The success of any reality show is in the casting, and for the 11th season of "Big Brother," the producers are conducting a noble experiment: They have invited two bonafide intellectuals to be among the housemates -- and a third is described as "educated."
This is new. And risky.
My theory is that "smart" contestants don't make it onto reality shows often because, as they are thinkers who consider repercussions, they are less likely to hook up. Who wants to watch someone thinking? MTV learned this long ago. Even on "Beauty and the Geek," there was no guarantee the guy was brilliant. Just geeky.
But of course strategy is a big part of the game, so the occasional brain breaks through the vetting process. "Big Brother" is the perfect breeding ground for geniuses, since so much of the show is about mind games. In fact, during the 2006 "all-star" season, one contestant faked intimate feelings for a woman just to get her vote. Yes, he won the prize -- but on principle, I refuse to categorize him as "smart."
In fact, in conducting my own scientific research, I would judge that only three of the "Big Brother" winners over the last 10 seasons could be considered "intellectual." You can see where a bikini model, for instance, might prove more popular.
Past housemates have included a retired FBI agent, a lawyer, and a UN communications director. None of them won. But the flamboyant exception to the rule was Season Two's Will Kirby, or "Dr. Evil," as he preferred to be called. The smirking dermatologist intentionally lost competitions, made promises he didn't keep, confessed to everyone that he was lying and should be hated -- and won. He has since capitalized on his modest fame by hosting NBC's "Love Shack," competing on "Battle of the Network Stars," and appearing on "Dr. 90210" and "The Doctors."
"Big Brother" loyalists worship Dr. Evil.
Will smarts prove to be a blessing or a curse this season? Let's take a look at the competition.
The surfer, actor and "international model" tends to make up words.
Hometown: Dana Point, Calif.
Is he cerebral? It's not the first word that comes to mind.
In the daytime, he's a teacher at a school in a low-income area. At night, he DJs.
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Is he cerebral? Since he's a teacher, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
This free-lance journalist is the contestant who got the "educated" shout-out. Yay school!
Hometown: West Hollywood, Calif.
Is she cerebral? Of course! She's a journalist.
This advertising salesman is open to a "showmance" -- if it doesn't embarrass his family.
Hometown: Norridge, Ill.
Is he cerebral? Of course! He's a Chicagoan.
This waitress's official profile includes the words "small-town," "sweet" and "naivete."
Hometown: Matthews, N.C.
Is she cerebral? No.
This graphic designer's official profile includes the words "ghetto," "fabulous," "inappropriate" and "bitchy."
Is he cerebral? The jury is out.
She can boast those magic words -- "bikini model" -- and also enjoys cheerleading and working out. She calls her lower-back tattoo a "tramp stamp" and is worried about abstaining from sex.
Is she cerebral? NO.
The former nanny and current special effects makeup artist is into bowling and yoga. She is hoping that "Big Brother" will provide her with "many new kind-hearted friends."
Hometown: Torrance, Calif.
Is she cerebral? No.
This neuroscientist is a former band geek who describes herself as a "news junkie."
Hometown: Pasadena, Calif.
Is she cerebral? Yes.
The Tae Kwon Do champion also loves to play poker.
Hometown: Gilbert, Ariz.
Is she cerebral? Possibly.
He is obsessed with video games and collects "Star Wars" memorabilia, and is a national champion in speech and debate.
Hometown: Belpre, Ohio
Is he cerebral? Yes.
The mixed martial-arts fighter is nicknamed "Russell the Lovemuscle."
Hometown: Walnut Creek, Calif.
Is he cerebral? No.