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<I>Big Brother</I> Debuts

Big Brother may or may not be watching you. But now you can watch Big Brother.

CBS premiered the highly anticipated program Wednesday night.

It features 10 people stuffed inside a specially built house with 28 tiny cameras and 60 hidden microphones to document their every move.

The five men and five women, ranging in age from 21 to 43 years and mostly single, kissed friends goodbye late Tuesday, Independence Day, then entered the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home on a CBS studio lot outside Los Angeles.

A cheering crowd was on hand to greet the ten contestants, some of whose parents were there. “Don’t embarrass us. Think of your poor mother,” warned one.

The contestants will be locked inside the home for 90 days, stripped of most possessions except clothing, and given an allowance of only $5 per day, per person to live -- no TV, no phone, no newspapers, no contact at all from anyone outside the house.

And if their roommates and TV viewers don't like them, they'll get kicked off the show.

Why take part? How about a $500,000 jackpot for the one person remaining on the contests' final day, September 30.

This year, TV game shows and reality programs on which everyday people do odd things, have been big hits with TV fans.

ABC has soared to the top of the United States' TV networks behind game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire in which people answer questions to win $1 million. Since June, CBS's Survivor -- similar to Big Brother but set on a tropical island -- has seen more viewers than Millionaire on some weeknights, making it a breakout success for the network.

John de Mol, who created Big Brother in Holland and adapted it for Germany, Spain and now the United States, said the success of the show lies in watching common people -- not Hollywood stars -- do common things.

‘The 10 people in our house, you can relate to them,” said de Mol. “It's the girl next door; it's the guy in the grocery store. It's ordinary people, and I think that Big Brother proves ordinary people can be interesting.”

But the success of shows like Survivor and overseas, Big Brother, also comes from watching conflict and tension build as the players make decisions affecting others' lives.

The group in Big Brother is asked to make choices about running a household, and they must be unanimous. So, the players are asked to act as a group, yet they are competing individually for the $500,000 jackpot.

The housemates also receive a weekly assignment that costs money to complete, and the group must decide how much of their allowance to put at risk in order to do it. If the task goes uncompleted, they lose the money.

The conflict between group success and personal gain, coupled with the weekly assignments, “trigger a lot of discussion, and irritation, when somebody does not want to do what the rest of the group wants,” said de Mol.

At the end of each bi-weekly period, the group votes one housemate out of their home. Then, when only two members remain, TV audiences vote on who wins the $500,000.

The show’s executive producer, Douglas Ross, says the five men and five women were carefully screened beforehand.

“We want them to be healthy going in and healthy when they come out, and they’ve had to undergo very rigorous medical examinations and psychological examinations and very extensive background checks."

As for what you can expect from the contestants, Brittany says you might notice her right away. “My biggest weakness is that I’m loud. A lot of times my friends are like, ‘I can’t deal with you today. You just have to calm down.’”

And George lays it right on the line. “What you’re going to see is me. You’ll get no more and no less.”