After seventeen years of success with plain old Big Brother, CBS has finally decided to take the plunge and give a celebrity version of Big Brother a whirl. Big Brother has been a perennial favorite of the CBS summer season, and after a whopping 19 seasons on the air, the show is surprisingly still pulling good ratings for the network, so much so that apparently network head Les Moonves decided it was time to try a spin off. Hostess Julie Chen will still be anchoring the show, which is expected to air some time this winter, but aside from that, it seems like Celebrity Big Brother has quite a bit up in the air (or maybe the network just wants to keep their plans extra close to the vest).
But while nothing seems to be set in stone when it comes to the debut of the American Celebrity Big Brother, that doesn’t mean that the producers are keeping completely mum on the subject. And interestingly enough, the idea of an American Celebrity Big Brother has been around and discussed almost since the original Big Brother began. So what are the badly kept secrets of Celebrity Big Brother, both from then and now? How might Celebrity Big Brother change things up from the Big Brother we all know and love? And how might the American version of CBB borrow inspiration and ideas from other iterations of the series that exist across the world?
15. The Show Has Been In The Works Since 2002
The original American Big Brother has been around for a whopping 17 years and 19 seasons and CBS is finally taking a shot at their own celebrity version of the show on Big Brother‘s 20th anniversary, but the network was actually discussing the possibility of an American Celebrity Big Brother since the second season. CBS network president Les Moonves began tossing the idea around with the host of the original Big Brother, Julie Chen (who also happens to be his wife) after the initial success of the series. But the network couldn’t really nail down a cast lineup that they wanted that was willing to appear, and that would have been financially viable for the network, so the idea was pretty much shelved up until this summer. Due to BB‘s consistent strong performance during the CBS summer season, the network decided to give a winter season a shot, and apparently thought that making it a special celebrity edition could be the twist they needed to drum up some good publicity.
14. Paris Hilton Was The First Cast Member The Producers Wanted
When the idea of a celebrity version of Big Brother first became a discussion at CBS, Paris Hilton was actually the first celebrity they wanted to snag as a contestant for the house. According to BB host Julie Chen, Paris had actually signed on for the possible first season of Celebrity Big Brother, but ultimately the plans for the show fell through. However Hilton claims that she has never signed on for anything related to Big Brother, and it’s unclear if the current iteration of Celebrity Big Brother will seek out Hilton as one of the housemates. It just goes to show how far reality TV has come since the early 2000s, though. Chen said that when they booked Hilton for CBB initially, some of the producers didn’t even know who she was yet, and now it seems like Hilton is a star from the Stone Age of reality TV.
13. The Original Plans For The Show Fell Through Because of Roseanne Barr
Paris Hilton may have been CBS’s first pick for Celebrity Big Brother back in the early aughts, but another one of the celebrity contestants that the network was interested in booking for the show was none other than Roseanne Barr. According to Big Brother host Julie Chen, both Paris and Roseanne were actually signed on to do the first season of Celebrity Big Brother. However, Roseanne eventually backed out of the deal and the plans for Celebrity Big Brother fell apart. There’s no word on whether or not the network is looking into signing Roseanne on for this edition, but considering her extreme political views and social media behavior, she sure would make for an interesting housemate. And even if they don’t get her in the house, it’s possible she could participate in the series in some other way, Roseanne actually took part in the “Celebrity Hijack” edition of the UK’s Big Brother in 2008.
12. Celebrity Big Brother Has Some Stiff Competition
Big Brother has been one of CBS’s most consistent summer performers, but the network is undoubtedly taking a risk by airing their first season of Celebrity Big Brother in the winter season. The show is going to face competition from some serious fall season heavy-hitters that will already have their seasons well under way by the time the reality series makes its debut, and if the standard fall lineup wasn’t competition enough, it also looks like Celebrity Big Brother is going to be going up against NBC’s airing of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. It’s a bold strategy and it’s very possible that it might pay off (I mean, I don’t imagine that the Olympics and Big Brother share a huge amount of audience in common), but it is also a risky decision considering the cost of paying 15 celebrities for a month straight of work, so the first season of US Celebrity Big Brother might also be its last.
