The HouseGuests compete for the chance to win a $500,000 grand prize by avoiding weekly eviction, the last HouseGuest remaining at the end of the season wins the $500,000 grand prize. The American series is hosted by television personality, Julie Chen. Produced by Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan, it currently airs in the United States and Canada on CBS and Global respectively.
The announcer played an active role in the first season introducing every scene, but with the major changes to the program after the initial season, the announcer was relegated to the opening and closing of each episode. There have been several different announcers throughout the years. Past announcers include Dave Walsh (season one and episode 2 of season two), Chuck Riley (season two), and Phil Proctor (seasons 3-6 ). The current announcer is Clayton Halsey and has been the announcer since season seven.
Beginning with the second season the HouseGuests compete to become Head of Household or HoH. The Head of Household is responsible for nominating two HouseGuests for eviction. During the Live Eviction show, HouseGuests individually go into the Diary Room and cast their vote to evict. Julie then reveals the results of the vote to the House, and tells the evicted houseguest has only a few moments to leave the house. In the event of a tie a HOH breaks it. When two HouseGuests were left, the evicted HouseGuests voted for the winner and in the event of a tie the public would have broken the tie.
During season three a new power was introduced called the Power of Veto (PoV). The Power of Veto winner can choose to veto one of the Head of Household's initial nominations. The winner is also protected from becoming a replacement nominee for the week. Originally, the Power of Veto was silver and if a nominee won the Power of Veto the nominee could not save themselves. The "Golden" Power of Veto, introduced in the last veto competition in season three, could be won by a nominee and used to save themselves. The Golden Power of Veto is now the standard veto since season four.
The fourth season introduced the Big Brother Jury, sometimes referred to as the "Jury of Seven". The Jury is made up of the final seven evicted HouseGuests. As each member of the Jury is evicted from the House they are sequestered in a separate house. The jury members are not allowed to watch the show except for segments which include all of the HouseGuests, for example the nominations and Power of Veto ceremonies. The jury members are not shown any Diary Room interviews or any footage involving strategy or twists to the game. The Big Brother Jury votes to determine the winner of Big Brother each season.
Beginning with the second season Julie presents the live show in an empty studio overlooking the house. Highlights are shown during the live show, then one (or two in the couple's edition) HouseGuest is evicted and briefly interviewed by Julie. Then, the Head of Household competition is held. For the most part quizzes are held to determine the next Head of Household due to the show's running time. Some Head of Household competitions do not finish during the live show and are broadcast on the live Internet feeds with the results and highlights of the Head of Household competition broadcast on the next episode. Starting with the tenth season the live show will feature a studio audience during the live eviction shows.
The popularity of House Calls has spawned other Internet talk shows, including Survivor Live for Survivor, Finish Line and Elimination Station for The Amazing Race, Talk Model for America's Next Top Model, and various Aftershows on MTV Overdrive for MTV programming.
The HoH receives perks such as their own private bedroom, photos or gifts from home, and maid service. The HoH also nominates two HouseGuests for eviction. If one of the nominees is removed via the Power of Veto, the HoH will name a replacement nominee. The HoH reigns until the next eviction in which he or she may not vote except to break a tie. The HouseGuest may not participate in the following HoH competition unless only three HouseGuests are remaining.
The final HoH competition occurs when only three HouseGuests remain. The competition is held in three parts. For the first stage, the HouseGuests compete in an endurance contest requiring the HouseGuests to hang on to their keys in the face of some unusual circumstance. The second stage is commonly a game of skill between the losers of the previous stage. The winners of first and second stage face off in a quiz where the participants must guess what departed HouseGuests thought. The winner of the third stage becomes the last HoH while the two other HouseGuests are automatically nominated. As none of the trio are eligible to vote, the last HoH breaks the 0-0 tie and chooses who to evict.
