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Monday October 8, 2000

Bob Barker saves 'Big Brother' chickens

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Game show host Bob Barker has rescued five chickens that were part of "Big Brother."

"The Price Is Right" host and Nancy Burnet, an animal rights activist, went to Studio City, the site of the "Big Brother" house, on Sunday to collect the chickens, whose eggs were used by the show's participants for food.

Barker and Burnet told CBS they were concerned about the welfare of the chickens used on its just-completed show. The network agreed to turn over the chickens so that they could be put in a refuge.

Friday September 29, 2000

Big Brother comes to an end

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The 88-day endurance test is over. Eddie McGee, the blunt New Yorker who lost his left leg to cancer, won a half million dollars as the survivor on the CBS reality show, "Big Brother."

 Fans of the show overwhelmingly chose the University of Texas-Arlington student over the other two remaining contestants, New York lawyer Curtis Kin and Californian Josh Souza, in a live telecast on Friday.

 "It's wild," he said after learning he won. "My heart is pumping so hard. I have to remind myself to breathe."

 He outlasted nine other contestants who entered the specially built house July 5 on a California soundstage. Their every move was followed by cameras and microphones, with the frequently dull results airing as much as six nights a week on CBS.

 Souza, who gave McGee a warm hug, won $100,000 as the second-place finisher. Kin won $50,000.

 The brash McGee, a wheelchair basketball star, alienated some of his fellow contestants with his blunt talk and determination. He said Friday, though, that he never expected to win.

 McGee said he hoped to pay off some debts and help his brother with his college education.

 "I'm going to look forward to having a real great holiday season," he said.

 All 10 contestants attended a raucous post-show celebration. Some of the housemates said they were happy Eddie won -- even if they weren't pulling for him.

 "I couldn't have asked for anything better for anyone else. He has a disability but he doesn't look at it that way. I admire that. He doesn't let anyone get him down," said George, the show's "Chicken Man."

 George, who like the other also-rans, would not give out his last name Friday, came to the post-show party dressed as a chicken, his hair dyed orange. He said he's looking for a job.

 As the contestants shed tears and shared hugs, the first person voted out said he, too, was glad to be back.

 The argumentative William Collins, 28, had set the tone early as the house's angry young man before he was bounced.

 "This is the last hurrah and for everyone to say goodbye to each other," he said. "This is my chance to show that I wasn't the mad, angry, bad guy."

 It brings to an end a series that never proved as successful in the United States as it did in other countries, largely because American viewers never warmed to the cast members and were bored with their daily lives.

 While a critical bust, "Big Brother" was a modest financial success for CBS. Over its run, the show's average of 9.1 million viewers was 9 percent higher than summer reruns fared in the same time slots a year ago. But it did much better among young viewers that advertisers love and CBS often can't attract.

 The more interesting contestants were voted out quickly. First to go was Collins, who engaged the gang in provocative racial discussions and was later found to be a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

 Hoping for romance and conflict, producers found little of either. The only kiss shared by McGee in a highlight reel shown Friday was with a dog.

 Earlier this month, producers tried to entice someone to leave the house with an offer of $50,000. They hoped to replace a less exciting contestant with an attractive and combative young blonde woman, but none of the occupants took the bait.

 At one point, six remaining houseguests talked about walking out en masse. That idea fizzled, too.

 When the final female contestant, former Seattle beauty contest winner Jamie, was voted out on Wednesday, viewers were left to choose by telephone vote among the three men.

 Still, CBS and the show's producers were reportedly discussing a second "Big Brother" run for sometime next year. Networks are trying to stockpile reality shows in anticipation of a potential actors strike next year.

 "We're pleased with the ratings the show has delivered and we do see tremendous potential in the concept," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. "But there's no official word regarding another edition."

Thursday September 28, 2000

'Big Brother' finds diehard fans online

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Call "Big Brother" boring if you wish, but many fans on the Internet will miss the "reality" game show when its three-month run ends Friday.

Johnny Fisher, for one, will have to find another pastime. The retired railroad worker watches the TV show each night, spends another 10 to 20 hours a day following the contestants online, and has posted more than 1,200 messages since July to fellow fans.

"The Internet site definitely enhances the enjoyment of the program," said Fisher, 53, of Enid, Okla., who is known online as Travln' John. "I'm not entirely sure I'd be involved with the program by itself on television."

Sure, "Big Brother" has been a ratings disappointment for CBS. But the audience could have been even smaller without the Internet there to engage fans.

This has been the most ambitious television-Internet tie-in to date in the United States. The show's official site,, offers live feeds of the contestants 24 hours a day, whether they are sleeping, eating or shaving. CBS shows less than four hours of footage each week, most of it taped.

Ten strangers agreed to live in the "Big Brother" house for three months with no privacy or outside contact. Seven have been kicked out. One of the remaining contestants -- Curtis, Eddie or Josh -- will win $500,000 on Friday, and the runners-up will get $100,000 and $50,000.

The show's online traffic has been respectable, but not spectacular.

Though it was the top new site in July, with more than 4.2 million visitors, traffic dropped by half to 2.3 million in August, according to Internet measurement company Media Metrix. Visitors averaged only 12 minutes at the site in August, and not every visitor came to watch the video feed.

Unofficial sites also saw diminished traffic. Paul Sims had up to 400,000 daily visitors to, a fan site for CBS' other "reality" show this summer, the hit "Survivor." He estimates that fewer than 100,000 are coming each day to

But the fans who do visit these sites regularly tend to be devoted.

"This is a show that is perfectly tuned to the Internet," said David Card, an analyst with Internet research firm Jupiter Communications. "If you're really interested in watching those boring guests, you can watch them all day long."

Stella Calvert, 51, a writer in San Francisco, said she may need to buy an ant farm soon to replace the human fishbowl that is "Big Brother." She heard about the show online and has been hooked ever since.

In Richmond, Va., Web designer Tony Wittrien, 25, said he may get his fix watching an Italian version of the show, "even though I can't understand what they are saying."

For Tanya Salazar, 17, of San Antonio, the show's conclusion will be a good opportunity to start looking for a job. She has spent several hours each day running a Web site devoted to ousted contestant Brittany.

"You really feel like you know these people," she said. "On television, they can edit it to show the most interesting parts. Online, you kind of see when they are being themselves."

America Online, which runs the official Web site, hosts more than 14,000 unofficial fan pages. Elsewhere, there are sites for or against Eddie, George and other contestants, and one where fans take turns monitoring the online feeds and posting summaries for each other.

Even those who find the show boring like to complain on the sites' message boards.

"There's a strong contingent on the Internet that loves to hate Big Brother and apparently watches the show just to put down the houseguests," said Susan Cole, 45, a free-lance editor and teacher in Palo Alto, Calif. -- and a fan.

Many fans leave "Big Brother" running in the background while they do other work, the way they would use a radio. AOL's online adviser, Regina Lewis, said traffic increases at lunchtime and after the evening broadcasts.

AOL and other sites plan to follow the contestants periodically once they leave the house.

Michael Kersey, 29, a Web content provider in Atlanta, found that the Internet discussions revealed motives "that I wouldn't have picked up if I just relied on CBS."

"If you become a regular viewer, you start understanding their sleeping habits, and when they get up," he said. "At nighttime, especially when they've had a few beers in them, that's the best time to watch."

Thursday September 28, 2000

'Big Brother' cleans house

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- After getting booted from the "Big Brother" house, George Boswell felt good about his stint on the CBS reality show.

During 77 days under voluntary house arrest, George had done what he set out to do: take a temporary leave from his ordinariness. As he explained last Sunday on a visit to Manhattan, he didn't enter that camera-and-microphone-filled house in a bid for renown. He just wanted a breather from his anonymity.

"I'm just an average, everyday guy that did something wild," said George, a roly-poly roofer and long-wed father of three.

Wild indeed. While in the house, he hatched an alter ego as "Chicken Man," the resident clown who sported Day-Glo-tinted hair and wacky get-ups. Briefly turning rebel, he plotted to wreck the show by mobilizing a group walkout. Then he pulled a switcheroo and merrily decided to stay.

A week after that, a phone-in poll banished him to the outside world. For his exit from the house, he sheathed himself in a bedsheet toga.

George turns 42 on Friday, which, by chance, also marks the "Big Brother" finale, when one of the remaining trio -- Eddie, Josh or Curtis -- will be named as the viewers' choice to win the $500,000 grand prize.

