Maybe the time has come to take pity on "Big Brother" producer John de Mol, rainmaker turned reluctant purveyor of dead air, and cut the guy some slack.
If Tuesday night's episode wasn't a reality-show producer's plea for sympathy, we've never seen one.
We think we have it bad, forced to rehash episode after somniferous episode of the lamest story ever told; the prospect of facing another episode of "Big Brother" makes us long for the kind of action-packed entertainment Andy Warhol used to make.
But have we really stopped to think about what the gang at Endemol has to contend with? Have we considered their feelings?
A reader volunteers the following bit of insight:
"I saw the video feed on the day the jelly beans were tossed over the fence. What the TV didn't show was Eddie coming out of the Red Room and telling fellow guests: "They said we were boring. I told them, 'Heh, that's your problem. You picked us.'"
The housemates insist on being as exciting as a box of corndogs. It must drive Endemol crazy. Then there are all those obsessive housemate-lovers who chip in to fly message-bearing planes over the bunker (one of which said "Get out now"), and chuck tennis balls and Jawbreakers over the wall.
Now, even more invasively, they are using megaphones to dash our hopes of getting one of them to take the payola and run.
Tuesday night's episode began with this:
"On Wednesday, Big Brother will offer you money to leave!" yells a woman through a megaphone from over the back fence. "Don't take the money, it's a trick!"
An exasperated disembodied Big Brother voice hustles everybody into the house. The voice knows it's far from a trick -- it's a desperate measure and a last resort.
"What trick?" the voice is thinking. "It's a mercy bribe."
Clueless as always, the human horse tranquilizers discuss what they would do if they were in fact offered cash to quit. As always, they over-estimate their power (not to mention CBS's patience).
They assume they'll be offered $50,000 cash (and not the $20,000 -- initially $10,000 -- the network actually plans to offer). The house hamsters, though intrigued, are slightly underwhelmed.
George thinks that Teresa would have him forsake even $100,000 for the sake of the experience of staying in the house competing as far as possible. "But any which way it happens, it's exciting!"
We wish we could say the same.
In the next scene, Cassandra and Curtis convene by the wall to mumble inarticulately and be drowned out by traffic noise while talking about the show some more. Cassandra, as always, thinks they need to have more serious discussions.
Curtis replies, "Not everybody wants to engage in it .. so, let's not do it as a group of six -- then -- that's the only thing -- I'd like to, but --"
We don't follow him, but Cassandra does.
"Yeah," she replies, "but then we get caught with our pants down on Wednesday [If only. --Ed.], when there are six of us."
We still don't follow, but it's okay because the punch line makes up for it:
"I don't know what the public perception would be," Cassandra says, "if you opted for -- like would people would be disappointed in us if we ... "
"Sold out?" says Curtis. "Would it be, Are you a sell-out? Or, Are you an idiot for not taking the money?"
Goodness, what a quandary. If their friends jumped off bridges, Curtis and Cassandra would be dreaming with the fishes right now.
They don't know that short of a mass suicide it's doubtful that anyone outside of the house hamsters' immediate families will ever care about what happens to them, in or out of the house.
Actually, about the only thing Endemol can do to rescue the show at this point is to wall the whole place up and leave the cameras running.
Better still, now that we think of it, would be for the powers that be at CBS to wall the entire compound up and then let the house hamsters and the production staff fight it out for survival as the supply of food and water runs out.
Cassandra actually doesn't understand the "motivations" behind the offer. Curtis explains that it's exciting. This requires several more minutes of explanation.
Desperate to have the residents discuss something other than the show, the producers ply the hamsters with beer and force them to watch their audition tapes.
We're pretty sure this gambit is to demonstrate that the guests actually seemed interesting once.
With one exception they are on the whole not exactly the pet rocks we've come to know and resent.
The exception is of course Josh, who tells a charming story about some sort of drunken spring-break road trip. He was paired with someone he didn't know. They wound up in the back seat, he tried to kiss her and she immediately threw her legs up into the air.
"My friend said, 'I turned around and all I see is your bare white ass.'"
What a great story! The best part is, as Josh has told his house mates, every time he's ever had sex with a woman she has reached a climax, thanks to his patented Orgasmatron lovemaking technique.
