The Golden Cage,” as Big Brother was originally called, was originally hatched by John De Mol, Bart and Paul Romer. The idea had stemmed from a 1991 experiment shot in the Arizona desert: “Biosphere 2.”

In “Biosphere 2,” 8 men and women lived together in an air-tight glass and steel geodesic dome that tried to replicate Earth’s environment.

Orwell’s descendants sued, how about that? The payment was never revealed.

Upon the show’s original announcement, an ethical debate arose. Could such a show be decent and in good taste? What about showering and the toilet? What if participation caused mental damage? (The latter question arose after Sweden’s “Expedition Robinson” show aired: the first contestant voted off actually suicided. His family blamed the public, claiming he felt rejected and unpopular.

Not everyone had a negative opinion, of course. A professor of clinical psychology thought the show could actually produce insights not possible to achieve any more in socio-psychological research because the psychological well-being of the participants had been given greater importance. A psychophysiologist actually said that the show was “a wet dream of a psychological researcher. Nowhere in the world an ethical commission will be found that would agree to such a design,” A. Gaillard of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

In the UK, BB was marketed as a ‘social documentary offering the audience to get ‘pore close’ to the experimental subjects: in the USA, participants have described the show as ‘an experiment in human behavior and strategic planning.” Viewers in one study felt that ‘watching and commenting on Big Brother tells us a lot about ourselves: how we judge people, what our values are in relationships. How we interact with others and how we would handle relationship dilemmas if put in a similar situation.” (History of Participatory Media: Politics and Publics, 1750-2000.)

The Aussies continually stress the experimental nature of the show: I have watched season after season, and heard that sentiment many times. Many USA viewers will agree that the show is indeed a social experiment, evidenced by the ‘live feeds’ on the Internet that only Big Brother provides.