George will be in Los Angeles with the other nine original cohabitants for the live broadcast at 8 p.m. EDT. Then he heads back to Rockford, Ill., where, reunited with family and friends, he has every expectation of vanishing for good, like the platinum sheen that will vanish from his hair.

Or so he said. But in formulating his plans, George divulged blind faith in how the public might perceive him from his TV persona.

"What you see on television is me," he insisted. "That's who I am." But he has never had a chance to actually watch "Big Brother." He has no idea what viewers have been seeing.

By almost any measure, what they've been seeing is a mess. A series designed to spy on people who agreed to be spied upon, then hedged their bets by playing to the cameras, "Big Brother" has managed to be both contrived and humdrum; both cynical and dismally naive.

The houseguests began at a huge disadvantage. They were quarantined in drab surroundings and given few challenging diversions. But then, all too quickly, they proved to be dullards in their own right (including George, good for little more than his comic bursts).

Left to their own devices, they were seen mostly cooking, eating, drinking, lounging, or working on their tans in the fenced-in yard.

And talking, of course. In the absence of activity, "Big Brother" has been chockablock with talk. Pointless talk. Tacky talk. The sort of talk you overhear in a bar or on a bus, then wonder if the people know how stupid they sound.

As they hung around the house, the "Big Brother" residents seemed forever to be biding their time, too conscious of TV to ever get down to the business the audience was looking for: fighting and sex.

Private lives, public boredom. Squalid, but not squalid enough. A show of consummate mediocrity, "Big Brother" has diminished everyone attached to it. Its producers. Its network. Julie Chen, its hapless host. Even the chumps at home who, week after week, wasted money to phone their "votes" in for the bogus popularity poll.

Certainly the houseguests aren't covered with glory.

One day last week, Jordan, the former stripper who was ousted early on, was brought back to address those still in the house.

"You have no idea how over-the-top, out-of-control HUGE this show is," she chirped. "We're all major celebrities and we're set for life!"

For a wonderful moment, the inmates believed her, particularly Jamie, the plumpish beauty-pageant queen who dreams of Hollywood stardom. As she listened, her face lit up like a movie marquee.

Then everybody, even Jamie, realized that Jordan was yanking their chains. Major celebrities? As if! Do they think they're on "Survivor"?

Even so, George doesn't mind that his fame, such as it is, may be fleeting. To hear him talk, he doesn't even want that stardom stuff.

"At this point," he declared, "I look to settle back into a normal-type life. I'm prepared for that." Maybe he will. Maybe he is.

But in the meantime, a larger question lingers with the "Big Brother" stench: When, if ever before, has a TV network squandered so much face time on 10 people of so little consequence?

What a big, big bother "Big Brother" has been.

Wednesday September 27, 2000

'Big Brother' searching for house guests

CBS is searching for new Big Brother contestants before the present group's beds have even been vacated.

Tonight marks another banishment from the group of four contestants: Eddie, Josh, Jamie and Curtis, but as the house becomes less populated, the network is already searching for a new group of participants, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

CBS' official website has posted a Big Brother application form that reads: "Are you interested in possibly participating in a future Big Brother show? Sign up here!".

The network is also expected to begin running on-air ads for new contestants this week.

In the wake of "Big Brother's" less than phenomenal ratings, (a disappointment after "Survivor's" success), CBS' decision to renew the series came as a surprise to some.

But, although the show's ratings weren't impressive when compared to "Survivor", CBS has continuously pointed out that that "Big Brother" is still a financial success and even the lowest-rated episodes beat CBS' record last summer.

The reality show airs six nights a week and follows the exploits of a group of people trying to stay in the TV-camera filled house for as long as possible in an effort to win a cash prize.

"Big Brother" has averaged 9.3 million viewers per episode since it's July 5 debut. That number is up 17% from other shows CBS aired in that time slot last year.

"Big Brother" has also attracted young viewers, a refreshing change for CBS, a network that usually appeals to an older demographic.

"It has been a big experiment for us, and it has been a good one," said Nancy Tellem, CBS Entertainment president. "It has been very profitable for us. If 'Survivor' had not been in the mix for us this summer, I don't think there would have been as much criticism (of 'Big Brother').

The criticism handed out from TV critics and sarcastic webiste such as has mainly pointed out that the show revolves around a boring group of people.

CBS purchased rights to the show from a European production company and the show earned record ratings in the Netherlands, Germany and is currently the topic of discussion in many U.K. tabloids.

Douglas Ross, executive producer of the domestic show, pointed out that U.S. participants were more aware of their image than participants over seas and the more volatile or interesting characters therefore tended to get kicked out of the house first.

"The most vocal and opinionated (housemates) have been the first to be eliminated, so they're now playing very nice and very even," he said.

Ross also said that European TV watchers are used to nightly soap opera formats and serials and were more apt to follow the "Big Brother" format. On the other side of the ocean, Americans are more accustomed to watching weekly sitcoms or dramas.

Ross went on to say that the biggest difference between the European "Big Brother" and the American version and the possible reason for the discrepancy in ratings, is that the European versions show flashier material that wouldn't be shown on American networks.

"In the German version, viewers saw one of the women oiling up her breasts every day," he said. "That's something we just can't do here."

In the Italian version, two participants had sex behind a coach during the first few days of the show while a double bath attracted a British audience.

David Brooks, a director of strategy at Channel 4 in the U.K. which airs "Big Brother," said sex has less to do with the European success of "Big Brother" than the "risk and danger" and "cut-throat" banishments.

"Nasty Nick," a U.K. houseguest, cried during the show when his manipulative behaviour was revealed.

Brooks went on to say that the U.S. show seems calmer and "stage managed" with "no sense of danger, no sense that anything could happen".

For now, North American "Big Brother" enthusiasts are anxiously awaiting who will be kicked out of the house during tonight's show. The last episode of "Big Brother" will air this Friday, September 29.

-- JAM! TV

Tuesday September 19, 2000

Italy's 'Big Brother' logs first sex on show

ROME (AP) -- After days of vapid chitchat, seemingly endless meals and near-constant preening for the camera, two contestants on Italy's version of "Big Brother" rewarded attentive voyeurs by having sex on TV -- sort of.

"I can't believe she did it after only four days," Piero Taricone, 25, crowed to another male contestant shortly after he and Cristina Plevani, a curly haired blonde lifeguard, pulled off their body mikes and retired behind a sofa under a yellow curtain for a few moments of fabric-rippling privacy at dawn.

Canale 5 was so thrilled, it rebroadcast much of the eagerly awaited event, which involved some rather awkward shuffling of sofa cushions and curtains, in prime time.

The Italian media has been full of salacious speculation about on-camera sex since the show premiered last week. None of the 10 contestants on "Big Brother" is shy. They are good-looking, young and enthusiastic exhibitionists who spend most of their time in swimsuits.

Taricone, who says Bruce Willis is his action-hero role model, and 28-year-old Plevani, who says she wants to be in movies, apparently obliged at 6 a.m. Tuesday. In fact, it was impossible to tell. But they talked a lot about it afterward to their fellow houseguests.

Italy's "Big Brother" follows the now-familiar voyeuristic format of versions aired in other countries: Round-the-clock video cameras and microphones monitor virtually every moment of every day the contestants spend locked up together in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house on a studio lot.

Viewers intent on missing absolutely nothing can watch 24 hours a day on Stream pay TV. For viewers without pay TV, Canale 5 is broadcasting regular "best of" recaps.

Canale 5 is part of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's media empire, Mediaset. Berlusconi is now the leader of the center-right opposition, staunch proponents of traditional family values.

Even before "Big Brother" went on the air, there were complaints about decency. Versions of the program elsewhere in Europe have featured sex and nudity.

The Vatican was especially critical, lashing out at "Big Brother" in its daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Some priests have urged their flock not to watch show, which has nevertheless enjoyed good ratings.

Thursday September 14, 2000

'Big Brother' to get 'Survivor' boost

CBS is hoping that "Big Brother's" final ratings will get a boost from the show's more popular reality sibling.

The network plans to re-run the finale of "Survivor" on the same night as the season finale of "Big Brother", Friday, Sept. 29, Variety reports.

The hour-long episode of "Big Brother" will air at 8 p.m., while the final episode of "Survivor," which was a huge ratings success and ended with Richard Hatch scooping the million-dollar prize, will air from 9 to 11 p.m.

CBS is planning to hype its reality double-feature as "Finale Friday".

There are currently five house guests left on "Big Brother". Last night's live episode saw contestant Cassandra voted out of the house.

