Big Brother (U.S. TV series)

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This article is about the reality television show. For other uses, see Big Brother (disambiguation).
For the recently concluded broadcast season, see Big Brother 18 (U.S.).
For the current digital season, see Big Brother: Over the Top.
Big Brother
Big Brother 16 (U.S.) Logo.png

Big Brother is a television reality game show based on an originally Dutch TV series of the same name created by producer John de Mol in 1997.[2] The series follows a group of contestants, known as HouseGuests, who are living together in a custom-built home under constant surveillance. The HouseGuests are completely isolated from the outside world, and can have no communication with those not in the house. The contestants are competing for a $500,000 grand prize, with weekly competitions and evictions determining who will win the show. The series takes its name from the character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). The series launched on July 5, 2000 to a successful start, though ratings and critical reaction continued to grow increasingly negative. This led to the second season being a revamp of the show, featuring a more competition-based challenge. The series has since continued to be a hit for CBS, and is the second longest-running adaptation of the series to date, after the Spanish adaptation.

The program is also expected to be the first reality game show set to air exclusively on a streaming platform with an upcoming season airing in the fall of 2016 on CBS's streaming service, CBS All Access.[1] CBS also renewed the series for a 19th and 20th season expected to air in the summer of 2017 and 2018 respectively.[3]



A view of CBS Studio Center sound stage 18, where the house is located

The series was bought by CBS in early 2000 for an estimated $20 million.[4] The United States version of the series officially premiered on July 5, 2000 when the original ten housemates entered the house.[5] Since its inception, the show has been hosted by television personality Julie Chen. It is produced by Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan for Fly on the Wall Entertainment and Endemol Shine North America (formerly Endemol USA).[6] The success of the series has spawned several spin-offs. The series airs once a year, during the Summer, with the exception of the ninth season which aired in Spring of 2008 and the Over the Top spinoff series broadcasting since Fall 2016. Currently, 18 seasons of the show have aired, with the 1st digital season currently under way.[7] The show has aired a total of 545 episodes since it premiered, with the September 5, 2013 airing marking the 500th episode.[8] To date, there have been a total of 253 HouseGuests compete in the series. Upon entering the house, the HouseGuests who leave the house without permission are not allowed to return. Should a HouseGuest break the rules set in the house, they can be expelled from the house. To date, there have been a total of four HouseGuests expelled from the house due to acts of violence and/or rule-breaking. There have only been two HouseGuests who have voluntarily left the game for reasons relating to personal matters.


Since its premiere, there have been numerous spin-offs to the show. In 2004, the spin-off web series House Calls: The Big Brother Talk Show (2004–08) began airing.[9] The series, which lasted for thirty minutes and aired on weeknights, allowed fans to call in and discuss the events of the game.[10] This made House Calls the first live Internet talk show produced exclusively for a television network.[11] The series was initially hosted by Gretchen Massey and Big Brother 3 (2002) HouseGuest Marcellas Reynolds during its first two seasons.[12] Beginning with the show's third season, a new co-host was featured on the series each day, with some returning more than once.[13] During the show's fifth and sixth seasons, each co-host was given a designated day of the week to host alongside Gretchen.[14] Following the show's sixth season, it was confirmed that it would not be renewed.[15] Big Brother: After Dark, a second spin-off series, was debuted in 2007 and aired on Showtime Too nightly from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. Eastern Time.[16] The series continued this schedule until 2013, when it was announced that the series would now air on TVGN (now Pop).[17][18] Former HouseGuest Jeff Schroeder began hosting the Big Brother: Live Chat online spin-off in 2012, where he interviews the HouseGuests both before they enter the house and following their evictions.[19]

Though not an actual spin-off, the Canadian edition of the series is the first and currently only series to adopt the American format of Big Brother.[20]


