the finest hours of American Big Brother in terms of both strategy and all-out gameplay. The excitement of seeing legends like Dr. Will, Danielle, Marcellas, Mike Malin, Jase, Alison, Erika, James Rhine, and Diane Henry was more than worth the wait for a returning players season. But in the midst of it all, it was Janelle Pierzina that created the game strategy which came to be known as “comp beast.” You cannot win BB on competitions alone, but her Terminator-like domination of nearly every competition was stunning to watch–even if she came in 3rd place (again). But in terms of strategy and mental manipulation, Dr. Will once again steals the season despite finishing in 4th place.
Big Brother 3 (2002)
The very first season of Big Brother was a complete experiment–America evicted each week’s houseguest. BB 2 established the competition, and Big Brother 3 was the first season of all-out, backstabbing, fiercely competitive gameplay. And what a season it was. Danielle Reyes tops most any list of the best BB players that never won, and her skilled strategic moves, subtle, yet brilliant manipulation, and ruthless intent to win the game no matter the cost can never be duplicated. Danielle’s quiet and wholesome sidekick Jason, the witty and comedic brilliance of Marcellas, Josh’s sleaziness, Amy’s sharp but lovable Southern Belle routine, Gerry’s overall oafishness…this is another cast for the ages. This season was the first to feature the Power of Veto, although the veto we know now was not introduced until the end of the season. Marcellas’s decision not to save himself from the block lives in BB infamy to this day.
Big Brother 6 (2005)
Big Brother 6 was in many ways the first season to feature a house literally split into two camps: the Nerd Herd and the Sovereign Six. Depending on your personality traits, it is not uncommon to find faults and moments of agreement with either side of the house. The gameplay in this season was stellar and edge-of-your-seat; the power flipped back and forth between both sides each week, which was immensely enjoyable. Janelle made her introduction in this season complete with superb comic relief and gameplay within the Sovereign Six, but it was the more subtle and far more strategic (and very underrated) Maggie of the Nerd Herd that dominated the season all the way to the winner’s seat.
Big Brother 16 (2014)
In the summer of 2014, Big Brother 16 aired, and this season would mark a turning point in BB gameplay and cast motivations. Not everybody likes this installment, and truth be told, I sort of agree with the criticisms claiming that it forever broke the game, but there are some incredible moments and gameplay this season not seen since the best moments of 2000s BB. In many ways, its the cast of this season that makes it what it is. Derrick’s absolute domination of both the house and the season is stunning to behold, if only because it exposes the naivete of the rest of the cast. Of course, who can forget Frankie Grande…
Honorable Mention: Big Brother 2 (2001)
Airing during the summer of 2001, including an emotional moment capturing the houseguests’ reactions to the 9/11 attacks, BB 2 was in many ways the season that started it all. BB1 the previous summer was non-competitive, but the introduction of the Head of Household competition, and the houseguests evicting their own each week in the second installment established a precedent. There was no Power of Veto this season, and to be honest, the weekly head of household competitions were laughable, but the new gameplay gave rise to the art of strategy and manipulation, with the season’s winner Dr. Will Kirby being the chief architect of BB gameplay sabotage–all without winning a single competition. Since the gameplay is limited, there are moments in this season that can drag, but the dynamic set of personalities is fascinating to watch. Never leave your toothbrush sitting out in a house full of strangers.