The remaining contestants are Eddie, George, Jamie, Curtis and Josh.

Two more house gusts will be banished from the camera-ridden household before the season finale.

The final episode will feature the remaining three vying for the top prize -- $500,000 -- which will be awarded to the last remaining contestant.

Despite the network's attempt to boost "Big Brother's" ratings, the show has not enjoyed the stellar success that "Survivor" did.

This week, the network tried to increase interest in the show by hinting that all five remaining contestants would walk out of the house during Wednesday's live show. In the end, everyone decided to stay.

Earlier in the season, the show's producers offered one of the house guests $50,000 to leave the house in another attempt to create a buzz around the show. None of the contestants accepted the bribe.

-- JAM! TV

Thursday September 14, 2000

This week's Big Brother results

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The "Big Brother" rebellion went nowhere -- and neither did the house guests.

 Sticking to the CBS reality series' going-nowhere style, Wednesday's live installment saw a routine banishment of another resident -- this time, Cassandra -- and little else.

 It could have been different.

 A dramatic turn of events seemed a possibility last weekend as insurrection simmered. George, the usually jovial roofer, began fanning the discontent within the house, where since early July the sequestered residents have submitted to constant video surveillance.

 Captured on the round-the-clock "Big Brother" Web site, the six house guests could be seen endlessly debating whether to march out of the house in mutiny during Wednesday's live telecast. That would have emptied the house more than two weeks before the "Big Brother" finale, when one surviving house guest is scheduled to collect the grand prize of $500,000.

 Exactly what the protest was meant to accomplish was never clear, although it would have thrown a kink into CBS's ability to continue the six-times-a-week series.

 CBS promoted Wednesday's show, and the showdown, to pump up interest in the poorly received series.

 "The big news of the week is the 'Big Brother' rebellion," said host Julie Chen at the top of the hour.

 But it was a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing, as viewers learned when Chen cut to George inside the house. She asked if he planned to go ahead with his walkout.

 "The Chicken Man's staying," said George, referring to himself by his nickname. The other five house guests also clearly meant to stay put.

 During an in-studio segment with "health and relationship specialist" Dr. Drew Pinsky, Chen asked why the house guests had considered mass revolt.

 "It seems strange to those of us who don't have the perspective of confinement," Pinsky replied. "Doesn't it?"

 Then Chen announced the results of the phone poll choosing which of three house guests "marked for banishment" -- Eddie, Curtis or Cassandra -- would be tossed out.

 Cassandra, a dignified New Yorker who works as a United Nations communications specialist, was nailed with 46 percent of the vote.

 With her gone, Josh and Jamie remained, along with Eddie, Curtis and George, as contenders from the original 10 house guests.

Monday September 11, 2000

'Big Brother' revolt quelled

JAM! Showbiz

House guest Curtis' visit to the Emmys last night, a meeting with the "Big Brother" producers over the weekend and another banner flown over the "Big Brother" house on Sunday has quelled the contestants' desire to leave the reality game show this Wednesday.

The rebellion had been brewing in the house since last Wednesday's live edition during which banished house guest, Britanny, was permitted to have a private conversation with with 23-year-old house guest, Josh. In that chat, Brittany told Josh of how the hometown of one of the other contestants (George) had banned together to kick her out during the bi-weekly banishment telephone poll, and that they might do so again. Josh eventually gave the information to the other five remaining contestants, who then decided to leave the show in protest this week.

"Big Brother"'s producers held an emergency meeting with house guest and current Miss Washington State, Jamie, on Saturday. Jamie went back to the group expressing the producers' disappointment with the turn of events. The house guests decided to rethink their strategy.

On Sunday, the family of 21-year-old student, Eddie, sent a message to him via an airplane banner which read "Pooh Bear - Mick Says Stay In The House". Pooh Bear was Eddie's childhood nickname; Mick is Eddie's pet name for his mom. Eddie took the personal communication to heart and is resolved to staying to the very end of the competition.

Though the rules of the "Big Brother" contest state that anyone voluntarily leaving the house is effectively out of the game, 23-year-old lawyer, Curtis, was awarded a trip to the Emmy awards by winning this week's house challenge. Upon his return, Curtis detailed his experience to the group and seemed to have not clued into the controversy surrounding the reality show's ratings, which are respectable but are not pulling in the numbers Survivor did for CBS.

Television critics have also panned the show as boring and a failure on all fronts for CBS. Curtis and the other house guests have been sequestered in the Big Brother house on the CBS studio lot since the show began in July. Through bi-weekly nominations by the house guests and viewer banishment polls, the field of 10 has been reduced to six.

Accompanied to the Emmys by publicity representatives for the show, Curtis wasn't permitted to seek out information from anyone about the status or the public perception of the Big Brother program.

"The show must be doing well because people know who I am," Curtis told the surviving contestants, who pressed him for his observations and any information he had gathered.

On the Emmy telecast, Wayne Brady, a comedian from the show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", sang a humorous number that included the line, "Have you seen Big Brother? Neither have I. The crowd in attendance laughed. Curtis didn't understand their react"ion.

According to Curtis, a reporter also asked him how he felt about CBS's "disappointment" over "Big Brother"'s ratings. Curtis wasn't sure how to take that comment since another reporter had ribbed him about not knowing that Al Gore had nominated Bill Clinton for Vice President.

A "Big Brother "skit by Emmys host Garry Shandling and "X-Files "star David Duchovny at the Emmys also baffled the legal eagle. Shandling and Duchovny did their bit in a bathroom that was "monitored" by a camera similar to the 28 devices that record the contestants' 24 hours a day in the "Big Brother" house.

"It could be that CBS gambled and the show is a big flop, or it could've been a parody," Curtis surmised.

Based on the reaction he got from the press at the Emmys show, and the number of autograph seekers he encountered as he left the ceremonies, Curtis was confident in the house guests' choice earlier in the day not to bail on the show.

"My experience is that people are watching and know who we are. People like what we doing. They aren't concentrating on the game show aspect. They think what we are doing is fun," Curtis said.

Ironically, the highlight of Curtis's excursion was his chance meeting with "Survivor" contestant Rudy Boesch and his wife.

"I met Rudy!," Curtis exclaimed. "Rudy is exactly like Rudy from 'Survivor'! He told me ... I can tell you how to win Big Brother ... but he didn't."

This week, house guests Eddie, Cassandra and Curtis are "marked for banishment" by the other contestants. Based on voting by viewers, one of them is scheduled to be booted from the house this Wednesday. The last surviving house guest will walk home with the $500,000 cash prize.

Big Brother airs every day except Sunday. It is broadcast live on the Internet 24-hours-a-day at

Sunday, September 10, 2000

Big Brother contestants to walk?

By JOHN POWELL -- JAM! Showbiz

In an act of defiance against the show's producers, the six remaining house guests on CBS' Big Brother reality program have pledged to walk out of the house this coming Wednesday night. If they do, they will forfeit the $500,000 prize money.

The seeds for a mass exodus were sewn on last Wednesday's live show. Banished house guest Brittany was permitted a private one-on-one chat with 23-year-old house guest Josh. Having viewed broadcasts of the show that were taped while she was in the house, Brittany informed Josh about who or who not to trust of the remaining contestants and made him aware that the hometown of one of them -- George, a 41-year-old roofer from Rockford, Illinois -- had banded together to kick her out during the bi-weekly banishment telephone poll.

When Josh spoke with the other house guests about what Brittany had told him, he refused to divulge the damaging information, fearing it would cause ill will in the house. In the ensuing days, banners flown over the house by the Web site and the relentless prodding of the other house guests weakened Josh's resolve to keep the peace. The Web site denies sponsoring a banner shown on Friday's broadcast which read, "Josh knows why we fly anti-George banners." To date, admits to paying for only three of the many banners flown over the secluded Big Brother house located on the CBS Studio lot in California.

Over the weekend, George admitted to the other house guests that he had made pleas behind their backs to keep himself from being voted out. He suggested that they all walk out together next Wednesday night.

"What happens if we all leave? There ain't no show," said George in a meeting with the other five surviving contestants.

Josh spoke to George alone and revealed what Britanny had said. The house guests met once again and were told the news Josh had been keeping to himself. George convinced everyone to go along with his plan, though the support of 21-year-old student Eddie was begrudging at best.

"What did I do this summer?," Eddie rhetorically asked himself. "Trashed a CBS show," he replied answering his own question.