Big Brother is a game show in which a group of contestants, referred to as HouseGuests, live in a custom-built "house" (actually a set built on a CBS sound stage), constantly under video surveillance.[21] While in the house, the contestants are completely isolated from the outside world, meaning no phone, television, internet, magazines, newspaper, or contact with those not in the house.[22] This rule could be broken, however, in the event of a family emergency or death.[23] The format of the series is mainly seen as a social experiment, and requires HouseGuests to interact with others who may have differing ideals, beliefs, and prejudices.[24][25] While a competition, the series allows viewers to witness the relationships formed in the house and the behavior of the HouseGuests.[26] Though locked in the house, the HouseGuests are free to quit the game, though will not be allowed entry back into the house.[27] Should a HouseGuest break the rules of the game, they could be expelled from the house, and unable to return.[28][29] The contestants compete for a grand prize of $500,000.[30][31]

Season 1[edit]

The premiere season used the original format of the series, which originated in the Netherlands. HouseGuests were required to nominate two of their fellow contestants for potential banishment, and the two with the most votes would be nominated.[32] Should multiple HouseGuests receive the most nominations, then more than two HouseGuests were marked for banishment.[33] This process was mandatory for all HouseGuests, and failure to comply could result in expulsion from the house.[34] The HouseGuests in the these seasons were forbidden from discussing nominations, and doing so could result in punishment.[35][36] The public, through a vote conducted by phone, would vote to banish one of the nominated HouseGuests from the house, and the HouseGuest with the most votes from the viewers would be banished from the house.[37] When only three HouseGuests remained, the viewers would vote for which of them should win the series, and the HouseGuest with the most votes would become the winner.[33] The format, during that season, was plagued with a negative reception from both critics and viewers.[38]

Season 2–present[edit]

Big Brother 14 winner, Ian Terry, with the Diamond Power of Veto

Having spent millions on the series, CBS issued a second season of the series and announced that various changes would occur with the format.[39] The current format of the series is focused more on competition and strategy than the original series. At the start of each week in the house, the HouseGuests compete for the title of Head of Household.[40] The Head of Household for each week is given luxuries such as their own personal bedroom and free laundry service, but is responsible for nominating two HouseGuests for eviction. The Head of Household would not be able to compete in the following week's Head of Household competition, meaning that a HouseGuest could not hold the title for two weeks in a row.[41][42] The winner of the Power of Veto could choose to save one of the nominated HouseGuests, forcing the Head of Household to nominate someone in their place. The winner of the Power of Veto cannot be named as the replacement nominee.[43] All HouseGuests excluding the Head of Household and nominees later vote to determine which of the two nominees should be evicted, and the nominated HouseGuest who received the most votes is evicted during a live episode. If there is a tie in the voting, the reigning Head of Household is required to make the tie-breaker decision.[44] Unlike other versions of Big Brother, the HouseGuests may discuss the nomination and eviction process openly and freely. The HouseGuests also competed in Have-Not competitions, in which the losers were required to solely eat slop for the rest of the week, as well as sleep in a special bedroom.[45] Upon reaching a point in the game, the evicted HouseGuests go on to become members of the Jury; the Jury is responsible for choosing who wins the series. The members of the Jury are not shown any Diary Room interviews or any footage that may include strategy or details regarding nominations.[46] Once only two HouseGuests remain, the members of the Jury cast their votes for who should win the series.[47]

To keep the series intriguing, each season typically features a new twist to change the format of the game. This began with Big Brother 3 (2002) and the "Expect the Unexpected" twist.[48] Other seasons feature smaller twists than have a smaller impact on the game, usually affecting that sole week. The most notable example of this is Pandora's Box, a twist that originated in Big Brother 11 (2009).[49] The twist sees the current Head of Household for that week being tempted by the box, and can choose to either open the box or leave it. Should a HouseGuest choose to open Pandora's Box, both good and bad consequences could be unleashed into the house; these can affect not only the Head of Household but the other housemates.[50][51] Secret powers have also appeared in the past. Mike Malin was the first HouseGuest to receive a secret power, earning the Coup d'État during Big Brother: All-Stars (2006).[52] The Coup d'État allowed the holder to remove one or both nominees from the block on eviction night, as well as choose who is nominated in their place.[53] Malin chose not to use the power, and it subsequently returned during Big Brother 11 (2009) when Jeff Shroeder was given the power by the viewers.[54] Matt Hoffman was given a Diamond Power of Veto during Big Brother 12 (2010), which allowed him to remove one HouseGuest from the block and choose the replacement nominee.[55] During Big Brother 14 (2012), HouseGuest Ian Terry won a second Power of Veto, which could be used the same as the normal Power of Veto.[56]

Jessie Godderz has made the most Big Brother appearances in the shows history, appearing in seasons 10-14, along with 17 & 18.


