The first US version of “Celebrity Big Brother” was a long time coming, says Julie Chen — who announced the news during Thursday night’s episode of “Big Brother” on CBS.
“We talked about it around Season 2,” says Chen, who’s hosted “Big Brother” since the show’s CBS premiere in July 2000. “So that was like 2001?
It was so early on that I remember someone in the meeting said, ‘We’ve got to get Paris Hilton.’ I think Roseanne Barr was intrigued but then fell out and we ended up not doing it.
“It’s been explored again as recently as a few years ago and the economics just didn’t make sense,” Chen says. “But we found a way and now here we are.”
While “Celebrity Big Brother” is new to CBS, it’s the only version of the show that’s ever aired in the UK, which has opted go with stars (of varying wattage) living (and bickering) in the Big Brother house while being tracked by cameras 24/7.
Ricky Gervais satirized the show in his 2007 HBO series “Extras,” when his character, instant sitcom celebrity Andy Millman, entered the Big Brother house and had an epiphany.
(“Celebrity Big Brother” has aired in the UK on Channel 4, BBC One, Channel 5 and 5Star. It also airs in Croatia, Finland and Australia, among other countries.)
If, as expected, “Celebrity Big Brother” airs on CBS this winter, it could very well go up against NBC’s coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics, traditionally a big ratings-grabber — giving CBS some fresh programming instead of the usual reruns the networks air during Olympics time. “At this point scheduling hasn’t been set,” Chen she says.
“Can you imagine while the Olympics are running the figure skating competition [that] we have our classic ‘Big Brother’ Slip ’n Slide competition with celebrities? Who’s turning away from us? Not me!”
Chen says CBS “is just starting the process” of finding celebrities for the Big Brother house, and jokes about who might be interested. “I’m curious to find out with our announcement [of the show] if casting has been approached yet by anyone,” she says. “I know [‘Tonight Show’ host] Jimmy Fallon is a big fan of the show. If he does do it, I bet we could get [Stephen] Colbert, [James] Corden and [Jimmy] Kimmel. Can you imagine?”
Meanwhile, the current season of “Big Brother 19” is down to Alex, Christmas, Josh, Kevin and Paul (the finale airs Sept. 20). “I’m kind of rooting for Kevin because he barely knows the game and how to play, and that would just go to show [that] anyone can win this game,” Chen says. “We’ve had all types of game-play succeed in the house to win it, but never in this category.”
Chen also says that the new co-host for her daytime show, “The Talk,” will “definitely” be a woman. [Longtime co-host Aisha Tyler left at the end of last season.] “If a man enters the room, the energy changes,” she says. “Women won’t talk about certain things in front of a man and we really want to keep it like a ‘girls trip’ feeling and tone. It’s more funny, bawdy and real that way.”
“My guess is we will be able to name a new co-host by Thanksgiving. End of the year at the latest?”