Sensing Eddie's discontent, flew an "emergency banner" over the house on Saturday reading "Eddie - Wrong Decision - Stay In House."

There are only 21 days left in the televised competition which began in July with ten contestants sealed away in the CBS Big Brother house with television cameras and microphones recording their every movement. This week, house guests Eddie, Cassandra and Curtis are "marked for banishment" by the other contestants. Based on voting by the television viewers, one of them is scheduled to be booted from the house this Wednesday. The last surviving house guest will walk home with the $500,000 cash prize.

CBS insists that the rules of the Big Brother game state that anyone voluntarily leaving the house is out of the running as staying put is the whole point of the game show -- yet they are sending house guest Curtis to the Emmys Sunday night as a reward for winning this week's special challenge.

This past Wednesday, Big Brother's producers offered $50,000 and the nullification of this week's banishments to any house guest who volunteered to leave the show. Unbeknownst to the contestants, the offer was made so the producers could substitute a new female player in their place. The house guests all balked at the cash.

Since the show's first episode, CBS has been heavily criticized in the mainstream media for lacklustre ratings when, in fact, it has earned an average but respectable ranking. Last week's live episode scored a 7.8 in the National Neilsen Ratings ranking it as the 11th most watched show of the week. Big Brother airs every day except Sunday and is broadcast live on the Internet 24-hours-a-day at

Thursday, September 7, 2000

Contestants stay put on Big Brother

By DAVID BAUDER -- Associated Press

NEW YORK -- An attempt by producers to shake up the faltering reality show "Big Brother" failed Wednesday when none of the six remaining contestants would take $50,000 to walk out of the house.

Producers had hoped someone would leave so they could bring another person into the camera-infested home -- an attractive, opinionated, 22-year-old blonde woman.

Wednesday's one-hour episode was yet another example of how things continue to go wrong for the CBS show, which is slumping in the ratings and ridiculed by critics. It has 24 days to go before one remaining contestant wins a half million dollars by surviving the experiment in voyeuristic living.

The rejection of the inducement -- or bribe -- to leave was presaged Tuesday when a woman with a megaphone warned from outside the walls of the Hollywood soundstage warned that it was coming and that it was a trick. The contestants discussed it among themselves and decided they would stay.

So it was no surprise Wednesday when Julie Chen said a suitcase with $20,000 in cash was available to anyone who would walk out.

"That's a night at the bar for me," said Long Islander Eddie disdainfully.

Host Julie Chen then offered another suitcase with $30,000. The contestants thought a little harder about this; three will eventually go home empty-handed, the second-place contestant wins $100,000 and the third-place contestant wins $50,000.

Again, no one took the offer, even though three contestants -- Eddie, affable lawyer Curtis and United Nations worker Cassandra -- were "marked for banishment." Viewers voting online will remove one of them from the house during the next week.

Chen seemed surprised. "Congratulations on your resolve," she said in a disappointed voice.

"I think they're all insane not to take that money," said Beth, the woman who would have replaced any contestant who left.

Beth was clearly introduced to spice up the proceedings: a film clip showed her in a tiny bikini. In an interview, she said, "I'm opinionated, and sometimes that's misconstrued as being a bitch."

Instead, she'll stay on the outside.

Clearly worried that the six remaining contestants aren't interesting enough, producers spent roughly half of Wednesday night's show featuring people who had already been voted out of the house.

Midwestern housewife Karen, who said she stayed up all night after she was voted out of the house reading about herself online, has left her husband and moved to California. Brittany, the virgin with the ever-changing hair colors who was voted out last week, is moving in with her.

Brought back for an interview Wednesday night, Brittany told her former housemates that "it's mean outside." But she wasn't too enamored with life inside the "Big Brother" house, either.

"It's not healthy in that house," she said.

Tuesday September 5, 2000

'Big Brother' being sued

It turns out Big Lawyer has been watching "Big Brother."

Variety reports the owner of the TV and movie rights to George Orwell's 1948 novel "1984" is suing CBS, corporate parent Viacom and the show's producers, Orwell Productions, claiming copyright infringement.

Chicago lawyer Marvin Rosenblum, who produced the 1985 TV movie adaptation of "1984," says the voyeur-TV gameshow illegally borrows from the novel. Rosenblum says he still owns the TV rights to Orwell's dystopian novel, which featured an all-seeing totalitarian governing body known as Big Brother.

Meanwhile, in other "Big Brother" news, the producers revealed during Monday's broadcast that on Wednesday, the show will offer contestants a chance to leave the locked-up house in return for taking $20,000. If one of the players takes the cash and leaves the house, they will be replaced by an all-new contestant, reports suggest.

-- JAM! TV

Tuesday September 5, 2000

Why 'Survivor' sizzled and 'Big Brother' tanked

By DAVID BAUDER -- Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Hours before 51 million Americans sat down to watch Richard Hatch win $1 million on the final Survivor last month, a small plane buzzed over a house set on a Hollywood stage.

It towed a banner with a message for the remaining inhabitants of the CBS Big Brother household: "Big Brother is worse than you think. Get out now."

So far, the plea has been ignored. At the very least, the timing of the people who hired the plane neatly illustrated the yin and yang of the CBS summer.

Survivor and Big Brother were paired in most people's minds before each went on the air. They were CBS's twin attempts to see if the so-called reality TV craze was real and if the network could make some money with cheap, voyeuristic programming during the months most TV viewers yawn through reruns.

One show became the compulsively entertaining cultural event of the summer, minting new celebrities and making television history. The other is excruciating to watch. Most viewers wish Survivor didn't end, and can't wait until Big Brother does.

How did one go so right and the other so wrong?

Blame the execution more than the idea. Survivor gave us people we could care about, a place we wouldn't mind visiting and stories everyone could relate to. So far, Big Brother has failed on all counts.

"It's very much about the casting on the front end and creating the environment in which the people will live," said John Murray, producer of MTV's Real World for the past decade. "Then you spend a lot of time on the back end looking at the material and figuring out how to tell the story."

Murray sympathizes, to some extent, with producers of Big Brother, who essentially have 24 hours to craft programs from the raw tape they've gathered in the house. There are days when nothing happens at the Real World house, he said, "but we don't show the audience that."

Survivor creator Mark Burnett had much more time to craft the narrative and create heroes and villains. Remember how annoying Hatch seemed in the very first episode and how you itched to vote him off yourself?

Don't think that was a coincidence.

"It had more in common with Dallas than Big Brother," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "It was a good, old-fashioned cliffhanger and soap opera. And it had a guaranteed payoff at the end of every episode."

Survivor had characters that Hollywood fiction writers couldn't, or wouldn't, create. There was a black man who toys with stereotypes about laziness. A politically incorrect Navy veteran who spouts homophobic views yet aligns with a gay man. A caustic female truck driver. And Hatch, who schemes his way to victory.

Susan Hawk's tribal council speech, comparing Hatch to a snake and Kelly Wiglesworth to a rat, was "downright Shakespearean," Thompson said.

"Hollywood writers are worried that these shows are going to take their jobs away during a strike," he said. "They also ought to worry that some of these people can write better than they can."

Big Brother has some interesting characters: the combative black man creating racial tensions, the former stripper, the Midwestern wife whose marriage was teetering on failure.

Or, rather, it HAD these characters. All were among the first few contestants booted from the house.

Survivor castaways were sent to an exotic island where they fended off, and ate, rats and insects. Big Brother houseguests are in an antiseptic house crawling with cameras, fending off boredom.

Survivor characters swam to save their island futures. They walked over hot coals. They covered themselves in mud. On Big Brother, the stationary bike gets a big workout. The houseguests play dominoes. For real fun, there's a pool the size of a postage stamp to dive into.


"It's like watching a hamster on a wheel," said Jeff Oswald, a video technician from Charlotte, N.C. "The environment is not exciting. They've set it up so the only thing that could possibly have any entertainment value is sex and conflict."

And since sex is still verboten on CBS, the options are even more limited.

Oswald isn't just bored by Big Brother, he thinks it's cruel; that producers are playing mind games with participants in a stressful atmosphere. He and some friends who met while chatting about the show online took up a collection to pay for the airplane that flew the banner over the Big Brother house. They've sent subsequent planes, too.

"This is a lot like when you go to a zoo," he said. "If the monkeys aren't doing anything, you poke them with a stick. That's what watching Big Brother is like."

CBS isn't unhappy with Big Brother, at least not publicly. Its ratings are more mediocre than bad and probably suffer unfairly in comparison with Survivor. And, who knows, maybe the raft of imitators to come will be even worse.

