Big Brother (Netherlands)

The Dutch "Big Brother" is the original version of the TV reality shows. It created the format in which contestants live in an isolated house trying to avoid being evicted by the public with the aim of a prize at the end. This Endemol production set the rules for other "Big Brother" versions.


John de Mol

The idea was born on Thursday, 4 September 1997 during a brainstorm session at "John de Mol Produkties", an independent part of Endemol. Participants were John de Mol, Patrick Scholtze, Bart Römer and his brother, Paul Römer. [Karel Hille et al. Big Brother. Hét boek. BZZZTôh / De Telegraaf, 's-Gravenhage / Amsterdam. 2000] The idea called for a luxurious house with six contestants, closed for a year. The winner would receive 1,000,000 guilders. The working title was "De Gouden Kooi" (The Golden Cage) and the concept was eventually realized as a reality show on Dutch television at the end of 2006. It ran until 2008, earning the winner 1,300,000 euros.

The group came up with the idea after the 1991 Biosphere 2 experiment in the Arizona desert, in which eight men and women discovered how hard it is to live together inside an airtight glass and steel geodesic dome that sought to replicate the Earth's environment. "Big Brother" alternated deprivation with excess.

The format of "Big Brother" was also influenced by MTV's "The Real World", which began in 1992 and originated the concept of putting strangers together for an extended period and recording the drama that ensued. "The Real World" had introduced "confessions" by housemates. The Swedish TV show "Expedition Robinson", which first aired in 1997 (and was later produced in other countries as "Survivor"), added to the "Real World" 's template the idea of competition, in which contestants battled were removed from the show until only one remained.

The idea of introducing 24/7 streaming video was influenced by websites like from Jennifer Ringley, a Washington resident who created it in 1997 to share her activities with Webwatchers.

In development, occupancy of the house was reduced to 100 days. An existing house was abandoned in favor of a prefabricated house. This made it possible to install "camera-cross", which allowed cameramen inside the house without being seen by the inhabitants. Originally, the idea was to produce a heavily edited weekly program, but after some experiments with the employees of the production house, the allure of slow television was discovered and the potential for a daily program was realized.

Orwell lawsuit

George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which Big Brother is the all-seeing leader of a dystopian nation, has never been acknowledged by the producers. However, the heirs of Orwell settled an agreement with the tv-network CBS and Endemol after legal proceedings against the concept in the American version. The payment has never been revealed.

Voyeurdorm lawsuit

According to a lawsuit in 2000 in a New York federal district court, "Big Brother" was homegrown in the U.S.A.. The idea, said the suit, came out of meetings in summer 1999 between CBS executives and, a Tampa, Florida, adult website of eight college-age women. These women lived, ate, slept, studied and "sunbathed naked" under 55 cameras.

Castaway lawsuit

Also in 2000, the production company Castaway, part-owned by Bob Geldof, sued Endemol for theft of format in a court in Amsterdam, saying the programme was a rip-off of its Survivor-show (Expedition Robinson). A lawyer listed 12 similarities to "Survivor". Endemol rejected the allegations, saying: "The genre may be the same, but the programmes are completely different and they evolved separately. There are 20 or 30 game shows on TV and many different talk shows, but there are the same genre, not the same programme."


The logo for Big Brother was designed to fit the housestyle of Dutch television station Veronica. The wave under both names harkens back to the time that Veronica was a pirate station, broadcoasting from international waters off the Netherlands. The wave remained when Veronica left the Holland Media Groep and Big Brother was taken over by Yorin. It showed up in the logos of Big Brother all over the world. However, recent versions of Dutch Big Brother at Talpa abandoned the logo and are using the eye-logo introduced with the second series of Big Brother UK.

Ethics and Debate

Upon the first announcement of the programme's format a debate arose about ethical acceptability. Could a programme like this be decent and/or in good taste? It was unknown if participants would be shown showering or on the toilet. Both were deemed unacceptable, but only the latter taboo still holds. Experts argued if participants should be protected against themselves, and if participation wouldn't cause psychological or emotional damage. The discussion considered the moral panic in Sweden after the first contestant voted off Expedition Robinson killed himself, his family reportedly blaming the rejection he felt as of being unpopular with the public.

P. van Lange, a social psychologist at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam pointed out the similarity to the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971).Tom-Jan Meeus. Riskante afvalrace op televisie. NRC, 24 September 1999] In that experiment the participants were placed in a jail, where half played guards and the other half prisoners. In six days the experiment derailed. The guards became aggressive, repressive and sadistic. They transformed into personalities outside their normal selves. "From the Stanford-experiment may be concluded that human behavior is largely summoned by the local circumstances", added his colleague J. van der Pligt, professor at the Universiteit van Amsterdam."People get carried away" said A. Bergsma of Psychologie Magazine. "isolation becomes reality. They lose themselves in the experiment. There are no checks and balances. If there is no correction, they will derail one after another." All experts agreed that the big reward for the winner increased the chance of accidents. But some weren't negative. A. Lange, professor clinical psychology at the Universiteit van Amsterdam indicated that the programme could produce eyeopeners. Such eyeopeners weren't possible any more in social-psychological research because protection of the participants prevailed over the importance of research. "The design of the programme is the wet dream of a psychological researcher. Nowhere in the world an ethical commission will be found that would agree to such a design", agreed psycho-fysiologist A. Gaillard of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research.

From the moment "Big Brother" scored high ratings, the debate shifted to what this fact implied about the character of the Dutch, and if sexual explicitism and terms of abuse suited the early broadcasting. What was considered voyeurism now became mainstream entertainment. One explanation was that people had become more isolated and were searching for others to identify with. In this view, talking about Big Brother took the place of backbiting and scandal on the village green.

