‘Big Brother’ Winners Say Show Can Go On Without Julie Chen

Sonja FlemmingCBS

Big Brother is not going anywhere — at least according to two of the most memorable winners from the CBS reality franchise.

While CBS employees are reportedly nervous about the future of their shows on the network amid the resignation of longtime president Les Moonves, Big Brother host Julie Chen — the ousted CBS exec’s wife — is in a particularly awkward situation.

But Big Brother winners Dan Gheesling and Dick Donato think the long-running CBS reality show can hold its own, and they tease that Julie Chen is replaceable.

Gheesling, who won the 10th season of Big Brother in 2008, told TMZ that “icon” Julie Chen is an “integral” part of the show — but that if she decides that sticking around CBS isn’t for her, she can be replaced. He caveated the statement slightly by saying that any prospective candidate would have some “big shoes to fill.”

Gheesling did admit a Chenbot-free Big Brother “would never be the same,” but he said he would be surprised if CBS let the show go.

Big Brother season 8 winner “Evel Dick” Donato shared a similar sentiment earlier this week. The Big Brother legend took to Twitter to post that he is confident that there is no chance Big Brother will end — even if Chen leaves.

“I think a lot of you forget that Julie is really a very small part of Big Brother. She’s literally on the show for 10-15 minutes on the Thursday shows only.”

The two-time Big Brother player later added, via Twitter, that if Chen is replaced, he thinks CBS will bring in a relatively unknown person to host the show — just as little known Jeff Probst was hired to helm Survivor in 2000, with Phil Keoghan selected to host The Amazing Race in 2001.

Julie Chen has hosted the U.S. version of Big Brother since its inception in 2000, and has been the moderator on the CBS chatfest The Talk since 2000. While Chen checked out of The Talk for the week after her husband’s alleged sex scandal, she has made it clear she will appear live on Big Brother this Thursday night.

“I am taking a few days off from The Talk to be with my family. I will be back soon and will see you Thursday night on Big Brother,” Chen said in a statement on Monday, per Variety.

Big Brother has not yet been renewed for a 21st season, although a second season of Celebrity Big Brother was ordered by CBS after last winter’s successful run.

You can see Dan Gheesling talking about Julie Chen and Big Brother in the video below.

Big Brother Season 20 airs Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays on CBS. The season finale will air on Wednesday, Sept. 26.