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Voyeur TV entrances Europeans, entices Americans

Bart and Sabine share a private, tender moment -- for the whole world to see!  

March 30, 2000
Web posted at: 5:06 p.m. EST (2206 GMT)

(CNN) -- When Bart and Sabine fell in love -- and bed -- their unexpected romance couldn't have sparked a better unscripted plot line for viewers ... or ratings for network executives.

One out of three TV sets in Holland tuned in to this love story on "Big Brother," a show that isolates nine strangers in a house wired with 24 cameras and 59 microphones. The house has no clocks, televisions, telephones or other potential external distractions, meaning the strangers get to know each other pretty quickly.

Every three weeks, they pick a housemate to "hit the trail." The audience makes the final decision on its favorite, and the winner takes home the jackpot. In this case, Bart won $118,000.

While participants on the inside had no contact with the outside, those on the outside could see their every move on television or Internet -- even Bart and Sabine's escapades under the blankets.

"It's absurd what's happening," says one woman. "It's like a bunch of animals who are recorded 24 hours a day. It's really mad."

Mad, but strangely tantalizing.

"Big Brother" has now crossed the Dutch border and is traveling fast. The show recently started airing in Germany and is expected to hit the United States this summer on CBS.

The participants have turned into minor celebrities. When she left the house, Sabine says, "everybody recognized me on the street."

It's no surprise that voyeuristic shows are such a hit, says anthropologist Helen Fisher. Humans, she says, develop by watching other people and learning from their mistakes. That why we love to gossip; it's actually part of our survival instinct.

Sabine says she feels more closely watched now then when she was stashed away in the "Big Brother" house  

CBS: 'Flying without a net'

CBS plans to delve deeper into those survival instincts with another show based on the Swedish program "Expedition Robinson." The U.S. version, called "Survivor," is expected to air this summer.

"Sixteen Americans are marooned on a small tropical island in the south China Sea and are left there for 39 days," explains "Survivor's" supervising producer, Mark Burnett.

"On the third day of each three-day cycle, there (will be) a vote. So week by week, one by one, this tribe is shrinking," says Burnett. "And the remaining person man or woman, young or old, gets $1 million and is the best survivor."

Such a show doesn't come without risks. On "Expedition Robinson," two years ago, the first member to be voted out committed suicide a month later. CBS producers say they're taking extra care in doing physical and psychological screenings to avoid a similar occurrence.

Still, Leslie Moonves, the network's president and CEO, admits he's nervous.

"We're flying without a net on this one," he says. "We've never done anything like it. I think it's very exciting, but it's very dangerous at the same time."

CBS wins 'Big Brother' rights
February 3, 2000
'Survivor': Questioning candidates -- and the game
October 21, 1999
Stranded on a desert island -- for ratings
October 8, 1999


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