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'Big Brother' Online
© 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz

Recently I got hooked on the live 24/7 Webcast of the TV show "Big Brother" <BigBrother2000.com>. Although I've been a shameless voyeur since long before it became fashionable, I wouldn't have gotten addicted except for Brittany, the Monica Lewinsky of cyberspace.

Following Brittany's sexploits online has become an obsession. God help me, I even watch her as she sleeps. Realizing my addiction was getting out of control, I looked for a Big Brothers Anonymous support group. Instead, I found chat rooms where fellow voyeurs make sarcastic comments while watching the live video feeds. We commiserate about our habit and trade "BB" links and software tips. And on Wednesdays, East Coast chatters relay the live TV show to those in western time zones so we don't have to wait for our fix. Sick, I know.

In reality-based TV shows, sadistic producers toss average strangers into life-sized Skinner boxes and have a camera crew record everything they say and do. The 10 contestants in "BB" have been confined to a "house" on a studio lot in LA, where they are cut off from the outside world -- no TV, newspapers, computers or phones -- for three months. As they inevitably go bonkers from loneliness, horniness and each other, 60 microphones and 28 cameras monitor their every word and action, from the bathroom to the bedroom. Thus the Orwellian name of the show.

Like many reality-based TV shows, contestants must interact and work together to overcome challenges given to them by "Big Brother," and vote periodically to kick someone out of the house. Every two weeks they nominate two people for banishment, with the TV audience having the final say in a nationwide telephone vote. The last one left wins $500,000, which, when you factor in time and aggravation, has got to be the chintziest grand prize for any game show ever.

Reality TV is considered commercial kitsch today. But the first reality-based show, "An American Family," was a documentary that aired on PBS in 1973. For seven months a camera crew stalked the Loud family of Santa Barbara, Calif. During the subsequent 12-hour miniseries, America watched as Bill and Pat Loud's 20-year marriage crumbled, their son Lance came out of the closet and their four other children sloshed through the turmoil. While compelling TV, the show was also a cautionary tale that left people pondering the extent to which the cameras had aided and abetted in the family's implosion.

Nobody took another run at reality-based programming until 1991, when MTV scored a hit with "The Real World," which took seven young strangers and stuck them in a New York loft for three months. Now in its ninth season, "The Real World" is the flagship show for Bunim/Murray Productions <www.bunim-murray.com>, which for MTV also produces "Road Rules" (strangers on a road trip), and for ABC "Making the Band," (strangers in a rock group). Their latest project is "Singles Cruise" for Fox, in which 16 strangers ages 22-34 will go on a sea cruise for "a series of revolving match-up dates and sexy games" in pursuit of "true love and a fantastic grand prize."

Created by a Dutch production company, Endemol Entertainment <www.endemol.com>, the latest hit reality shows, "Big Brother" and "Survivor," are both on CBS <cbs.com>, which hasn't had so many pre-Geritol viewers since The Beatles were on "Ed Sullivan. Giddy with the popularity of reality TV, the network is airing "Big Brother" six nights a week.

But the real show is the Webcast. While the TV programs are mostly tepid edited replays, the Webcast provides free, live, uninterrupted, commercial-free streaming video feeds of the contestants, 24/7, in all their mundane glory, from flossing to flirting. The quality of the audio and video is poor, and "Big Brother" makes sure we don't get to see the really good stuff. But it is still a voyeur's paradise.

At this writing, the house guests have been isolated for a little over a month. Of the 10 original contestants, William the black guy and Jordan the stripper have been evicted. That leaves George, the affable roofing contractor; Eddie, the streetwise gimp; Curtis, the cautious Asian attorney; Josh, the boy toy; Cassandra, the black diplomat; Karen, the neurotic mom; Jamie, the beauty queen; and Brittany, the 25-year-old virgin with pink hair and nose ring.

A virtual "Gilligan's Island" of house guests, and about as interesting were it not for Brittany. As the others try to think about anything except sex and endure the monotony with civility, sing-alongs, card games, chores or gossip,  Brittany just wants to have fun. With her sexy eyes, Betty Boop voice and affectionate nature she teases her housemates (and viewers) to distraction. Few of her sexcapades ever make it on TV, of course. But online she's turned the women's bunk beds into one big "love bed," the pool float into a "love raft," and she's used Curtis like a fluffer for Josh, whom she cuddled with, then voted to have banished. 

