Omarosa is the best 'Celebrity Big Brother' contestant

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Omarosa Manigault, Keshia Knight Pullman, and Brandi Glanville on the first celebrity edition of Big Brother in the U.S. (Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS)

The first American edition of Celebrity Big Brother began airing on CBS on Wednesday night — and its biggest-name contestant by a longshot is Omarosa Manigault, the former White House advisor to the president of the U.S. and a competitor on the first season of The Apprentice, which was hosted by the future president of the U.S. Is there any doubt that Donald Trump spent Wednesday night looking not at Tucker Carlson on Fox News, but at Celebrity Big Brother? And did he see the McDonald’s commercial pitching, “for a limited time only,” the Grand Mac, a heftier version of his beloved Big Mac?

The rest of the celebrities on Celebrity Big Brother were a cut-rate bunch that included singer Mark McGrath, MMA fighter Chuck Liddell, The Cosby Show’s Keisha Knight Pulliam, and professional irritant Ross Mathews. Completely unknown to me: Brandi Glanville, one of those interchangeably phony “real” “housewives” of Beverly Hills, Broadway performer Marissa Jaret Winokur, and James Maslow, a vocalist in boy band Big Time Rush. Maslow and Omarosa had the night’s best meet-cute: She asked, “And where might I know you from?” He asked her a similar question, and when she said she was known for The Apprentice, he asked with charming ignorance, “Uh-huh — and who did you apprentice with?”

Shockingly, the legendarily unpleasant Omarosa turned out to be the most polite and amused of the new entrants into the household. Also charming, on this opening night, was Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie), who won the first Head of Household competition by clinging to a giant rubber Oscar award longer than anyone else. My own award, for Most Obnoxious, goes to Glanville, who told the camera that she felt this whole thing was beneath her, musing dourly that she might as well “start hooking on the side.” Imagine that — a Real Housewife who’s disgusted by the notion of prostituting herself! To be fair, Brandi was hitting the champagne pretty hard by that point.

The trick with a celebrity version of Big Brother is to force the famous faces out of their pampered comfort zones — you want them to show you that they’re totally immersed in the full, grotty Big Brother experience. I want to see their noses turning up after a day with dirty socks on the floor; I want them begging a ripe Chuck Liddell to take a shower. Unfortunately, opening night was not promising. I would swear that Marissa Winokur threw the HoH competition after a paltry three minutes, and host Julie Chen seemed to be effusing on autopilot, as though she still hadn’t recovered from this past summer’s regular-edition Big Brother yet. Also, I already don’t like this game’s new wrinkle: One person will have the power to “re-cast,” which is to say replace, the HoH winner. This will instantly lower the stakes for that competition, as Wednesday’s HoH winner, Shannon Elizabeth, made clear with her crestfallen gaze after initially being so happy to have won. I’ll stick with Celebrity Big Brother through this week’s episodes, but if Omarosa doesn’t start being obnoxious, I’m outta there.

Celebrity Big Brother airs Thursday and Friday on CBS. Starting next week, it will air Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

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