This chair has significance as an emblem of the reality television series 'Big Brother'. It has the familiar design that became a feature of 'Big Brother' and was possibly the most recognisable chair in the country in 2004.
'Big Brother' has been one of the most enduring examples of the relatively new genre of 'reality television'. Produced in Australia by Endemol Southern Star and hosted by Gretel Killeen, it has screened on Network TEN each year from 2001. A group of single, young contestants, known as housemates, live for many weeks with no communication with the outside world in a specially built 'Big Brother House' where their lives are filmed around the clock for television. The broadcasts, which usually consist of edited segments, allow viewers to listen in on their private conversations and watch from dozens of hidden cameras. Each week one housemate is evicted by a public vote. At the end of the series the last remaining contestant is declared the winner and receives a cash prize.
The arrival of 'Big Brother' in Australia in 2001 aroused curiosity and criticism, but 2.8 million viewers tuned in to the final eviction --- the year's highest-rating non-sporting event. Other reality shows came and went, but 'Big Brother' became an annual event. More than 2 million viewers watched the first episodes in 2002 and 2003. The fourth series, which commenced on 2 May 2004 and concluded on 26 July, was won by Trevor Butler, with Bree Amer coming second. A controversial moment came during the live eviction of Merlin Luck, who staged a silent political protest by holding a sign saying 'Free the refugees'.
Like game shows, reality television usually places 'ordinary' people in actual situations where the outcome is uncertain and not everything is scripted. Reality-based formats can be observational, or take the form of a competitive challenge or a makeover. Critics of the genre claim it is a misnomer, as the 'reality' is contrived. As with game shows, many reality shows were local productions based on formats developed overseas and re-created for the local market. 'Big Brother' was originally produced in the Netherlands by Endemol.
Production companies found that reality-based formats were less expensive, marketable alternatives to conventional programming. By encouraging the audience to vote, they developed a powerful two-way connection (and another way of making money). As in the days of vaudeville, the audience had a chance to boo people off the stage, evicting participants by phone and SMS rather than with catcalls and hisses. Programs involving a competition or challenge, like 'Survivor', 'Big Brother' and 'The Block', could turn petty conflicts into mythic spectacle. They created popular heroes and pantomime villains, winners and losers, and moments of conflict resolution. They generated a buzz and built to a climax that presented opportunities for 'event programming', with spectacular live broadcasts.