In debate in the Netherlands died down and reality-tv became a standard of television programming. In hindsight it nonetheless became clear that some housemates (like first season's Bart en Ruud) suffered psychic problems akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. They weren't able to bear their 15 minutes of fame.


eason 1

See: Big Brother 1999 (Netherlands)

eason 2

See: Big Brother 2000 (Netherlands)

eason 3

See: Big Brother 2001 (Netherlands)

eason 4

See: Big Brother 2002 (Netherlands)

eason 5

Big Brother returned three years later, after John de Mol introduced his own TV station Talpa. Although he didn’t own the rights any more (he had left Endemol), he hadn’t forgotten his jewel. Series 5 was shown with moderate success in early evening from 24 August until 22 December (121 days). The house had moved from Almere to Aalsmeer, and presenters were Bridget Maasland and Ruud de Wild. This year the theme was "secrecy": housemates entered with a secret that they weren’t allowed to revealime. Aside from usual weekly tasks, the housemates received secret missions to spark distrust and conflicts. Some gained cash which they had to hide for the others.

The series was dominated by the relationship between Dido and squatter Roel, who shared his bed with Lieske and Linda as well. The series borrowed elements from foreign series, like the introduction of Nathalie’s ex-boyfriend. However, most attention was directed to Tanja, who was seven months pregnant. Officially, Tanja could be voted off before the baby would be born, but the producers made certain she stayed. Tanja’s smoking during pregnancy were debated in the media, as well as the role of the father who didn’t want any responsibility but enjoyed his fame.

On 18 October 2005 Tanja gave birth to her daughter Joscelyn Savanna in front of the cameras, a Big Brother first. Because of limitations by the Dutch Labour Inspectorate, the baby wasn’t allowed to be shown for extended periods. Tanja voluntary left with her daughter

During the last days, the producers were accused of tempering with the results of the SMS-and telephone votes during eviction rounds. A campaign by third season housemate Gert-Jan de Boer called for attendance of a notary at least during the finals. ance Endemol gave in. In the finals Roel was defeated by Joost.

eason 6

August 18 2006 was the internet kick-off for the sixth season, presented by Bridget Maasland. The TV show started two days later. The finale happened on 27 November (102 days), which made it the shortest Dutch Big Brother. Viewing numbers were half of the previous season. The show suffered from competition with the similar show The Golden Cage, broadcast by Talpa immediately after Big Brother.

Theme was "Together Alone". Candidates were invited to enter as couples: 2 brothers, 2 sisters, a father/daughter, a father/son, a mother/daughter and a lovecouple as well as three singles. Communication with the housemates was intercom, wall-phone, red phone, TV-screen and diary room. Every housemate had a safe deposit of €30,000. When half was left, the other half had to be donated to another housemate. The winner left with the amount accumulated. Two "jokers" (safeguard against exit but obliged to nominate some one else) were sold by auction. Marlies en Tijn won them for € 25,300 and € 29,200.

The series was characterised by tasks copied from elsewhere as well by ridicule of the participants. The series started without daylight, fresh air or day/night rhythm which resulted in instabilities and contestants getting physical and psychical complaints. After two weeks the garden opened for 2 hours daily.

Jeroen and Milica arrived one day early and had to pretend to be a couple. Milica's mother Hilde entered a day after the group as not to betray her daughter. The first time the red phone rang Egbert answered it and heard the message that the viewers would decide whether he would stay. One day later he was allowed to stay with 75% of the public vote. Jeroen, Hilde, Milica, Etienne and Marcel formed a subgroup soon. When Egbert dropped his key into a hole in the floor, he had to survive in an inflatable canoe in the swimming pool for two days to get it back. Big Brother nominated Semih and Marlies for a minor rule offense but this was annulled and Etienne and Marcel were nominated instead for talking about their nomination strategy. Marcel was the first one to get an exit and donated his half of the money to his son. Soon after, the irate husband of Monique rushed to the house when the relation she had with Tijn was portrayed suggestively. After letters written hence and forth Monique decided to stay. Afterwards, the sisters Monique and Sabrina gained a private bedroom since Tijn and Etienne wouldn't leave them alone at night. In the second round Hilde and Etienne were nominated, the latter because of his racist talk. Hilde, who suffered heavily from fibromyalgia was elected to leave. One week later her daughter Milica lost from Jeroen and gave him half of her money upon her exit. The red telephone rang again on September 25 and Semih heard that he would be nominated for four consecutive weeks. On September 26 scabies was discovered within the house and measures had to be taken. A cocktail party lead to a night with sexual acts amongst different contestants, including gay Rik and Etienne (who had earlier said he hated gays). Marlies used her joker to put Janine in her place and the latter had to leave. A week later Egbert, Jeroen and Semih were nominated. Host Bridget told that Egbert and Jeroen both had to leave because they had the same percentage of votes. But Jeroen didn't leave for real; as a secret mission Monique and Sabrina had to hide him for a couple of days in their private bedroom. They succeeded, all gaining immunity in the next nominations. The following housemates to leave were Etienne, Micheline and Marlies. Marlies had ended up being nominated by a new joker, that Sabrina had bought from Jeroen. After that Marcia and Semih were the next to leave. From the four finalists the first to go were Tijn and Monique, the public was fed up by their egocentrical relationship. The winner became the rather undescriptive soccerplayer Jeroen. It is not expected that Big Brother will survive on Dutch television after this disappointing season.

See also

* The Golden Cage


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