Each summer, UK Big Brother fans eagerly tune in to Channel 4 and E4 to see what’s happening in the house in Elstree. But the UK Big Brother is just one of many versions of the programme around the world. You might think the antics of British housemates are weird, funny or risqué but the overseas houses have more than their fair share of intrigue, odd behaviour and tough-talking Big Brothers. Here are ten BB facts from around the globe:
- The very first Big Brother began in the Netherlands on September 16, 1999. It was an idea developed by John de Mol and by the final night, New Year’s Eve, the show had become the most watched programme of the year and the participants had become overnight celebrities.
- Big Brother broke one of its most important rules – no contact with the outside world – after September 11th, as one of the housemates in the American BB House had a cousin who worked in the World Trade Center. Monica chose to stay in the house. In seven of the countries that had Big Brother on at the time, broadcasters chose not to tell the housemates.
- In the first series of the Polish show Big Brother provoked a mutiny by the smokers in the house for refusing to supply any more cigarettes. As punishment Big Brother set a small fire in the compound. The only non-smoker in the house, 45-year-old Janusz Dzieciol, was the only housemate to get up and put it out. As reward for his good behaviour, Big Brother offered Janusz a personal phone call or a supply of cigarettes for the house. He went with the cigarettes and, out of gratitude, was never put forward for eviction by his fellow housemates. He went on to win the series.
- BB9 UK saw fake couple Stephanie and Mario take part in a fake wedding ceremony to fool the other housemates but in the Portuguese Big Brother there was a wedding for real. After falling in love on the series the couple decided to get married during the show. After getting approval from her family they married in front of the house during a four-hour live show. Denmark also had a real wedding inside the house which was also broadcast live.
- Housemates were severely tested in the fourth series of the US Big Brother when 10 of the 13 participants found themselves face to face with one of their ex-partners.
- Several countries have included twins, and in some cases triplets, in their shows, without warning other housemates. At first, twins would constantly swap places until the trick was revealed or someone figured it out.
- Cherise Makubale from Zambia, winner of pan-African Big Brother received a congratulatory message from President Levy Mwanawasa for her exemplary and encouraging conduct, including sweeping and cooking in the house – exactly what a ‘Zambian woman must do’.
- Belgium began with 11 men and one woman entering the house. The woman had to nominate three men, one of whom was voted out the next day by viewers. The next morning a new woman entered the house and she had to do the same. This went on until six men and six women were left.
- In Argentina, Diego Maradona came into the house to play football with the housemates, raising money for charitable projects such as building beds for orphanages.
- The cruellest and most unusual punishments ever to be inflicted in Big Brother history was in the sixth Spanish series. Between them, seven contestants had just five days to memorise the contents of the proposed European Constitution. Housemates had to then relay the 325 page document to a non-Spanish speaking Polish woman.