11. A Lot Of America’s Nuttiest Reality Stars Have Already Been On Celebrity Big Brother UK
CBB is a new addition to the American reality TV landscape, but the celebrity version of Big Brother has been massively popular in the UK and already has 20 seasons under its belt. And they haven’t just limited themselves to celebrities from their home country; dozens of America’s most well-known reality stars have already made at least one appearance on Celebrity Big Brother UK. Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, Janice Dickinson, Perez Hilton, Jenna Jameson, Tiffany “New York” Pollard, and even Frankie Grande, American Big Brother contestant/older brother to Ariana Grande, have all already made appearances on the UK Celebrity version of the show (and a lot of those appearances were extremely memorable and wild). Some of CBB UK‘s American imports have even had to be removed from the house, such as Myspace legend Tila Tequila, who was taken out of the house by producers after only a few days in season 16.
10. And The US CBB Won’t Say Whether Or Not They’ll Cast Them
It’s unclear how much inspiration the American Celebrity Big Brother will draw from the long running UK version, but Big Brother executives and show host Julie Chen have already been asked about whether or not they’re willing to hire any celebrity housemates who have already appeared on Celebrity Big Brother UK, but have played coy with giving a straight answer. Wanting to carve out their own path as a TV show is understandable, but considering how much inspiration the American version already seems to be taking from the UK version, it seems absurd to not take some cues from the previous Celebrity Big Brother casting decisions. And considering the fact that the vast majority of the American audience will be completely unfamiliar with the US Celebrity Big Brother’s UK counterpart, I doubt that makes much difference either way. It could also be interesting to see some brand new celebs occupy a BB house with celebrities who have already played the game once before.
9. If They Won’t Double Dip With CBB Contestants, Then They’re In Trouble
Obviously it’s up to CBS whether or not they want to include any previous Big Brother contestants on their new Celebrity Big Brother, but honestly, if they don’t I think they might already be asking for trouble, because the UK Celebrity Big Brother has already hired a ton of American reality TV’s biggest stars. CBS could want to aim a little higher, but in terms of providing actual reality entertainment value there are a lot of American reality TV players to choose from that know how to bring the drama, and the contestants actually being trapped in the same house together for 30 days straight will only turn that intensity up another notch. Plus, unlike most professional actors and singers, American reality stars have essentially built their fame on their willingness to do crazy, embarrassing, or offensive things, and I think that if CBS aims for legitimate stars then those housemates might really hold back on showing their true selves, which is really the opposite of what Big Brother is all about.
8. But If They Do Then They Have Some Great Insane Celebs To Choose From
One gigantic up side to having so many Americans featured on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother is that the producers for the American version know exactly who will deliver on the drama in a big way (or who’s duller than dishwater and not worth the paycheck). Over the course of the series, there have been some pretty extreme houseguests on Celebrity Big Brother UK; they’ve had Gary Busey walking around in the buff, Janice Dickinson spitting on a fellow houseguest, Farrah Abraham threatening to murder all of the housemates because of a broken flip flop, and Perez Hilton essentially having a three-week nervous breakdown on camera. Obviously there’s no guarantee that lightning will strike twice, but knowing which contestants have trouble playing with others and knowing what buttons to push to really make them crazy is certainly a big advantage when launching a brand new show, and the American Celebrity Big Brother would be foolish to not take advantage of that.
7. Celebrities Might Have To Do Some Pretty Uncomfortable Tasks
Big Brother‘s games and challenges are a huge part of what makes the show so entertaining. Honestly, a show about a bunch of people trapped in a house with nowhere to go and nothing to do would probably be pretty boring without them. And while Celebrity Big Brother likes to put its housemates through the standard tasks and temptations, they also like to put their own celebrity twists on them sometimes too. And some of those twists can get pretty embarrassing or uncomfortable. Celebrity Big Brother housemates are unique in the sense that they have a public profile and known history before they ever even enter the house, and Big Brother certainly loves to use that to their advantage. If the US Celebrity Big Brother includes any housemates who have a scandalous or rocky past, I’d expect that to come up in a challenge at least once during the season.
