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April 2000

Open House

Big Brother

This is the story of ten strangers, picked to live in an under-furnished trailer in the middle of nowhere, and have their lives taped. No, this is not an episode of MTV’s The Real World, rather it is the televised get-rich-quick incarceration, Big Brother. Brought to you by the folks at Endemol, the Netherlands’ leading game/variety show production company, Big Brother is a cross between The Real World, The Truman Show and Let’s Make a Deal. On March 1, five men and five women (aged 22 to 37) entered a makeshift two-bedroom home on a vacant lot outside Cologne. With no phone, no TV, no computer, and armed with little more than a few pieces of workout equipment, a scant food budget and a handful of egg-laying hens, the “cast” has signed on to remain in the bunker for 100 days. Wall-mounted and hidden cameras follow the BB team’s every move, from the shower to the coop. Every two weeks, each inhabitant is asked, in a soundproof booth, to reveal two roomies he or she would like to see evicted. The two Big Brother residents mentioned most frequently are announced, and viewers are asked to vote, by phone, on who should be ousted. The last person left in the house after the 100 days of isolation wins DM 250,000. German television station RTL2 hosts the nightly voyeur-friendly recap of the day’s events at BB central. Even more invasive is the Website, which broadcasts the group’s activities from every camera in the trailer, 24/7. Audience reaction to the project is overwhelming. With some three million viewers and as many as five million hits a day on the gossip-filled, interactive Website, Big Brother is perhaps a mere cousin to similar peek-a-boo media stunts planned for European TV in the near future.

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