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Big Brother television program

"Big Brother" is a reality television format developed by Dutch-based production company Endemol. Described as a 'real life soap', the prime-time show, which involves locking a group of strangers in a specially designed house, has been a hit in nineteen different countries. Its name comes from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which featured an all-seeing leader of the same name.

Initially shown in The Netherlands in 1999, and cloned across the world, the "housemates" are not permitted any access to the outside world (except private chats with a psychologist if they so choose), and no TV, radio, phone, internet or other media are available to the housemates - they are not even allowed writing materials!

The programme is based around four basic elements: the strip-bare back to basics environment in which they live, the evictions system, the weekly tasks set by 'big brother', and the diary room, in which the housemates convey their thoughts, feelings, frustrations and their nominations.

The hostel in which they reside for the duration of the competition is very basic. Although basic amenities such as running water, furniture and a limited ration of food is provided, luxury items are forbidden. This adds an element of survival into the show, thus increasing the potential for tensions within the house.

To fill in time, the residents of the house have various chores to maintain the house, and are set random tasks by the producers of the show, who communicate with the housemates through one (unseen) individual issuing commands, termed "Big Brother". The tasks are designed to test their team-working abilities and community spirit. The housemates have a weekly allowance with which they can buy food and other essentials. To obtain a greater allowance, they may gamble some of their initial amount on the success of the completion of tasks. Of course, their allowance is lessened if they fail to complete the weekly task.

Each week, the housemates each privately nominate two people who they wish to see removed from the house more than the other residents. The three (two in the United Kingdom - unless there is a tie, when it can be three or more) most commonly nominated are then named on the television show, and viewers can call a special number to "vote" for whoever they most wish to see evicted (the profits from the numerous calls are split between the phone companies and the producers). In the UK, part of the profits are split between three charities.

After the votes are tallied, the "evictee" is interviewed on-camera by the host of the show, usually in front of a live studio audience. The last remaining housemate is declared the winner and receives a substantial sum in prize money.

The series was notable for involving the Internet. Viewers who couldn't get enough of the show were invited to watch a continuous, 24-hour feed from multiple camera online. These websites were highly successful, even after some national series started charging for access to the video stream. In some countries, the internet broadcasting was supplemented by updates via email, WAP and SMS. In the UK, the house was even shown live (with a few minutes relapse to allow 18 hours).

Despite derision from many intellectuals and other critics, not least about the ironic aspects of aspects of George Orwell's dystopic vision of Nineteen Eighty-Four being consciously aped by producers for public entertainment - and people volunteering to abandon their usual level of privacy for the slight chance of a generous, but not massive prize, the show has been a commercial success around the world.

While any pretences to be a cultural experiment are dubious, reports of the different results of the show around the world have been mildly interesting - in Australia, after a few weeks it became clear that most of the remaining housemates liked each other and had no particular desire to evict each other, whereas other versions have involved plotting in the vein of Survivor. Some European versions have been filled with sex-crazed housemates, whereas the Anglo-Saxon versions have been mostly sex-free, although the second British series was marked by the emerging romance of two of the contestents.

An interesting development in Big Brother is that German scientists have discovered that former contestents may be at risk from Post Container Stress Disorder[?], a condition sometimes suffered by those who leave the armed forces. Indeed, in the second Polish edition, one of housemates was taken to a psychiatric hospital.

New series of the show are planned in several territories.

Clones in other countries:


http://www.endemol.com - Company which created the Big Brother format http://www.eyeonreality.tv/features/bigbrother.php - Links to official Big Brother sites around the world

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