Although normally one HouseGuest normally retains the Head of Household rewards and responsibilities for the week, exceptions have occurred. In a "double eviction" week, the first HoH only reigns for a short period (between an hour and three days) while the second HoH reigns for the rest of the week. When this occurs, the first HoH is normally not provided the benefits such as use of the HoH bedroom. Another exception is when two HouseGuests were co-Heads of Household the first week of Big Brother: All-Stars. The co-HoHs had to agree on two nominees or else become the nominees themselves and lose their HoH privileges. The winner of the Power of Veto competition would break a tie on the eviction vote if it had occurred that week.
The HoH has been adopted by some other countries with different rules, including the Australian version and the United Kingdom version.
During seasons two through six, the food restriction was a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk, water, and condiments. Starting in All Stars, the sandwiches were replaced with "Big Brother Slop". The slop looks like oatmeal and has essential nutrients, but it is not appetizing. The HouseGuests can win "passes" to escape food restriction once. The passes are transferable until used or its holder is evicted, so trading the pass became a tool in strategy.
When all HouseGuests compete as one group, the competition changes slightly. The competition is not for all food or food restriction for the whole week. Instead, the HouseGuests may compete to earn different food groups. Alternatively, the HouseGuests may compete to earn the full food diet for each day of the week.
To date, HouseGuest Jen Johnson of Season 8 is the first house guest to defy the slop rules, eating a turkey burger, cottage cheese, and an apple. By doing so she originally received a penalty nomination for the following week but this was later replaced with a penalty eviction vote during Week 7 due to the original punishment being found unfair to the week's other nominee Jameka Cameron. This is the first penalty in Big Brother U.S. history.
|AC Wins||Season||What Won|
|Janelle Pierzina||5||6/7||Phone call home, Set visit to Two and a Half Men, Entry into BB All Stars House, Big Brother Prom Queen, $25,000 Jury Prize|
|Robert Roman||3||4||Letter from home, Phone call home, Internet chat with fans|
|Kaysar Ridha||2||6/7||Re-entry into BB6 house, Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Danielle Reyes||1||3/7||Video from home|
|Will Kirby||1||2/7||Internet chat with fans|
|1||3/7||Private dinner date|
|Bunky Miller||1||2||Letter from home|
|Hardy Hill||1||2||Phone call home|
|Krista Stegall||1||2||Birthday Dinner Date|
|Jason Guy||1||3||Letter from home|
|Lisa Donahue||1||3||Internet chat with fans|
|Marvin Latimer||1||5||Walk on role in The Young and the Restless|
|Michael Ellis||1||5||Phone call home|
|Diane Henry||1||5/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Erika Landin||1||4/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Nakomis Dedmon||1||5/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Howie Gordon||1||6/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|James Rhine||1||6/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Jase Wirey||1||5/7||Entry into BB All Stars House|
|Alex Coladonato||1||9||Re-entry into BB9 House - (not chosen by HouseGuests)|
|James Zinkand||1||9||$25,000 Jury Prize|
|Dan Gheesling||1||10||Chance to become America's Player- $20,000 if accepted,|
|Jerry MacDonald||1||10||Phone call home|
|Keesha Smith||1||10||$25,000 Jury Prize|
HouseGuest Justin Sebik was expelled on Day 10 for breaking Big Brother rules. Justin threatened his fellow HouseGuests with physical violence and intimidation, a violation of one of the most serious House rules.
Julie Chen, host of Big Brother, explained that Justin was given an official warning that such behavior was not appropriate in the Big Brother house. Justin repeated the warning, proving that he understood the rule. His behavior included destruction of house property, culminating in a final incident during which he and Krista were kissing on the kitchen table. He picked up a metal carpet sweeper and asked her, "Would you get mad if I cracked you over the head with this?" He swung the carpet sweeper towards Krista but put it down and kissed her. He walked away from her in the kitchen and asked, "Would you get mad if I killed you?" He then picked up a large knife, returned to Krista and, while they kissed, placed the knife against her throat. He briefly took the knife away from her throat but, with Krista's encouragement, returned the knife to her throat and they begun kissing again. As the kiss ended he put the knife down.