6. But They’ll Get Celebrity Treatment Anyway
Doing Celebrity Big Brother can have some definite downsides for the famous people that participate in it, but they also get some huge advantages that no regular Joe houseguests could ever dream of getting. Firstly, the celebrities that appear on Celebrity Big Brother are actually paid a contractually obligated fee for the show regardless of what place they come in, and with the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother, the winner usually wins a bonus on top of that fee. And while the same basic rule of “if you leave, you quit” still applies, celebrity houseguests are allowed to negotiate their own “rider” of sorts. They’re allowed to make certain requests for their personal comforts and needs that wouldn’t be given to any normal houseguest. So while Big Brother usually publicly rakes their celebrity contestants over the coals, they also usually try to keep them happy behind the scenes.
5. The Celebrity Version Will Be An Extra Short Season
Another big bonus of being a participant on Celebrity Big Brother is that the run for an entire season is dramatically shorter than a normal season of Big Brother. The normal time span for a typical season of Big Brother is around 90 days, but a season of Celebrity Big Brother is usually around 30. There are a few reasons to cut the celebrity editions of the show short, and one of the biggest reasons is because it would be borderline impossible to find 15 celebrities who would commit to three months trapped in the Big Brother house (and thus keeping them from any other work) and also because paying the celebrity houseguests for three months of work would probably be extremely expensive for the show. But don’t worry, even if the show is 1/3 of its normal length, it will almost certainly have no problem bringing lots of drama in its run.
4. Julie Chen Had To Take A Pay Cut For The Show
As I mentioned before, unlike regular Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother typically pays its contestants an appearance fee, which understandably makes the cost of production significantly higher than the average Big Brother season, especially considering how many houseguests need to be paid. So in order to offset the cost of hiring a celebrity cast, Celebrity Big Brother host Julie Chen will be taking a pay cut in order to make things work. According to Chen, her husband and head of CBS Les Moonves came home and told her flat-out that if she wanted Celebrity Big Brother to happen, then her pay cut had to happen, and there was no way around it. Moonves plans to cut costs for the show anywhere he can, and he has a somewhat reasonable justification for doing so. Because the show is 1/3 as long as it typically is, the network is aiming to produce it at around 1/3 of its normal price.
3. The Rules Might Be Stricter (And Some Might Be Looser)
Because the show is dealing with housemates who have some actual media leverage and power to negotiate with, that allows them to make certain demands that a normal houseguest would never even have a chance of getting (although Celebrity Big Brother UK has a history of trying to keep these agreements a secret, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the US version do the same). And not only are they in a position where they can write their own rules into their agreement, but because they’re celebrities (and because the network is obviously after drama and entertainment more than anything) they are also given considerably more leeway when it comes to breaking the rules or doing things that are inappropriate or uncomfortable. Of course, even that leeway has its breaking point, but houseguests on previous seasons of Celebrity Big Brother UK have gotten away with quite a lot with no real consequence.
2. The Show Will Have Multiple Episodes Per Week
Because the network usually spends so much money on Celebrity Big Brother for such a short run, they usually wants to squeeze as much money out of it as they can. But, because of the live shows, they can’t really film the 30-day season and then air it after everything is already finished. So as a way of working around this conundrum, Celebrity Big Brother is going to air multiple episodes each week. This strategy could really backfire if the show doesn’t do well in the ratings, but if it does, then CBS might be riding on a CBB high this winter. And while it’s hard to imagine a group of people stuck in one place making an hour’s worth of entertainment over the course of two or three days, if they have the right cast and right challenges, then it really can work. But of course, if their launch season is a snooze-fest then it really, really won’t.
1. We’ll Get To See A Lot Of The Madness Live On TV
One of the most interesting aspects of Celebrity Big Brother is that it is a reality show that occasionally takes place in real time. Most of the evictions are aired live and in front of a studio audience, and you never know what can happen or what kind of massive twists can be thrown into the game on the fly. It’s unclear whether or not the American Celebrity Big Brother will have any more live content besides the eviction, considering how many episodes they’re going to have each week, it’s safe to assume that we’ll all be getting a near daily dose of whatever the celebs have been up to that day, and I really won’t be surprised if CBS sets up a live feed inside of the house to stream on their website or streaming service. But regardless of how things shake loose, adding live shows into the mix is sure to make a wild ride even wilder.