Julie Chen has hosted the series since its premiere.

Since its launch in the United States, Big Brother has aired on CBS.[57] The show is simulcast in Canada on Global.[58] The fourth and ninth seasons have both aired in the United Kingdom, the latter airing in the Spring season.[59] The first season featured a total of six episodes per week, though all future installments would air three nights per week.[60] Of these three episodes, the weekly eviction episode is the only one that is live; this is the only episode to feature host Julie Chen. This show generally airs on Thursdays.[61] To date, there have been a total of 558 episodes of the series to air.[62] With the exception of the ninth season, the series typically airs once a year during the Summer season.[63][64] The first fifteen seasons aired in standard definition, with the sixteenth season being the first to be produced in HD.[65][66] Before the series made the transfer, it was the last remaining regularly scheduled Primetime series to remain in standard definition.[67][68] CBS released the entire third season as a nine-disc set on Region 1 DVD.[69] This made it the first season to receive an official release, and has since become a rare item to find.[70] The fourth season saw the release of a two-disc highlights DVD, featuring previously unseen footage deemed too racy for the main broadcast.[71] To date, these are the only seasons to see a physical release. Beginning with the seventh season, all future seasons are available for purchase on digital retail sites.[72] With the fifteenth season, TVGN (now Pop) began airing re-runs of the series at later dates, making it the first season to be aired following its premiere; this continued with the sixteenth season.[73]

One of the main aspects of the series is the live feeds, in which viewers can view inside the house at any time.[74] The live feeds have been a part of the series since its inception, initially being offered as a free service during the first season.[75] From the second season onward, a subscription to the live feeds has been required, with the price ranging each year.[76] The first season's feeds were available on the show's official site, hosted by AOL.[77] From the second season to the fourteenth season, the feeds were available through RealNetworks either as a subscription or as a free addition for Gold members.[78] With the fifteenth season onward, the live feeds have aired on the official CBS website, again requiring a subscription from users.[79] Though advertised as being available at any time, the feeds are shut off during the weekly nomination ceremony, Power of Veto ceremony, and the competitions and evictions for that week; this is to provide suspense for the series.[80] Slanderous statements and singing of copyrighted music are also blocked for legal reasons.[81][82][83]

On August 2, 2016, CBS announced that an upcoming season of the program would air exclusively on CBS All Access. The season – which will be separate from the regular television broadcasts, which will continue to air on the CBS broadcast network during the summer after Season 18 concludes – debuted in the fall of 2016 and will air for an abbreviated 10-week run.[84]


Head of Household (HOH)[edit]

The Head of Household competition is held at the beginning of each week, and is most often performed on the live eviction episode.[85] Most often, the first Head of Household competition will require HouseGuests to participate either in pairs or in teams.[86] While the fourth, fifth, and eighth seasons had the HouseGuests competing in pairs,[87] the sixth, seventh, eleventh, twelfth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth editions all saw HouseGuests competing as part of a group.[88][89] The live Head of Household competitions are typically question based, and will see HouseGuests eliminated each round.[90] Competitions such as "Majority Rules" have been used numerous times, with the game being played in the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth seasons;[91][92] a variation of the competition was used in the seventh season.[93] Some competitions will attempt to cause drama in the house, such as the "En Garde" Head of Household competition in which the winner of each round selected the next two to face off against one another.[94] This competition was later used in the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth seasons.[95][96] Various competitions throughout the season will be endurance, requiring HouseGuests to be the last one remaining in the competition.[97] Endurance competitions are often held after game changing announcements, such as when a previously evicted HouseGuest returns.[98] Various endurance competitions may have punished or reward contestants who either fall off first or last.[99] Skill based competitions also appear frequently throughout the season, some of which may last for numerous hours.[100] Skill competitions, such as the thirteenth season's "Big Brother Open", are finished during the live eviction broadcast.[101] The final Head of Household competition of each season features three rounds; the first is endurance, the second is skill, and the final is question based.[102] The record for most Head of Household competitions won in a single season is held by Drew Daniel, Janelle Pierzina, Hayden Moss, Rachel Reilly, Ian Terry, Aaryn Gries, Caleb Reynolds, Vanessa Rousso and Steve Moses in terms of reigns. Frankie Grande won HOH 5 times the sixteenth season, however he was dethroned twice due to the dual HoH twist that was in play during his season, and third reign was rewound due to the rewind button twist. This leaves Frankie with just two full reigns as HoH. Ian Terry has the record for most consecutive Head of Household wins, with four (winning at the Final 9, 7, 5 and 3 rounds) .[103] One of the Head of Household's duties is to nominate 2 people for eviction. Victoria from the sixteenth season holds the record for most times being nominated with nine.