After a confrontation with the show's psychologist, it was decided that Justin would be expelled from the Big Brother house. Krista Stegall later sued CBS over the incident.
HouseGuest Scott Weintraub was expelled on Day 8 after having a violent outburst in the house, related to the season twist, X-Factor. Scott tossed furniture around the House, delivered an expletive-laden rant, and refused to go to the Diary Room when called. He later apologized to his fellow HouseGuests who were uncomfortable with his actions in the house. Once Scott went to the Diary Room he was removed from the house and expelled.
HouseGuests Eric Littman and Michael Donnellan got into a confrontation regarding comments Michael made about Eric's family. Earlier in the evening, Rachel who was eavesdropping on Janelle and Michael in the Gold Room overheard Michael make a poor joke about Eric's grandparents to Janelle. Rachel told Eric that she heard them badmouthing his family. Later that night Eric and Ivette were outside discussing the incident when Michael went outside. Eric provoked Michael who retorted, calling Eric "a midget with a small penis." Eric lost all control going after Michael. The other HouseGuests blocked Eric's attack at Michael. Big Brother intervened, telling Eric to leave the backyard and go to the Diary Room, and telling Michael to go to the storage room. Shortly afterwards, Ivette attacked Kaysar's beliefs and made racial remarks. Big Brother intervened again giving warnings to all HouseGuests. Eric apologized to his fellow HouseGuests, saying he would never hurt anyone.
HouseGuest Richard "Evel Dick" came under some controversy for his loud abusive behavior towards female HouseGuests; especially Jen. This culminated in an event in which Dick poured iced tea on Jen's head while she was engaged in an argument with HouseGuests Nick and Dick's daughter Daniele. This led some fans and the National Organization for Women to call for his expulsion from the house. He never was.
Another HouseGuest, Amber, who has admitted to a previous addiction to meth, garnered national attention after making what were considered anti-Semitic statements. Hollywood news conglomeration Defamer criticized Amber's sentiments. Notably, aggregate TMZ reported about Amber's remarks, especially those about being able to recognize a Jew by the size of their nose or their last name. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League told the website:
"It's offensive. It's part of the unintended consequences of the communications revolution. Anybody can say what they do - but reality shows are now giving license to these expressions of anti-Semitism. Now, all of a sudden, the world is privy to their bigotry and it's on national television... then enhanced on YouTube. What they've done is distributed anti-Semitism -- which started as a private conversation -- and by putting it on a reality TV show broadcast it to the world at large. I want CBS to understand they are facilitating anti-Semitism. They should act responsibly to the community; they are legitimizing bigoted conversation."This impelled CBS to release a statement about the controversy:
"BIG BROTHER is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 - and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Amber Siyavus on the live Internet feed to be offensive and they will not be part of any future broadcast on the CBS Television Network. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on BIG BROTHER 8, either on any live feed from the House or the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program."
The Associated Press will decline to interview Amber and Jameka if they are members of the Jury, due to the fact that they are not allowed to ask both contestants about Amber's comments. A CBS spokesperson reported that asking Amber or Jameka about Amber's comments could influence the jury voters and affect the integrity of the game.
On Day 52 Jen, who was named as a replacement nominee for Amber, packed and scattered her belongings through the House, destroyed and bleached Dick's cigarettes. Big Brother later informed Dick they would replace the cigarettes. Jen began to cook food while on a slop restriction Later that night, Jen went outside and ate food while on slop. Big Brother told Jen she would receive a penalty nomination, she must be a nominee for the entire week and cannot win HoH or Veto for Week 8 if she survived Week 7. This was found unfair to Jameka, the other Week 7 nominee, and the penalty nomination was removed. Jen would instead receive a penalty eviction vote for Week 7 plus any votes cast against her by her fellow HouseGuests.
