The Netherlands have many export products that the Dutch can be proud of. Unfortunately, there are also some export products that are not deserving of such pride. Big Brother is one of them.

Big Brother was developed by John de Mol and was first aired in the Netherlands in 1999. The concept was rather simple but also rather revolutionary: twelve people volunteered to be locked in a specially built house full of cameras, and they were filmed 24 hours a day. Their activities could be followed 24/7 through the internet, and fragments of the day were shown each night in a television show. To make this all a bit more exciting, viewers could periodically vote for one person to leave the house. The person remaining in the house until the end would win a large prize in cash. The first series of Big Brother led to a lot of speculation about the ethical principles of the program: shouldn't people be protected from themselves if they volunteered for something like that? Wouldn't participation lead to emotional or psychological damage? Wasn't it ethically wrong to even want to look at people locked up in a house all day? Apart from all this hubbub, the first series was quite boring. The contestants were kept busy with growing their own food, chopping wood and stuff like that. Apart from the usual hijinks that ensue when several people are forced to spend lots of time together, nothing much happened. Nevertheless, Big Brother was hugely successful. Famous Dutch people tried to get into the Big Brother house, everybody was talking about it and the critics had a field day speculating about what this said about the mentality of the Dutch.

In later seasons of the show, new features were added. The volunteers had to do weekly tasks. Still, the relationships between the contestants, their conflicts and intimacies remained the main reason for viewers to watch the show. There were some scandals, of course. For example, in Big Brother 3, there was a transsexual contestant named Kelly. Viewers were aware of the fact that she had not always physically been a woman, but the contestant she had sex with on camera didn't... Lots of discussion on whether she should have told him or not. In the latest series of the show in 2005, a new scandal ensued. One of the contestants is a pregnant woman... her due date is in a few weeks, so the birth will most probably happen while she is in the Big Brother house.

Most contestants who have participated in Big Brother have become more or less famous afterwards. They go on to appear on other television shows, record songs and be interviewed about everything and nothing. In short, Big Brother has made it possible to become famous by doing nothing, on camera.

Big Brother has been exported to several other countries and has become popular there as well, as the wu's above prove. Time will tell if this is an export product with the same kind staying power as the others...