Syracuse's Thompson sees a lesson for other producers rushing into the "reality" biz.

"The closer you get to real voyeurism," he said, "the more boring it can get."

Monday, September 4, 2000

Big bribe?

CBS tries to inject disharmony into show

NEW YORK (AP) -- Makers of the CBS reality show "Big Brother," whose ratings have paled in comparison to the summer smash "Survivor," are hoping to bribe a contestant to quit so the series can introduce a more interesting replacement.

Producers will offer one of the six remaining "Big Brother" contestants $10,000 to depart in the hopes the new entrant will bring more dramatic tension to the show, the New York Times reported Monday.

"Big Brother" captures the personal relationships of a group that has been confined to a house for eight weeks. Four previous contestants were voted off the show by TV audiences. The last one remaining will receive a $500,000 prize.

On Wednesday's show, contestants will be presented with a briefcase containing $10,000 and given two minutes to decide whether to take the money and run. If someone takes the money, an alternate contestant will enter the house as a replacement.

The producers said they hope to stir up some conflict among the six fairly tame contestants remaining. Its ratings have been mediocre, especially in comparison to CBS' other reality show "Survivor," which dominated the ratings over the summer and drew a Super Bowl-sized audience for its finale last month.

Telephone messages and pages left Monday for two CBS spokesmen went unanswered.

Tuesday August 22, 2000

'Big Brother's' Karen leaving home town

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) -- Karen Fowler, who spent six weeks living in CBS's "Big Brother" house, plans to leave her own home.

She said that on-air discussions of her troubled marriage have made her an outcast in the community, and that she plans to move to California with one of her four daughters -- and without her husband of 22 years, Tom.

"I'm sickened by the way people want to judge me so quickly and defend him," said Fowler, 43.

Viewers voted Fowler off the show last week, just as she had hoped. She told The Indianapolis Star she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown -- ready to divorce her husband, worried about her children and constantly under stress from the cameras that watched her every move.

Contestants on the show compete to outlast each other in the house. The final one remaining after three months wins $500,000.

Thursday, August 10, 2000

3 Big Brother house guests nominated for banishment

By CLAIRE BICKLEY -- Toronto Sun

Big Brother has put a record three house guests at one time on notice.

Nominees for banishment by their housemates on last night's episode were: California civil engineering student Josh, 23; Karen, a 43-year-old Illinois mom of four who has used the show to tell millions about her loveless marriage; and Cassandra, 37, who works for the U.N.

It was the 36th day the group has been isolated together.

Viewers have a week to vote on who gets the hook by phoning 1-900-870-9846.

Thursday, August 03, 2000

Big Brother eviction

By NOEL GALLAGHER -- London Free Press

Big Brother's resident stripper Jordan got an unwanted, but not unexpected, present on her 27th birthday last night -- eviction from the TV game show.

The only real surprise was that she drew a whopping 78 per cent of the votes, nearly four times the total (22 per cent) cast against Curtis, the other "nominee" in the week-long balloting by viewers.

After exiting Big Brother's California mansion setting, the ex-resident -- nicknamed "the neurotic exotic dancer" by her housemates -- insisted the public was alienated by the voyeuristic show's negative depiction of her.

"I'm sure the people out there figured I was a real bitch," said Jordan.

She has accepted an invitation to be a guest on The Late Show, whose host, David Letterman, conducted an unsuccessful "Save the Stripper" campaign this past week.

Jordan's departure from Big Brother leaves eight contestants competing for the $500,000 US prize going to the single resident remaining when the three-month series wraps up at the end of September.

The show, which airs six times a week, continues tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS and ONtv.

Thursday, August 03, 2000

Second houseguest gone off Big Brother

By CLAIRE BICKLEY -- Toronto Sun

It was "here's your backpack, what's your hurry" on Big Brother last night as overwhelmingly unpopular housemate Jordan got the heave-ho.

Viewers voted nearly four to one against the student and exotic dancer, casting 78% of ballots against her and only 22% against lawyer Curtis.

That's despite David Letterman's Save The Stripper on-air campaign.

"This is wonderful, to be banished by America," Jordan said tearfully.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

'Survivors' to cross over to 'Big Brother'?

"Survivor" and "Big Brother" -- the current season's surveillance-TV sensations -- may be joining forces.

The TV news website says the two CBS shows are being considered for a cross-over, with members of the cast of "Survivor" guesting on "Big Brother's" Wednesday chat-show episode to compare their experiences.

"We've talked about having some of the 'Survivor' people who've been kicked off of the island come over to our Wednesday night live show and talk about what their experience is like and what they think about what is going on in the 'Big Brother' house," "Big Brother" executive producer Douglas Ross was quoted as saying at

The cross-over would conceivably help boost ratings for "Big Brother," which have been stronger than average for a summer series but well below "Survivor's" phenomenal debut season.

Ross added that if "Big Brother" numbers maintain their current rate, a second season is possible.

"If the ratings continue to be strong and hopefully grow, CBS will say yes," Ross said, according to "All it really involves is cleaning, re-decorating and casting,"

-- JAM! TV

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Oh, Brother!

Flagging ratings, contestant controversy don't concern network executives

By TYLER McLEOD -- Calgary Sun

PASADENA, Calif. -- Reports of Big Brother's disappointing ratings have been greatly exaggerated -- at least according to those associated with the CBS reality program.

"The people who are watching television during the summer are watching," executive producer Douglas Ross said.

"We are extremely pleased with the results," CBS CEO Leslie Mooves said. "It's not doing what Survivor is, but in demographics (adults aged 18-49), it's up like 89 percent from what our regular season was in those time periods."

In Big Brother, 10 human guinea pigs locked in a camera-filled house with viewers watching the (in)action six nights a week on CBS.

Every two weeks, the audience votes out their least-favourite houseguest.

"There is an element that anytime you're under the microscope of a camera, you pose. I was aware, that in order to win, you had to be entertaining," recently ejected contestant William Collins told the Television Critics Association this weekend.

"When we engage in serious conversation, it couldn't always be happy-go-lucky. All the confrontations were real. Absolutely real."

But are people enjoying it?

"If sometimes it is boring," said Ross, "people keep tuning in because they want to see if something is going to happen."

"When you see the German reviews in the first three weeks, you will see the word 'boring' all over the place. We see exactly the same pattern," co-creator Paul Romer said. "I think the audience needs some time to get used to the format. And when you see the change, people get addicted to it."

Unlike its European predecessors, however, ratings failed to start climbing after the first "banishment." CBS' solution was to add a sixth weekly instalment after their Survivor juggernaut.

"We thought having our live show coming after Survivor would be a good thing for our show and we expect the pattern to become more familiar to the audience," said Ross.

"The live show in Europe grew to be the biggest ratings getter. We imagine ours will, too."

Having Jordan the exotic dancer around doesn't hurt ratings, right?

"What you'll see is now that will (Collins) is gone, the entire mood of the house has changed from being all about confrontation to one all about sex," said Ross.

"They're all getting sort of horny."

Which will put Early Show anchor Julie Chen in the ridiculous position of doing sexual play-by-play.

Say, didn't CBS News president Andrew Hayward tell us critics just the other day: "I think this is something well suited to Julie's skills, her personality, her persona and her role in morning television..."?

So far the only headlines made by Big Brother was when Collins' affiliation with the New Black Panther Party landed on the cover of the New York Daily News. Meeting with critics recently, Collins evaded nearly every important question asked of him.

Journalist: "Do you consider white people or Jews your enemy?" Collins: "I consider all people who are evil and unrighteous and against God my enemy. If white people and Jews fall in that category, then they would know that, if those are their actions."

Journalist: "What do you mean by "against God?"

Collins: "I've been taught that you judge a tree by the fruit it bears, so it would be for each individual to determine whether or not they practise unrighteous and evil actions."

Romer says the smallest of issues will become major events for the house guests before one is chosen the $500,000 winner. At the present time, however, things are calm.

"There's observation 24 hours a day and if any of the house guests were at risk, we certainly would intercede," CBS Entertainment president Nancy Tellem said.

"You don't want anyone in that house that espouses hatred or violence. In our observations of the house, none of that was discussed."

"We had an option of taking him out of the house," said Mooves.

"We have spent well over $100,000 on background checks on these people. I don't know what we could've done differently."

