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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.
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‘Celebrity Big Brother’ season 2 opening recap: does Kandi Burruss stand a chance of winning?

Tamar Braxton is a “super fan” who is not friends with Kandi

Originally posted Monday, January 22, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com  on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

“Celebrity Big Brother” season 2, which debuted tonight, brings a delightful mix of pop culture punchlines, C-grade actors, reality show stars and athletes. 

For the second year in a row, an Atlanta person is included. Last year, it was “Cosby” kid Keshia Knight Pulliam. This year it’s songwriter, singer, restaurateur, sex toy company entrepreneur and reality star Kandi Burruss.

Based on what we’ve seen of her on a decade of “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” she isn’t exactly the queen of skulduggery, a necessary trait to win this game.

Kandi can’t wear a poker face. Her emotions and feelings are as obvious as daylight. She is authentic and likable and those strengths may carry her awhile, but there will be a point someone or some alliance will likely take her down. 

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Plus, I can’t tell how badly she wants to win or what her knowledge of the show. Strategy, expertise and drive could take you far on this show. 

So I would say Kandi’s chances of taking the $250,000 are less than likely. 

The most intriguing part of her being here is the fact fellow reality star and R&B singer Tamar Braxton (“Braxton Family Values”) is in the household as well. And they have had some past, unspecified beefs.

“We’ve had our good times,” Kandi said on camera diplomatically. “We’ve had our bad times.”

CBS managed to do an entire intro with Kandi without directly referencing Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” owned by rival NBCUniversal. But the name of the show is listed right under her name when she’s being interviewed so it may have not been on purpose. (”Celebrity Big Brother,” which will be on several times a week on CBS, will air at the same time as “Real Housewives” on Sunday nights for the next month.)

BIG BROTHER: CELEBRITY EDITION launches with a two-night premiere event Monday, Jan. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) and Tuesday, Jan. 22 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.Television Network. Houseguest toast being in the Big Brother House. Photo: (Monty Brinton/CBS) ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved (Monty Brinton/CBS)

Anyway, here’s a quick early handicap of the other 11 contestants and their chances of winning:

SHOW EARLY POTENTIAL

Jonathan Bennett. The “Mean Girls” actor and “Cake Wars” host is a bit like Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath last year. He’s the Every Man that is hard to dislike. He is excited to be in the house, loves the game and enjoys being around this strange amalgam of celebrities. His eyes bug out every time a “twist” happens. I suspect (without real proof) that his gee-whiz warmth masks a savvy game player underneath. He could win this.

- Tamar Braxton. She is the type of person who isn’t big on discretion and has a bit of a temper. That could get her in trouble and make her a target. At the same time, she is clearly strategic and will quickly seek out an alliance. She also knows the game. (“I am a super fan!”). For instance, she didn’t want to draw attention to herself by winning the first Head of Household challenge, in which celebrities paired up. But Tamar’s competitive side was also annoyed that her challenge partner Kandi was so incompetent. They came in last after not being able to get a single drop of champagne into a glass via a massive swinging contraption. I’d say she could be out early or last deep into the game depending on who she hooks up with. 

Tom Green. As a veteran comic, he is clearly going to generate laughs in the house and is already a magnet for the “Big Brother” editors in terms of rolling commentary and jokes. But he may inadvertently annoy folks as well with his warped sense of humor. (He kept asking Natalie about  whether she wants sandwiches after they entered the house.) He seems like he knows the game reasonably well and might stick around long enough to have an impact. He also has a connection to Anthony Scaramucci: he was also fired by Donald Trump. But in his case, it was on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Lolo Jones. She is an Olympic track star (and for whatever’s it worth, a virgin) who comes across as enthusiastic, sharp and strategic. When given a chance to pick a partner for the first challenge, she chose Tom Green on purpose because she did not want to win (unlike Ryan.) But she said her competitive gene kicked in and they almost did. I can’t quite tell where she will stand in this competition but she seems like the type who won’t ruffle too many feathers. If she lines herself up properly, she could be around in a month.

Joey Lawrence. Everyone (except Ryan) seems to be a fan of the former “Blossom” star. Whoa! He works out and looks great. He is also far smarter than his “Blossom” character. I would not under estimate him on this show. 

WILL PROBABLY LEAVE EARLY

- Ryan Lochte. He may be a 12-time Olympic gold medal winning swimmer but that doesn’t make him a terribly likable person outside the pool. Instead, he comes across as self-centered and super competitive in a way that will make him an easy target for elimination long before the finale. There is no doubt he will rub many the housemates the wrong way with extended exposure. He is a super cheeseball too, noting at one point, referencing himself in the third person: “You gotta keep the Lochte on the block-te.” Ugh! He knows nothing about the show and ignorance, in the “Big Brother” household, is not bliss.

- Kato Kaelin. He has really only one claim to fame: the houseguest when O.J. murdered his wife a quarter century ago. He is clearly self-deprecating about that aspect of his life and calls himself “gregarious” but is there any there there? After the first six enter the house and the two Olympians talk shop, he says, “I say later tonight we do a six-person bobsled.” I don’t have a lot to work on after just one episode but my gut tells me he has as much chance of winning this as he does winning MegaMillions jackpot. 

Anthony Scaramucci. The hedge-fund gazillionaire who spent a few days as Trump’s spokesman is grabbing at a little more fame with his entry onto this show. He is a little smarmy and spends a lot of time humble-bragging about how he normally handles billions of dollars but now is taking showers in front of cameras. No way he will win this.

HARD TO READ SO FAR

- Ricky Wiliams. The retired NFL player and Heisman Trophy winner is now a Chinese herbalist. He comes across as warm and gentle. The first episode featured precious little of him beyond him gushing over Kandi from her Xscape days. So could he win? Way too soon to tell what he’s made of. 

- Dina Lohan. The mom-ager of Lindsay Lohan and her siblings is a hard read for me. Although she has been tabloid fodder, I barely paid attention over the years. She said she could be vengeful. “If someone tries to back stab me, it sucks for them,” she said. I need to see some game play from her before I make a snap judgment on her chances. 

- Natalie Eva Marie. The bad-girl WWE wrestler is not someone I  know anything about. (I have never watched “Total Divas.”) She is now a fashion designer, social media maven and a huge “Big Brother” fan. The first episode featured precious little of her so it’s impossible to say if she’ll be able to leverage her “Big Brother” knowledge to victory. 

BIG BROTHER: CELEBRITY EDITION launches with a two-night premiere event Monday, Jan. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) and Tuesday, Jan. 22 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.Television Network. Pictured: L-R: Anthony Scaramucci and Dina Lohan playing HOH comp "Drinks On Us!". Photo: (Monty Brinton/CBS) ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved (Monty Brinton/CBS)

There were two twists this first episode. They had the celebrities pair up via schoolyard pick. Two celebrities did not compete (Natalie and Kato) but also would not be targeted in the first elimination. And after Jonathan and Ryan won, they found out they would have to compete for Head of Household with the loser ending up on the block. 

Also, Julie Chen continues to call herself Julie Chen Moonves. She is still supporting her disgraced husband and former CBS chief Les Moonves that way. 

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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