Now, as Brittany is the first to point out, she is a virgin, at least in some Clintonian sense, and grew up in a very touchy-feely family. So for her, cuddling is like this totally innocent thing, you know? And anyone else in the house, or watching on the Internet, who becomes the least bit sexually aroused if she happens to plop over somebody's lap and wave her fanny in the air is just, like, a perv, you know...

Hello, my name is HB and I am a perv...

As I've discovered from my support group, I mean chat room, either some people are still in denial or not everyone is as obsessed with Brittany. Although her popularity in a poll at the official Big Brother Web site, BigBrother2000.com, has been 10 times that of the other contestants. Whether or not Brittany is doing for Webcasting what Monica Lewinsky did for cable news, I've met a lot of people in the chat rooms who say they'd never have bothered to figure out how to view streaming video, use instant message software or even sign up for America Online until hooked by the "Big Brother" Webcast.


Webcast like crack to cocaine
by H.B. Koplowitz

Most reality-based TV shows have Web sites, but "Big Brother" is the only one with a live Webcast of the contestants all day everyday. Compared to the edited snippets shown at other sites, or even on the TV shows themselves, the raw unedited "Big Brother" Webcast is like crack to cocaine.

In "Big Brother," 10 volunteer contestants have been confined for three months to a house in LA honeycombed with one-way mirrors and video cameras. Before coming to America, the show was a national obsession in Holland and Germany. But the real phenomenon is the Webcast, which lets you peep on the contestants live, 24 hours a day. The site lets you choose between four different cameras, so if the conversation gets boring in the back yard -- and it does get boring -- you can switch to the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or den, wherever the action is.

To view the Webcast you need a decent computer with a decent Internet connection (America Online or any other Internet provider) and Realplayer streaming video software, a free version of which can be downloaded in minutes from Realnetworks.com. To join the Big Brother chat room/support group, you need AIM, which is America Online's free instant messaging software, downloadable at AOL.com.

Finally, to gain access to the videos and chat rooms, you need a Web browser like Netscape, Internet Explorer, or the one built into AOL to take you to a Big Brother Web site. The official Web site, BigBrother2000.com (AOL keyword: Big Brother), has daily updates on the show and the contestants, along with access to the video feeds and chat rooms.

Fans have created unofficial portals that sometimes have more reliable links to the chat rooms and video feeds, including a four-in-one view for hardcore voyeurs that allows you to monitor four rooms of the house at one time. Unofficial Web sites include "The Big Brother Fan Club" <www.bigbrotherfanclub.com>, "The Big Brother Compendium" <www.ponzu.net/bigbrother> and "Big Brother 2000 Chat Transcripts" <www.sitemouse.com/users/bigbrother>. A list of other Web sites about "Big Brother" or other reality TV shows in the US and Europe can be found at "Big Brother Top 50 Rankings" <bigbrothertop50.com/d/rank1.htm>.

But why am I telling you this? Don't go there. And please, America, I'm begging you, vote to banish Brittany. It's the only way to put me out of my ecstasy.
 

copyright 2000 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.


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Big Brother 2000
Chat Rooms
Install AIM software, then click on a room. If 1 doesn't work, try 2. If none work, keep trying anyway.
| Room 0 | Room 1 | Room 2 | Room 3 | Room 4 | Room 5 | Room 6 | Room 7 | Room 8 | Room 9 | Room 10


Big Brother 2000
Live Video Feeds
Install RealPlayer software, then click on a Cam. If your computer crashes, reboot and try again. If it still doesn't work, keep fiddling.
Modem Links 
Cam 1  |  Cam 3
Cam 2  |  Cam 4
Cam 7- four feeds in one 
Cam 5- control room
Cam 6- chicken cam


Broad Band Links (don't use with 56k modem or lower)
Cam 1 | Cam 3
Cam 2 | Cam 4
Cam 7- four in one screen
Cam 5 - control room
Cam 6 - chicken cam