Golden Power of Veto[edit]

The Power of Veto symbol, used since its creation.

The Power of Veto is a power first introduced in Big Brother 3.[104] During its first season, it was referred to as the Silver Power of Veto, and did not allow a nominated HouseGuest to use the Power of Veto on themselves.[105] The final Power of Veto that season was the Golden Power of Veto, and allowed a nominated HouseGuest to remove themselves from the block.[106] Following this, the Golden Power of Veto was used in all subsequent seasons.[107][108] The Diamond Power of Veto, used in Big Brother 12 allowed one HouseGuest to remove themselves from the block,[109] as well as choose the replacement nominee only moments before the live eviction.[110] Power of Veto competitions differ drastically from the Head of Household competition, with PoV competitions being more skill based in nature.[111] Competitions such as the "Pop Goes the Veto!" competition, which required HouseGuest to find letter tiles and spell the longest word, have been used in numerous consecutive seasons.[112][113] Competitions such as the "Big Brother Boardwalk" competition see HouseGuests attempting to guess how much of an item there is; this is one of various competitions that do not require HouseGuests to compete in a physical based competition.[114][115] The "How Bad Do You Want It?" Power of Veto competition, first introduced in the seventh season, saw HouseGuests taking punishments in exchange for advancing in the competition.[116] Variations of this competition have been used in numerous subsequent seasons.[117] HouseGuests Janelle Pierzina and Daniele Donato currently hold the record for most Power of Veto wins in a single season, with five wins each.[118] HouseGuests James Zinkand, Frank Eudy, and Shane Meaney all hold the record for most consecutive Power of Veto wins, with three each.[119]

Food and luxury[edit]

Food and luxury competitions have been a part of the series since it first premiered. In early seasons, the losers of the food competition would be placed on a peanut butter and jelly diet, and would not be permitted to eat any other foods.[120] Beginning in the seventh season, the losers of the competition were required to eat "Big Brother Slop" for food.[121] Slop has proven to be an issue for some HouseGuests; Hypoglycemic HouseGuest Amanda Hansen fainted and had a seizure after only a few days of being on the slop diet,[121] while HouseGuest Allison Nichols had an allergic reaction to the slop (both of these cases occurred in Big Brother 9).[122][123] Both women, from Big Brother 9, were medically evacuated from the house, though they returned the following morning.[124] Beginning in the eleventh season, the food competitions became known as the Have-Not competitions,[125] and the losers would have to sleep in a separate bedroom, take cold showers, and eat slop for the week.[126] The food competitions have been known as the Have-Not competition in all subsequent seasons.[127] HouseGuests who choose to break the slop rule are punished by Big Brother. HouseGuest Jen Johnson was the first HouseGuest to break the food restriction rules, and earned a penalty eviction vote for doing so; she was ultimately evicted that week.[128][129] Audrey Middleton broke the rules and also earned a penalty vote and evicted ultimately. HouseGuests Jeff Schroeder and Kevin Campbell also broke the rules, to a lesser degree, and earned an extra day on the slop diet.[130] The HouseGuests also frequently compete in luxury competitions during their time in the house. Most frequently, HouseGuests will compete for the right to watch a film or television show in the house.[131] When competitions for films or television shows occur, an actor or actress from the series may enter the house to host the competition or speak with the HouseGuests. Actors such as Jeremy Piven,[132] David Hasselhoff,[133] and Neil Patrick Harris have all entered the house to participate in luxury competitions or rewards.[134]

