Big Brother debuted 10 years ago tonight

A decade ago tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Big Brother debuted on CBS, instantly taking network reality TV in a new direction.

It was a Wednesday evening, and Survivor served as its lead-in. Everything that series introduced–cinematic production values, rich characters, an engaging host–Big Brother ignored, setting its game in a series of trailers (really) in a parking lot (I’m not making this up) that formed a stripped-down, hideously decorated house that hosted lame challenges guided by a wooden host who presided over an ill-conceived game that left viewers to vote out the interesting people for being controversial. And don’t even get me started on the porn-like theme song, the fake crowds, quickly dumped co-host Ian O’Malley, AOL expert Regina Lewis, Dr. Drew, and casts of people who belong in padded rooms, not a fake house.

Did I mention it was also pretty addicting? The show stumbled hard in its first season but did earn a cult following, although not until after its producers changed for the second season did it find a better format (which is still ill-conceived, as far as I’m concerned, considering the disproportionate number of assholes who’ve won) and find its footing. The real genius was having the show stream 24/7 online, where obsessive fans can watch the houseguests do everything from sleep to have unprotected sex. Because it unfolds live, it’s like watching a real-time soap opera, and that adds to the thrill, even if that means the editors can’t craft complex narratives and really develop characters because they have no idea what’s going to happen.

And really, that’s why I keep watching: Sometimes, what happens makes me hyperventilate and pee my pants, and sometimes it makes me blind with rage. What will this season bring? We’ll know in three days.

In the meantime, TV Tattle found and linked to the entire first episode on YouTube video; this is the first, almost unbelievable 10 minutes. How did this even make it to television?

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.