So we're pretty sure that this was a drunk coed who got out of that back seat fulfilled, orgasmically speaking.
In his tape, George displays no signs of zaniness.
Jamie mentions in her tape that she had just seen a Miss Oregon runner-up -- whom she knew -- on the cover of Playboy. Part of her thinks it would be fun to pose nude for Playboy herself! Who knew?
Curtis says he's single and sings opera. He'd broken up with his last girlfriend because he found out she was cheating on him!
Eddie animatedly says he was trying to put the moves on the "Big Brother" receptionist and says he'll be "putting things on hold" with his girlfriend if he can get any action in the house.
Cassandra, more lighthearted than we've seen her, sings a song about money and says that she'll have the housemates "eating out of her hands."
Cut to a cluster of empty beer bottles. These people are not cheap dates. But at least the boys get drunk and boisterous, and Eddie has a field day mocking everyone else.
Jamie and Cassandra just sit there, slightly glazed, silently judging. If this were a Cosmo article, it'd be called, "'Big Brother' Party Girls! Wilder than Ever!"
George says his roofing business is probably gone.
Curtis says, "Well, you said you were downsizing -- down to zero!"
It's as if "Big Brother" wanted to prove that "Hey! These guys were capable of being boorish, crass and insensitive when we met them. It's not our fault they turned into the Osmonds!"
Cassandra notes that George has lost a lot of weight.
"Dude, you had more chins than a Hong Kong phone book," Eddie says.
He is gently and lovingly chided for his remark.
Later, in the Red Room, an exhausted and bored-looking Jamie notes that two months is a long time.
"Especially with someone as vivacious as Brittany now gone, you really notice it. Just a sort of mellow 'hm' to the house."
But look! There's a positive passive-aggressive spin!
"Brittany was a big part of all the conversations in the house," Jamie continues. "So now we can get to know each other on a deeper level. Now, with Cassandra, as the only the women in the room, we talk even more. Which is great."
Later, Jamie joins a weepily drunk Josh at the pool. Josh, motivated, perhaps, by a recent article in Maxim, is continuing his systematic recasting of himself as a tragic hero. The last few days he's been telling people he spends too much time alone.
His new tack is this: Nobody understands him! He is too smart! Too lucky!
"Great things are expected of me, something out of the ordinary," he sobs. Tears are running down his pretty face. He knows his problems are petty and wouldn't dream of concerning others with them. But his life is empty. Josh is convinced he'll end up by himself!
"I don't want to concern anybody for the way I feel," he tells Jamie tearfully, "'cause I know people about there have a lot harder problems than myself. I don't want them to concern themselves with the problems that I have. Mine are so petty compared to theirs.
"I'm going to live this empty life by myself!"
We're confused as to what it is exactly his problems are. Jamie is, too. Josh explains:
"Every person I come across, in the beginning, they love me unconditionally. They love me until they realize that, like, whatever they can do, I can accomplish the same thing. They hate it!"
Actually, that's not why we hate you, Josh.
Jamie is thinking that his chances at winning Miss Washington and posing for Playboy are slim. But she just says, "Uh-huh."
She tries to comfort him. "It's like you told me about your IQ test," she says. (Josh has told the house hamsters that he has a high IQ. We think he's under the misapprehension that IQ tests are scored on a scale of one to 100.) "A lot of things come to you in a lot of areas in your life. The more, I guess, gifted you are, the harder time you have in relationships with people."
Josh nods at the understanding, still weeping. "I try to come down to a level where they're at and try to relate to them. Then I do relate to them and then when I go back they can't come back with me! That just frustrates me."
This is apparently what happened with the woman in the back of the car that night.
But now Josh is building up for his big finish. He's back feeling like Leonardo DiCaprio in "Titanic": "If this world pressures me for the rest of my life and I die feeling this way, if there's something better on the other side then I'm happy," he says.
"I'm going to fight to the end," he says, looking up, tearful and defiant. "I'm never going to give up, because I know there's something better on the other side!"
Josh now reminds us of St. Francis of Assisi. And guess what -- people saw his bare ass a lot, too!
Later, in the Red Room, Curtis says he knows this is a game show, but he won't get so competitive and so cutthroat that he ruin's the group's everyday interaction.
"As much as this is a game show and a competition, it's also a group of people living together."
Believe us, we've noticed.