Series details and viewership[edit]

Broadcast edition (CBS - 2000–present)
Season Launch date Finale date Days HouseGuests Winner Final Vote Average
Big Brother 1 July 5, 2000 September 29, 2000 88 10 Eddie McGee 59–27–14%1 9.10 70
Big Brother 2 July 5, 2001 September 20, 2001 82 12 Will Kirby 5–2 7.90 30
Big Brother 3 July 10, 2002 September 25, 2002 Lisa Donahue 9–1 8.70 33
Big Brother 4 July 8, 2003 September 24, 2003 13 Jun Song 6–1 8.80 33
Big Brother 5 July 6, 2004 September 21, 2004 142 Drew Daniel 4–3 8.30 31
Big Brother 6 July 7, 2005 September 20, 2005 80 14 Maggie Ausburn 4–3 7.24 30
Big Brother 7 July 6, 2006 September 12, 2006 72 14 (All Returnees)3 Mike "Boogie" Malin 6–1 7.56 28
Big Brother 8 July 5, 2007 September 18, 2007 81 14 "Evel" Dick Donato 5–2 7.52 33
Big Brother 9 February 12, 2008 April 27, 2008 16 Adam Jasinski 6–1 6.56 33
Big Brother 10 July 13, 2008 September 16, 2008 71 13 Dan Gheesling 7–0 6.72 29
Big Brother 11 July 9, 2009 September 15, 2009 73 13 (1 Returnee)4 Jordan Lloyd 5–25 7.19 30
Big Brother 12 July 8, 2010 September 15, 2010 75 13 Hayden Moss 4–3 7.76 30
Big Brother 13 July 7, 2011 September 14, 2011 14 (6 Returnees) Rachel Reilly 4–3 7.95 29
Big Brother 14 July 12, 2012 September 19, 2012 16 (4 Returnees) Ian Terry 6–1 6.79 30
Big Brother 15 June 26, 2013 September 18, 2013 90 16 Andy Herren 7–2 6.47 36
Big Brother 16 June 25, 2014 September 24, 2014 97 Derrick Levasseur 7–2 6.41 40
Big Brother 17 June 24, 2015 September 23, 2015 98 176 Steve Moses 6–3 6.18 40
Big Brother 18 June 22, 2016[135] September 21, 2016 99 16 (4 Returnees) Nicole Franzel 5–4 5.78 42
Big Brother 19[136] Summer 2017 Summer 2017
Big Brother 20[137] Summer 2018 Summer 2018
Digital edition (CBS All Access - 2016–present)
Season Launch date Finale date Days HouseGuests Winner Final Vote Episodes
Big Brother: Over The Top September 28, 2016 TBA TBA 13 (1 Returnee)7 TBA TBA 1 TBA

^1 For the first season of the main edition and the digital edition, the public voted to determine the winner between the three finalists.
^2 Thirteen HouseGuests were originally announced with a set of identical twins secretly playing as one HouseGuest. After surviving the first four evictions, the twins were allowed to compete as individuals.
^3 The 14 returning HouseGuests were chosen among 20 candidates—eight through public vote, and six by the producers.
^4 The returning HouseGuest was chosen among four candidates, determined by a competition.
^5 One of the HouseGuests was expelled from the house during the season. Due to this, their vote was instead decided by the American public.
^6 Sixteen HouseGuests were originally announced with a set of identical twins secretly playing as one HouseGuest. After surviving the first five evictions, the twins were allowed to compete as individuals.
^7 : The returnee HouseGuest was chosen among two candidates - determined by public vote

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Since its inception, Big Brother has been criticized following reports of "HIB" (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying),[138] violence in the house, obscene language,[139][140][141][142] breach of integrity,[143][144] and the physical and mental strain of appearing on the series.[145]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°8′40.12″N 118°23′20.71″W / 34.1444778°N 118.3890861°W / 34.1444778; -118.3890861