Monday July 24, 2000

'Brother' raises manipulation to a fine art

By LYNN ELBER -- Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Just thinking about the amount of work that goes into "Big Brother" is exhausting.

Camera crews and film editors work around the clock to bring the housebound hi-jinks to television. The "Big Brother" contestants work each other in hopes of gaining the $500,000 prize and instant stardom.

CBS is working overtime to promote the show, hoping against the ratings evidence it will end up with another huge summer hit like "Survivor."

And TV viewers ... well, we're just getting worked over. The artifice of this so-called reality show isn't contained by the house; while the contestants are being manipulated by Big Brother, so is the audience, in ways big and small.

Consider last Thursday's show, when a breathless Julie Chen prepared to announce the name of the first person to be kicked out by fellow housemates and viewers. The answer, the reporter-cum-ringmaster told us, would be coming up in a few moments.

When we finally learned that the loser was Philadelphia youth counselor William Collins, more than 20 minutes had passed. A few moments? In a medium that sells commercial time in 30-second tidbits, that's a veritable lifetime.

Time was again an issue in the episode when Chen tried to interview Collins about reports that emerged during his "Big Brother" seclusion about a connection to the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Collins, given just about the length of a commercial break to peruse news stories at the end of the show, was grudgingly cooperative: "Really, there's been no time for review. We need to get the record straight."

Aside from Chen's visible discomfort, CBS couldn't have been too concerned. Chen was only serving as a hawker for Bryant Gumbel's interview with Collins on "The Early Show" Monday; otherwise, the issue would have been raised with more than minutes to spare.

More control games were ahead. When Collins was informed he would be talking to Gumbel, his reaction seemed to be one of displeasure. When he started to explain, Chen cut him off.

The "Big Brother" contestants can diss each other for our viewing pleasure. They can insult their spouses. But appear to utter a word against a CBS celebrity and it's time to cover the audience's ears.

Collins was willing to keep his opinion of Gumbel to himself during a news conference Sunday -- "I've got to keep the hype going," he said -- but vented about "Big Brother" itself and what he sees as the show's dishonesty.

The young man, who has dubbed himself "Will Mega" and has a mega gift for gab, said viewers only got to see "the intense, analytical, debated, confrontational, argumentative, issue-pressing Mega."

The prayerful Mega, the poetic Mega, were left on the editing floor, he complained. Series executive producer Paul Romer, faced with compressing 24 hours of footage into 22 minutes, was unsympathetic.

"William's confrontations, in our opinion, were very interesting. ... Those were a lot of the highlights, so we edited them down and that was the show," Romer said.

Not the truth, maybe, but the show. And, let's face it, Collins himself seems to know as much about manipulation as a chiropractor with a knack for cracking backs.

He told reporters that he toyed with other contestants, playing pranks and mind games, because of a lack of "mental stimulus." But what he really cared about, he maintained, was using the show as a forum for discussing race in America. Collins is black; most of the "Big Brother" contestants are white.

"They need to understand that it's not necessarily important for black people to have to assimilate into the majority's culture," Collins said.

Turning a banal enterprise like "Big Brother" into a vehicle for social debate is a neat trick, and one worth applauding.

But when asked Sunday about his relationship with the new Black Panther Party and its leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad -- who was ousted from the Nation of Islam for calling Jews "bloodsuckers" -- Collins acted coy.

"I don't want the press to play Don King between me and brother minister (Muhammad)," he said, declining to give specifics about his political beliefs. So much for making something worthwhile out of his bully "Big Brother" pulpit.

Or maybe Collins was just "trying to keep the hype going," as he put it. If so, he could take lessons from series producer Romer.

Asked why the winning contestant gets only $500,000 -- relatively paltry, given that the "Survivor" winner gets $1 million and game-show brides expect multimillionaires -- Romer responded the show was "about the challenge and not about the money."

Oh, brother. And CBS executives are chortling about 30-second "Survivor" spots going for $600,000 because it's all about the accomplishment, not the cash.

Just what kind of pushovers do these guys think we are?

Monday, July 24, 2000

'Big Brother' contestant says he's devout and armed

By LYNN ELBER -- Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. -- William Collins, who stirred up controversy as a "Big Brother" contestant, proved as feisty Sunday outside the confines of the CBS reality-TV show.

In Collins' first news conference since he was voted off the show Thursday, the Philadelphia youth counselor said he was prepared for any threats.

"I believe in my God and I believe in my gun," Collins told the Television Critics Association, noting that he had a permit to carry a weapon.

Collins riled his fellow contestants by playing pranks on them and engaging in heated discussions on race. He created headlines outside of the house because of his connection with the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Wearing the floppy orange hat he sported on "Big Brother" and carrying a Bible, Collins dodged questions about his political beliefs but spoke at length about his religious devotion.

"You've seen me with my gun, but you haven't seen me with my God," said Collins, apparently referring to a photo showing him armed at a 1998 rally held in Texas to protest the dragging death of a black man.

Collins said he believed his verbal confrontations with his fellow housemates, which include whites, a black woman and an Asian-American man, were valuable.

He helped them reassess their ideas about blacks and to consider the idea that minorities should be a respected part of the American melting pot, Collins said.

He complained that "Big Brother" failed to show him as a complete person, excluding shots of his devoted prayers while making hay out of his conflicts.

Series executive producer Paul Romer defended the series' editing, saying that 24 hours of footage had to be boiled down to the most compelling 22 minutes for each episode.

During a "Big Brother" interview Thursday, Collins said he had been a member of the New Black Panther Party. The group is headed by Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who was ousted by the Nation of Islam for calling Jews "bloodsuckers."

Collins refused to discuss his own political stance or his relationship with Muhammad, saying "I don't want the press to play Don King between me and brother minister (Muhammad)."

Most of the "Survivor" castoffs and series producer Mark Burnett also made an appearance Sunday before the TV critics group. Both Collins and the "Survivor" group were shielded by security guards while offstage.

Asked about the bodyguards for Collins, network spokesman Chris Ender said "We're not aware of any threats, but we took extra precautions."

For the "Survivor" contestants, mum was the word when it came to discussing the show's $1 million winner to be revealed in the Aug. 23 finale.

"Everybody already knows who the winner is ... Mr. Burnett and CBS," joked Gretchen Cordy. The series has been a summer hit for the network and a sequel set in Australia is planned for January.

More than 6,200 applications for "Survivor II" have been received in a quarter of the time it took for the first show to reach that number, Burnett said.

Friday, July 21, 2000

First person ousted on Big brother

The vote is in and and William was the first house guest to get banished from last night's reality-based TV show, Big Brother.

Jordan was saved from getting the boot with viewers giving a 73% nod in favour of the outspoken and disruptive contestant to be given the heave-ho.

When William found out his fate he said, "Yes! Yes! I can't wait to see you Boo (his girlfriend). William also said he'd rather be the first one out than the last.

Huh, and not take home a sweet US$500,000?

-- Toronto Sun

Wednesday July 19, 2000

'Big Brother' to air six nights a week

"Big Brother" will be invading homes a little more frequently.

The voyeur-TV show, currently seen five nights a week, will expand to six with the addition of a Wednesday night episode at 9 p.m., to air after the mega-popular, similarly-themed "Survivor," Variety reports.

The hour-long newsmagazine-format episode, which currently airs on Thursday nights, will move into the Wednesday, post-"Survivor" slot. The Thursday vacancy will be filled by a regular half-hour episode of "Big Brother," Variety said.

The Wednesday show, hosted by Julie Chen, will include the nomination of a new house-guest for banishment.

The combination of "Big Brother" and "Survivor" has fortified CBS' efforts to lure younger viewers, with the network enjoying a 35% increase in adults aged 18-49 and a 73% jump in viewers aged 18-34, compared to ratings one year ago, Variety said.

-- JAM! TV

Monday, July 17, 2000

'Big Brother' member a militant

One of cast members on CBS TV's "Big Brother" show is a follower of a militant black leader who was kicked out of the Nation Of Islam after he called Jews "bloodsuckers," according to a report in New York's Daily News.

The contestant, known on the show simply as William or "Mega," is actually 27-year-old William Collins, also known as Hiram Ashantee. He has been a source of conflict on the program, which sees him locked inside a house with nine other contestants, with cameras and microphones picking up every moment of their interaction.

He was recently nominated by his housemates for expulsion, although the ultimate decision rests with viewer voting.

Collins is described in his official bio as a youth counsellor from Philadelphia, but there's no mention of his association with African-American leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who heads the New Black Panther Party. Muhammad also sparked outrage when he called New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani a "cracker" and a "devil."

