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Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Big Brother hits the US
Big Brother CBS
Big Brother's contestants enter their Los Angeles home
European TV sensation Big Brother has made its debut on US TV - two weeks before UK viewers get their own version of the show.

Ten strangers are locked together in a specially-built house on a Los Angeles studio lot with 28 cameras and 60 hidden microphones to follow their every move.

They will stay there for 90 days, with no contact with the outside world and an allowance of $5 (3.31) a day to live on.

Viewers watching on TV and on the internet can vote to kick one out each fortnight, until on the final day, 30 September, the remaining contestant wins $500,000 (331,000).

CBS Big Brother website
Viewers can follow the action on the internet

The show has caused a sensation in the Netherlands, where it first appeared last year. Since then it has captivated German and Spanish viewers, with a British version starting on Channel 4 later this month.

The US contestants range in age from 21 to 43, and range from beauty queen Jamie - who will miss her daily lattes at her Seattle internet company - to Illinois roofer George, who will miss his 23rd wedding anniversary to take part in the experiment.

Also featured are Josh - who is bringing to the house only a pair of work gloves and a box of condoms - and Karen, a mother of four from Indiana who has been married for 22 years. She says she is looking forward to spending some time on her own.

Show creator John De Mol said the success of Big Brother lies in watching normal people do normal things.

"The 10 people in our house, you can relate to them. It's the girl next door, it's the guy in the grocery store," he said.

Davina McCall
Davina McCall will host Channel 4's version

"It's ordinary people, and I think that Big Brother proves ordinary people can be interesting."

The show, hosted by CBS news presenter Julie Chen, is the latest in a line of "people" programmes to get top billing on US television.

ABC had a huge hit with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - a faithful reproduction of the UK original - which sees people answer questions with in the hope of winning $1m (660,000).

CBS has also had success with a similar show to Big Brother - Survivor - which sees 16 strangers fend for themselves on a remote tropical island for a $1m prize.

Channel 4's contestants - who are playing for a 70,000 prize - enter their house in Bow, east London, next week, with TV coverage kicking off on 18 July.

Their identities are being kept a closely-guarded secret.

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Big Brother unleashed by Channel 4
22 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Channel 4's 70,000 Big Brother search
12 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Watching Big Brother
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