Big Brother executive producer Arnold Shapiro is pushing the titillating potential of the reality show sequel's uninhibited cast while downplaying the sexual chemistry likely to spark ratings.
A ratings boost is certainly a paramount concern for CBS since its first rendering of the Endemol concept series was TV's first reality bomb. In a Tuesday teleconference about the show's July 5 debut, Shapiro said he's assembled a cast of highly competitive, racially diverse, opinionated and "delightfully quirky" people in their 20s and 30s and 40s. They are six men and six women, caucasian, African American and other (to be revealed). And while he also downplays considerations about their physical appeal, he says Big Brother wanted a "sparkling and scintillating" group. And he makes it clear this Big Brother will test the limits of good taste with "blur machines" at the ready: "We're not setting out to make some kid of x-rated Big Brother. We will go as far as we can go and no farther."
But Shapiro sought to draw a distinction between Big Brother and Temptation Island, in which committed couples are put in situations to encourage cheating on their mates. Shapiro said no one's being encouraged to be sexually active in the Big Brother house, but also said he won't be "surprised" if sex and nudity are part of the scene.
This time around, the contestants - not the audience -will vote to kick each other out of the house as they vie to survive for the million dollar prize. They were screened by two psychologists and background checks were conducted to detect violent behavior or criminal records, according to Shapiro. Violence is the ultimate taboo in the rulebook drafted for the cast, which will be sequestered sometime next week. Their identities will be revealed on Friday.
- Richard Tedesco