The Daily News said Collins organized Million Youth marches in Philadelphia in 1998, which included anti-white and anti-Jewish speeches and ended with scraps between protestors and police. Collins' mentor, Muhammad, reportedly told the crowd to attack police and "take their goddamn gun," The Daily News reported.

The Daily News said Collins marched with a gun in Jasper, Tex., in 1998 to protest the murder of James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death by racists.

The revelation about William comes hot on the heels of reports that claim housemate George shot and killed a man during a hunting accident 12 years ago.

-- JAM! TV

Monday, July 17, 2000

Secret 'Big Brother' feeds revealed

By JOHN POWELL -- JAM! Showbiz

Fans of the Big Brother reality show who are also watching the 24 hour live feeds on the Internet now have three more feeds to choose from. According to, a site devoted to mocking the show, there are really seven NOT four Net feeds available to viewers. The other three are just not linked to on the official Big Brother site.

The first secret feed is The Control Room. Fans can go behind the scenes and view the Big Brother production team as they go about the daily task of taking in the happenings of the Big Brother household.

The second is the most intriguing. It's the Quad Cam. On it, the four official Big Brother feeds are broadcast on one split screen. What's handy about the Quad Cam is that clicking on any of the four segments links you to the full-sized feed. For Big Brother viewers this means they don't have to jump between the separate live feeds on the official site to keep up with what's going on around the house.

The third secret feed is a continuous streaming of the chicken coop in the backyard of the Big Brother house. As fans already know, this feed is constantly used by the Big Brother production team as filler for when they are changing shifts, switching cameras or don't want to broadcast a particular feed's content over the Net. Jokingly, calls this the "most addictive video feed" of them all.

In order to watch the Big Brother feeds, you must have Real Player installed on your computer.

The Control Room Feed

The Quad Cam

The Chicken Coop Cam is part of the PlanetSucks network of Internet sites slamming reality based television programs. Their other sites include and

Big Brother airs every day except Wednesday and Sunday on CBS.

Saturday, July 15, 2000

Which one gets the boot?

By Toronto Sun Staff

Big Brother wants you, the viewer, to vote on who gets turfed

It's time to kick someone out of the house.

Big Brother fans (and you know who you are) now get to choose between stripper Jordan and William.

The two were the first to be nominated by their roommates for expulsion from the house. Ten strangers agreed to live together for three months with no privacy or outside contact. One tenant is kicked out every two weeks and the person left wins US$500,000.

TV viewers get a half-hour of highlights every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and a full hour on Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. EDT.

The Web site,, expands on TV reality by offering raw footage without music or narration. There's also virtually no editing, so you may have to wait awhile for action.

The much-hyped "reality TV" show debuted on ONtv and CBS July 5 to an enormous audience right after the top-rated castaways show Survivor. Since then, Brother's TV ratings have dropped steadily, although America Online claimed that visits to the Internet site increased fourfold in the first week.

In fact, more than 40 hours before the segment appeared on TV, Eddie complained to Brittany about Jordan's attitude toward models (Eddie's girlfriend happens to be one). Jordan, you see, is a stripper on a crusade against stereotyping women. She later clarified her views during a poolside talk with Eddie.

Participants are well aware of the cameras. Although Jordan told only a few housemates about her stripteasing past, she acknowledges, "America knows." She then recalls telling her parents just before the show.

"It was one of the best conversations I've ever had in my life," she confides to Jamie. "For 21/2 years, I was hiding it."

For more on Jordan and Will -- not to mention Jamie, Brittany, Cassandra, Karen, Eddie, Josh, Curtis and George -- tune in tonight at 8 p.m.

-- With Sun wires

Friday, July 7, 2000

How real can it get?

Calgary Sun

We know big brother is watching, but the question is, will anybody else?

CBS has pledged three months of primetime to the riskiest venture into voyeurism yet with the European import Big Brother, and I still chuckle over a quote from Wednesday night's debut.

"If America can get a thrill looking at an overweight guy in his underwear that's hairy, have at it!" construction worker George said.

Amateur. Richard delivers the full monty on Survivor, but if Georgie boy turns your dial, have at it.

Have at it, I say.

Tune into The Real World, Making the Band, Survivor, The 1900 House, Candid Camera, America's Funniest Videos and Road Rules until your eyes go square.

Gorge yourself on Blind Date, A Dating Story, A Wedding Story, Moving Stories, Life's Little Miracles, Life's Real Families, Weird Homes, Extreme Homes.

Sure, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? was pathetic, but no one was on that stage against their will. It wasn't any tackier than a Miss Teen USA competition.

It's a free country, even if cable isn't, so if you want to subscribe to Court TV or the

Parkade Security Surveillance Network, have at it.

I may watch with you, I may not. I am a confessed Survivor addict, I had a Real World phase and Blind Date still cracks me up.

Reality shows must be judged on a case-by-case basis, I suppose.

You see, I do find myself bothered by Big Brother with two questions regarding the future of reality programming.

  1. How bad can it get?

I mean "bad" strictly in the sense of quality. Survivor may be ingenious, those wedding shows sentimental favourites, but how exciting is watching 10 people in a barrack arguing about whether to have eggs, eggs or eggs for supper?

Apparently, the houseguests will be given Survivor-style challenges while in residence.

Not even those can be too entertaining, judging by Big Brother's montage of clips from the series' various international editions. Well golly, it was chock full of thrilling scenes like all of the houseguests jumping into the pool, having a pillow fight, making faces at the cameras, sitting around a table talking and, um, jumping into the pool.

Three countries, three months each, times 24 hours a day, carry the nine ...

Let's just assume they had about six-and-a-half thousand hours of footage to choose from and they came up with a pillow fight.

A pillow fight?

Oh, there was the G-rated sheet messing and post-coital cigarette some European contestants treated TV viewers to. Big deal.

If they expect guys like me to switch over from The Showcase Revue, Big Brother had better hope Jordan the stripper didn't pack any clothes in that metal suitcase.

Watching her tend the vegetable patch and playing go fish with Cassandra isn't going to keep us glued to the set for three months. If you're going to vicariously experience someone's life, at least pick an interesting one. At least with Survivor, the castaways have goals, they have obstacles, they have my interest.

If you want to watch people you don't

particularly like fighting and whining and laughing and crying for hours and hours, dig out the home movies from the last family Thanksgiving dinner.

2. How low will it go?

Obviously, the scenario of building a house on a studio back lot while a team of operators in "Master Control" monitors someone's every move smacks of The Truman Show. As in that insightful film, Big Brother is completely controlling the variable and negating any sort "reality" from the premise.

They merely introduce a circumstance and wait for the reaction.

When you lock strangers in a cell without contact from the outside world, deprive them of protein other than eggs and even strip away their ability to measure time with a watch or clock, I'd call it an experiment.

Big Brother calls their test subjects "houseguests," but let's be honest -- "subjects" is more suitable and "guinea pigs" not unreasonable.

The standard joke is we're only a few sweeps periods away from a televised execution. That's ridiculous, of course. Executions will start out on pay-per-view and only make its way to UPN or CBS after a couple years.

In the next year, expect to see less grisly but increasingly worrisome TV experiments.

There's already some lined up: Pioneer Quest, The Mole, Strip Poker and a show which chains a single woman to five potential suitors. One of whom, presumably, will be a representative from Playboy with a blank cheque and an order from Hef.

Friday, July 7, 2000

How to keep an eye on Big Brother

Toronto Sun

The interaction carries on tonight on Big Brother, the CBS/ONtv series that traps 10 people of disparate personalities in a specially-designed house for three months without contact with the outside world.

Viewers can catch the claustrophobic exploits of beauty queen Jamie, virginal Brittany, self-professed Ladies Man William, urban professional Cassandra, law student Curtis, roofer George, one-legged athlete Eddie, housewife Karen, jock civil engineering student Josh and ultra-athletic stripper Jordan tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Thereafter, Big Brother will air five nights a week, every night at 8 p.m., except Sunday and Wednesday.

Online fans can catch an edited feed of the (in)action at any time of the day or night at

And after the first two weeks are over, viewers will get a chance to take part in a phone vote to expel one of the subjects (out of two candidates for exile chosen by the group). This winnowing out of the party will take place every two weeks until one person is left to win the $500,000 survivor's prize.

Thursday, July 6, 2000

Big Brother takes off

Calgary Sun

The human ant farm has begun.

