Oh Brother, it's a sad day

BIG Brother's only $1 million winner, Banora Point's Trevor Butler, is saddened but not surprised by the axing of the ratings-challenged Channel 10 reality show.

"I thought it would have had a couple of more years left in it, but I guess the show's time was up," said Mr Butler yesterday after the network's shock announcement on Sunday. "It's a shame that the show has been axed, because being a part of it was a pretty unreal and surreal experience, and now all of the%people out there who wanted to%be on the show won't get to%experience it."

A drop in ratings and a lack of interest generated by celebrity hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O, as well as star intruders including former Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, who was a surprise visitor at Dreamworld's Big Brother compound on the Gold Coast last week, led to the Channel 10 executives and board deciding to scrap the program, now in its eighth year,%after this week's finale when the 2008 winner is announced during next Monday's program.

The decision will leave about 300 staff of production company Edemol Southern Star without work, although it is unknown whether a rival network will pick up the format that sees people locked inside a house and filmed 24 hours a day, with contestants being voted off week-by-week.

Pamela Anderson is rumoured to have been paid $500,000 to be part of the program, but the devout vegetarian and animal rights protestor attracted more headlines for her protest last week at Labrador KFC over the fast-food company's alleged mistreatment of chickens, than for her skimpily-clad appearances on the reality program.

The program attracted an average of 2.8 million viewers when it started in 2001 before reaching a low of an average one million viewers per episode, with the program slipping in the ratings list to fourth for its 7pm week-night timeslot, behind the ABC News.

For Mr Butler, who married his sweetheart Brea and has become a father to nine-month-old Maika, since winning the youth-orientated program in 2003, being the show's biggest prizewinner has provided his family with a level of financial security he could never have dreamed as a storeman working for Super Amart in Tweed Heads South, but that's not the reason he is lamenting the demise of the program that places housemates under 24-hour camera surveillance.

"It was really luck that I won the $1 million because I auditioned in 2002, but didn't get in until 2003, the only year where they have given away that amount of money," Mr Butler said.

"I was one of the lucky 160 or so housemates who got to experience life in the Big Brother house."

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