Big Brother host Julie Chen is admitting that she wasn’t at the top of her game when the CBS reality show debuted 20 years ago.
In a new interview, Julie said that after anchoring CBS This Morning and The Early Show, the thought of hosting a reality TV competition had her feeling “nervous and scared,” but also “excited.” Unfortunately, the archaic first season of Big Brother couldn’t hold a candle to Survivor, which had debuted to massive ratings earlier that summer.
Julie told Yahoo Entertainment that after Big Brother premiered on July 5, 2000, she remembered reading all of the “terrible,” “negative” reviews about her show.
“They were mean,” she said of her critics. “And I remember feeling like I got like punched in the gut.”
Julie noted that critics didn’t like the show, didn’t like the houseguests, didn’t like the furniture in the house, and worst of all didn’t like her.
“To be honest, I wasn’t good,” the Big Brother host admitted. “I didn’t feel comfortable, like, it showed. I didn’t own it. I didn’t know how to be.”
One of Julie’s biggest critics was 60 Minutes veteran Andy Rooney, who famously called her participation in the CBS reality show “a further deterioration of news standards.”
Julie told Larry King, via YouTube, that Rooney’s comments about her “really stung” because he was from the same network. Chen had once hoped to get a role on the long-running CBS news program but knew once she agreed to host Big Brother that she’d lost her chance at working on 60 Minutes forever.
Longtime viewers know that the first season of Big Brother had no Head of Household or Power of Veto competitions so it was a lot of just watching the contestants hang out for three months. In the Yahoo interview, Julie denounced the “filler” that was incorporated into the first season of the show, such as her chats with specialists like Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Julie said the Dr. Drew segments felt “overproduced” and 20 years later she questioned why they were trying to examine the psychology of the Big Brother houseguests in such a serious way.
“That stuff kind of feels like, I can’t believe we put that out,” the Big Brother host said.
As for Big Brother’s annual snub at the Emmy Awards – in 20 years, the show has never scored even one nod, while Survivor was nominated in Primetime Emmy categories consistently from 2001-2017 – Julie admitted her show has also been the network’s “bastard child,” but that she’s grateful that it keeps getting renewed.
Julie recently revealed that she was forced to take the Big Brother hosting job after she initially turned it down. The former CBS Early Show newsreader was told if she didn’t take the Big Brother gig it could still be assigned to her, and if she refused it would be considered “insubordination.”