Big Brother made its North American debut last night as 10 Americans with an eye on a $500,000 US payday and an exhibitionist streak entered a specially built house on an L.A. studio lot.

The reality series from the Survivor network CBS invites audiences to monitor the strangers lives on HC and M five nights a week for the next three months.

A lawyer, a stripper, a mother of four and even an UN employee are to live under the scrutiny of 28 cameras and 60 microphones.

Unless they are one of those "banished" from the house by a telephone poll of viewers.

Crowds cheered the test subjects as though they were departing astronauts as they walked toward the house and closed the door on society.

Inside, the "houseguests" have no contact with outside world. Phones, TVs, computers, newspapers and even clocks have been banned from the premises.

The Early Show news anchor Julie Chen hosts the show -- a move criticized as compromising her journalistic respectability.

Chen didn't help her case any by uttering infommercial insincerities such as "Wow, that was intense!" "Whoa, that's wild!" and "Big Brother has already rocked several nations!" Her counterpart inside was Ian O'Malley, with the voice of a game-show host and the demeanour of weatherman.

The talking heads mentioned some of the rules of the game, including their strict shopping budget, the requirement "to emote" for the camera and daily supply of hot water.

Much of the hour was spent introducing the 10 participants and providing some brief background. Often, the houseguests discussed the possibility of having sex while trapped in the Big Brother home.

It became painfully obvious CBS executives have their fingers crossed Curtis, the lawyer, and Brittany, a self-mutilating virgin club kid, might hook up. Or perhaps William and Jordan will forget about their significant others on the outside, even though the exotic-dancing triathlete would only consider it if she met "someone who totally kicks ass."

Perhaps the best comment came from George, a father and roofer who couldn't believe his luck when he received a call from "Hallywood, Calyfornia."

"If America can get a thrill looking at an overweight guy in his underwear that's hairy? Have at it," George exclaimed.

Thursday, July 6, 2000

You like to watch, don't you?

Big Brother starts off on a cheesy note

Toronto Sun

Hey, lookit, I'm standing next to the toilet and there's a camera in here! Hey, lookit, I'm in the shower now, and there's a camera in here too! Wait, let's turn off the bedroom lights. Whoa! There's infrared cameras in here!

Could Big Brother -- the American version of the worldwide hit about housebound hostages -- have started out any cheesier? I hereby take back everything negative I said about Survivor and nominate it for a Peabody Award.

For that matter, I think we all owe the legendarily cruel behaviourist B.F. Skinner a posthumous apology. All he had to do was offer his test subjects a chance at a huge payoff, and he'd have been morally jake in the year 2000.

Big Brother, which places 10 absurdly diverse Americans in a two-bedroom apartment for three months (with $500,000 up for grabs for the last tenant), kicked off with a getting-to-know-you session that consisted largely of a gee whiz tour of the tiny apartment that will be voyeur central, and the chicken coop and garden from which they'll forage.

In between we saw scenes of a fleet of SUVs with motorcade hauling our subjects to their destiny, with rent-a-crowds gathered at the sides of the road, as if the tenants were Madonna, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and the Baldwin brothers.

In actual fact, the Big Brother 10 are seven whites, one Asian-American and two African Americans -- a Washington state beauty queen named Jamie, a nightclub hopper and self-professed virgin named Brittany, self-professed Ladies Man William, urban professional Cassandra, law student Curtis, roofer and token slob George, one-legged athlete Eddie, housewife Karen, jock civil engineering student Josh and ultra-athletic Jordan, "an entertainer in a gentleman's club."

In each case their friends and loved ones were canvassed about the project, most of whom seemed naturally a little confused and trepidatious.

Jordan, who seemed to profess the most love for her romantic partner (Ben) of any of the finalists, tossed a nice cavil into her intro when she said, "The only way I'd get involved with any of the participants is if I met someone who totally kicks ass over Ben." Gee, is that all? This could be fun.

Or not. It's hard to tell from this first episode how things are going to go (we only got two minutes of the apartment-dwellers actually meeting each other), but one can only hope that's the last we get of the oh-so-American wraparound a la fromage.

Mostly, I'm horrified at the implications of all this, and I hope the cameramen get time-and-a-half for having to watch people going to the toilet (or at least canvas them and only hire people who really want the assignment).

For voyeurs, this was truly a red-letter event -- particularly the online element, which allows peeping Toms to check out our subjects at times other than the five-times-a-week of primetime (although nudity and bodily functions will be edited out). Control freaks too should offer up huzzahs, since viewers will have a say in the bi-weekly expulsion of one member via a 1-900 number. (The subjects themselves will vote two of their number as candidates to be tossed. The viewers will choose between the two.)

At the very least, it should keep everybody occupied until the networks figure out how to bring us live executions.

Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Are you ready for Ed and EdnaTV?

Big Brother comes into our homes tomorrow night

By BILL BRIOUX -- Toronto Sun

Big Brother, which debuts tomorrow night on ONtv and CBS, is the latest step in television's summer-long descent into the peep show business.

The show offers further proof that truth is stranger than fiction. Big Brother is simply an unscripted version of such recent snoop cinema fables as The Truman Show or EDtv.

The premise is this: Ten horny young strangers, who have been chosen from about a thousand applicants, will spend the next 100 days in a house sealed off from the outside world. That means no television, no telephones, no newspapers, no computers. Their every move -- including sleeping arrangements and visits to the bathroom -- will be monitored by 28 cameras and 60 microphones.

"The first thing people think of when they hear the Big Brother idea are the sexual things, the nudity, the sexual activity in the house," admits Paul Romer, co-creator and executive producer. "That's not what the show is about."

Romer says the show is much more about relationships and human interaction. "You will see those ten people love each other but you will see them hate each other, too. You will see them laugh and cry."

Viewers in Holland and Germany, where this show originated, certainly got to see them love each other. "In Holland, two of the house guests had sex with each other," says Rosen. "What you saw was the moving blankets and the cigarette they smoked afterwards. There is no need to show more."

The part where you see them cry happens every two weeks when the housemates themselves select two candidates for eviction. Viewers will then vote on who gets shown the door. The last one left pockets $500,000.

The show will air five nights a week. Four nights (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays) will offer a half-hour recap of the past 24 hours in the house. Thursday's show is a live, hour-long talk show visit with the latest victim. You'll see whoever gets the bad news share it with family, friends and 20 million viewers across North America.

Still not Big Brother enough for you? Super snoopers can eavesdrop 24/7 on the Internet on four streaming video lines. Both ONtv and CBS have links to the Big Brother pages on their Web sites.

Today the ten contestants will be introduced to the public before bunking down in an 1800-sq. ft. mobile home built right on the closely-guarded CBS Television City lot in Hollywood, California.

Viewers quickly became obsessed with Big Brother when it ran in Holland and Germany. Twelve more countries have since signed up, including England, Poland, Greece and South Africa.

"We didn't really know it would become such a crazy thing," says Romer. "People even tried to break into the house in Germany. A talk show host from another broadcaster landed in the garden by parachute. Really strange."

Extra fences and barbed wire were erected. "At the end it really looked more like a prison camp than a television house," he says without a trace of irony.

By the time the show ended in Germany, 10,000 people were surrounding the house. "The last three finalists became huge stars," says Romer, citing appearances in commercials and feature films. One German player recorded a CD which sold over one and a half million copies. A Dutch finalist became co-host of a sports show. "If they want, they can have a second career afterwards," says Romer.

Why are people so fascinated by these shows? "I think every human being is curious," says Romer, who likens watching this show to listening in on other people's conversations on the subway.

"Plus, you really get connected or attached to these personalities," he adds. "By the end of the series, you know them better than your best friends."

Then again, what are friends for if you can't spy on them all day?

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

CBS anchor to host 'Big Brother'

CBS's "The Early Show" anchor Julie Chen will be playing big sister to the contestants on the new reality-TV show "Big Brother," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Chen is to host the Thursday night live edition of the series, which will begin a five-nights-a-week run July 5. "Big Brother" is based on a Dutch TV show that sees a house full of contestants confined to a camera-and- microphone-filed house for 89 days.

Like the hit show "Survivor," contestants are gradually eliminated, with the last resident -- selected by viewers -- winning prize money.

The live show hosted by Chen will be a talk-show, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Chen will interview rejected contestants as they exit the custom-built "Big Brother" home on CBS's Studio City lot in Los Angeles. Chen will also moderate audience chats with friends and family members of the contestants and psychologists.

-- JAM! TV

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