Later, Dick lit a cigarette and blew smoke in Jen's direction while she was eating. Jen asked for Dick to stop, but he did not. Jen then reached to get the cigarette from Dick several times and was burned by the cigarette. Jen began to yell that Dick burned her on purpose. This incident ended with Dick yelling at Jen: “Go home, just go home.” Jameka pulled Jen away from the confrontation and to the bathroom. Neither Jen or Dick were expelled from the House and Jen was evicted on Day 55. Jen said to the Associated Press: "I definitely think he should have been kicked out, but obviously he was definitely entertainment for the show, so that's why he was not."
Due to the controversy surrounding offensive remarks and controversial behavior made by several HouseGuests, this season CBS did not allow the media or even companion show House Calls: The Big Brother Talk Show to interview evicted HouseGuests who are a part of the jury of seven to vote for the winner of Big Brother 8 beginning with Amber. They were allowed to interview the HouseGuests after Big Brother 8 was over.
HouseGuest Adam Jasinski made disparaging remarks during the first episode of the season, causing Autism United to demand an apology from CBS. During the first Wednesday episode, after the Power Couple Competition, Adam stated he worked for an autism foundation and would spend his winnings on a hair salon for people with developmental disabilities "so retards can get it together and get their hair done." His partner in the House, Sheila, told him not to "call them that," to which he said he "can call them whatever I want" because he "work[s] with them all day." In a letter obtained by TMZ from John Gilmore, Executive Director of Autism United to Sumner Redstone, Chairman of CBS Corporation, Gilmore demanded action be taken after the Wednesday episode. Gilmore claimed that the network chose to air the segment for "their own personal goals." The organization also called for the show to be canceled and the organization has contacted advertisers over the issue. Due to the controversy, Lowe's has decided not to advertise during future Big Brother episodes, but it was unclear whether or not they were currently advertising during the program. Autism United has also contacted other advertisers, such as Campbell's Soup, Claritin, Geico, McDonald's and Taco Bell. Autism United and various parents in South Florida are calling for an investigation into Adam Jasinski and the United Autism Foundation. The organization claims to be a 501 c3 charity (deductions made to the organization would be considered tax deductible under current IRS regulations.) The website for United Autism Foundation has an apology regarding Adam's behavior and states he will no longer be working for the company.
On Day 31, Matt used the word "nigga" when referring to another (white) HouseGuest. The incident in question was aired on both the live Internet feeds and the spin-off show Big Brother: After Dark on Showtime 2.
On Day 70, there was a controversial Head of Household competition. In the competition, Adam, Sharon and Ryan were read a series of seven statements relating to events in the game. The HouseGuests were to determine if each statement was "fact" by stepping forward or "fiction" by stepping backward. Each HouseGuest had their own section, so they could not see the answers of other HouseGuests. Many fans of the show, including House Calls co-host Evel Dick, were displeased with the final "fact or fiction" statement. The controversial statement -- "Everybody knows that Jacob/Sharon and Ryan/Jen were two pre-existing relationships in the Big Brother house, but there is a third pre-existing relationship still in the house" -- was considered "fact" due to the guinea pigs knowing each other prior to entering. Many fans considered this question unfair due to the fact that the guinea pigs are not actual players and just house pets. While many other fans considered the statement not only unfair but deceptive on the part of Big Brother producers as the relationship between guinea pigs is not equivalent or comparable to players of the game. If the question had pertained to only human relationships, Sharon would have become the new Head of Household. Ryan won, however, and Sharon ended up being evicted that week.Big Brother 10 came under fire from critics such as the Parents Television Council for airing the word "fucking" uncensored during the Tuesday, August 5 episode of the show. The event in question was aired during an argument between Libra and Jessie in which Libra said: "Memphis was in the fucking room!".
A 2-disc Highlights set from the fourth season has also been released. With the release of the fourth season highlights, the clips would show un-aired footage, ostensibly racier than what CBS would allow to air.