When it hit our television screens in 2000, Big Brother was arguably one of the most scandalous reality TV series our country had ever seen (if you can think of anything more scandalous, let me know).
Fourteen strangers locked in a house with cameras monitoring their every move was not only a first for Australia but it led to some of the most intriguing and game-changing scandals in mainstream media.
From Merlin’s “save the refugees” plight to the “turkey slapping” incident in 2006, live TV had never been more eye-popping.
We take a look back at some of the biggest scandals to come out of the series in anticipation for the brand new season. It’s no surprise Channel 7 have made the decision to pre-record the show moving forward…
Merlin’s Political Protest (2004)
On Sunday, June 13, 2004, Merlin Luck was evicted from the Big Brother house.
After 43 days, he walked on to the Big Brother stage with a strip of black tape on his mouth, holding up a sign on some cloth that said: “Free the refugees”.
As host Gretel Killeen attempted to talk to him, Luck sat silently starring out to the audiences with his sign in place, refusing to take part in the post-eviction interview.
When producers realised he was not going to talk, he was taken off the stage leaving Killeen, the audience and fans in utter shock.
Back in 2016, Luck spoke to Junkee about the move saying it was “about disrupting that mainstream media phenomenon to deliver a message”.
His intention was to “make people question the whole concept of reality TV — and question what’s really important.”
According to Luck, the protest had been planned to make “a statement that putting 14 people in a mansion and plying them with alcohol isn’t reality”.
Job done. Luck’s silent protest was one of the most unexpected and shocking things to ever happen on live television in Australia.
WATCH NEXT: Merlin’s eviction protest – Big Brother Australia. Story continues…
The Turkey Slap (2006)
In 2006, an incident involving housemates Michael “John” Bric, Michael “Ashley” Cox and Camilla Severi changed the course of late-night television history in Australia.
Bric held down fellow contestant Severi, while Cox pulled down his pants and “slapped” her with his penis.
At the time, Big Brother Up Late was a popular spin-off, showing candid scenes that couldn’t be shown on prime-time television, however, after the “turkey slapping” incident, it was taken off the air for good.
While both Bric and Cox were removed from the house within 24 hours, the incident had a long-lasting effect on the reality TV landscape and even brought in stricter alcohol policy for all reality shows.
In an interview with The Guardian, Yana Groves, who has worked in the reality TV space for nearly 20 years, said that the infamous incident was a “huge lesson for the industry”.
“It was pretty scary,” she says. “It was something that happened so unexpectedly that I think it rocked the reality world. The producers did everything they could in that situation – to do the right thing and take the right steps.”
After the occurrence, the footage was handed over to Queensland police, however, Severi declined the offer to press charges.
The footage never made it to the series, however, due to the 24-hour live stream of the house online, the story blew up and even the prime minister at the time, John Howard, weighed in.
“I think it is just a question of good taste,” Mr Howard told Macquarie Radio during an interview. “I don’t like heavy-handed regulation. The business community is always saying to me: ‘Let us self-regulate.’
“Well here’s a great opportunity for Channel Ten to do a bit of self-regulation and get this stupid program off the air.”
That same day, the network responded by airing a sit-down interview hosted by Gretel Killeen, talking to the two men in the studio and Severi in the diary room.
She said that it was “just mucking around” and that it happened “in fun” and that she wasn’t “offended”.
I did think they took it a little bit too far,” she said. “But we laughed it off, and as soon as I said ‘enough’s enough’ it stopped,” she said.
The two men expressed their regret and apologised, however, Bric said that it had “been blown way out of proportion” by the media.
Belinda’s Murder Confession (2003)
In 2003, a very drunk Belinda Thorpe confessed a shocking secret, causing her to become the very first housemate to voluntarily leave the Big Brother house.
During an alcohol-infused evening, Thorpe revealed that her sister had been involved in the murder of a homosexual man a year prior.
At the time of the scandal, Thorpe’s sister was 18 and was serving a prison sentence for the murder which she committed earlier.
Thorpe told only Carlo Melino and Daniel “Saxon” Small, which came as a huge shock to them both, particularly because Melino has a gay brother.
“That could have been MY [Beep] brother!”, he said at the time.