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Television Review: CBS's new reality show gets annoying from day one

Friday, July 07, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

I know "Survivor." I watch "Survivor." You, "Big Brother," are no "Survivor."

From slick deejay-turned reporter Ian O'Malley to blatantly insincere host Julie Chen, CBS's "Big Brother" may hold some of the same voyeuristic appeal of "Survivor," but it's bound to suffer from overexposure.

Airing five nights a week (Monday through Saturday with Wednesday nights off) and supposedly 24 hours-a-day on the Web at www.bigbrother2000.com (I couldn't get any of the live video feeds to work yesterday), "Big Brother" is even more contrived than "Survivor."


When: Tomorrow at 8 on CBS.


At least on "Survivor," there's adventure -- living in tribes in the supposed wilds of a remote island for a shot at $1 million -- even if the competitions look like leftovers from "Battle of the Network Stars."

On "Big Brother," people are locked in a house for 100 days with the unstated goal of getting them to claw at one another. And the winner only gets $500,000. I'd much rather be on "Survivor."

The show's biggest problem? A resident gets kicked out only every other week (residents nominate two people for dismissal next Thursday and viewers vote on which one gets the boot; the bootee will be revealed in a live show July 20). So that's 10 shows viewers are expected to sit through before they get to the good stuff. Why waste your time?

Worst of all, "Big Brother" made an inauspicious debut Wednesday night. It may not have been representative of future installments, but it was boring as all get-out, wasting an hour introducing us to the "house guests" when all viewers wanted to see was the cast interacting. The premiere seemed like a "Real World" casting special, which is fine for filling up an hour of time on cable's MTV, but has CBS sunk that low?

When the residents finally arrived in their prison away from home, another realization set in. Because the show airs scant hours after it's taped, the production values are low grade. "The Real World" and "Survivor" have weeks, even months of post-production time to professionally edit episodes, shape story lines and add music.

In the few scenes of "Big Brother" set inside the house at the end of Wednesday night's premiere the visuals were static, the sound a cacophony of voices and the music nonexistent. It was effective in the final shot of a cast member who stared at her new surroundings looking bewildered, but otherwise the scenes inside the house, brief though they were, seemed muddled.

Residents are:

William, 27, a youth counselor from Philadelphia.

Brittany, 25, a pharmaceutical sales representative from Minnesota with a wild side (piercings, dyed hair, but she's still a virgin).

Eddy, 21, a college student (studying broadcasting, of course) from Manhasset, New York, who lost a leg to cancer.

Karen, 43, a mayor's assistant from Columbus, Ind., and married mother of four. "I thought she'd lost her mind," her husband said of his wife's decision to appear on "Big Brother."

Curtis, 28, a federal prosecutor who sings in a professional choir.

Jordan, 26, an exotic dancer and student majoring in sociology and filmmaking at Minneapolis' University of Minnesota.

George, 41, a roofing company owner from Rockford, Ill., and a married father of three.

Cassandra, 37, a single United Nations communications officer and former newspaper reporter.

Joshua, 23, a civil engineering student who likes to spend time with his niece.

Jamie, 22, a beauty queen sales rep who was recently accepted to the MBA program at Yale.

And the hosts, oh the hosts. I wanted to wipe the fake grin off Chen's face -- "Look ma, I've compromised my role as a serious journalist on 'The Early Show' to front a reality show!" -- and O'Malley is the consummate jive deejay. These two make "Survivor" master of ceremonies Jeff Probst a paragon of reality show hosting.

On Wednesday's "Survivor" Pagong tribe member Joel got kicked off after making what his fellow female castaways thought were a few too many chauvinistic comments. But somehow they let Gervase slide, even though he said, "Girls are the stupidest things on the planet next to cows."

Ah, choices, choices.

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