Alex Mavroidakis - Australia’s Big Brother
After a four year hiatus, reality tv show Big Brother is back for 2012, with Alex Mavroidakis in the top job
Alex Mavroidakis knows everything about reality television. Having worked on shows like The Amazing Race, The Apprentice, and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here, it's his work in Australia on Big Brother that has really cemented his place as a main player in the show. And now - after a four year break from Australian tv - Big Brother is back on Channel Nine, with Alex as executive producer.
Alex grew up in England's Southampton to an English mother and Greek father. He was lucky enough to know from an early age that all he wanted to do was television. After sending three letters to the local station in Southampton, Alex got his first gig as a runner and says his coffee making and sandwich ordering skills were so good, he got a chance to work his way up to producer of BBC1 show City Hospital. On the show, he met fellow colleague Chris who would call him one day in the future and provide an answer to getting out of the grim and grey UK.
"I remember getting a call on my mobile when I was in London and it was raining and I was sitting outside the morgue working on the hospital show and it was Chris asking if I wanted to work on Temptation Island with him in Fiji… I thought about it for a whole two seconds before I said, "yep!"
The show would represent many things to Alex. Firstly, he was exposed to the world of reality television, and secondly, he met his wife to be. Fast forward to 2012, Alex is a happily married father of two, and is an Australian citizen.
But apart from his wife and children, something else has consumed his 11 year life in Australia and that is the biggest reality television show in the world - Big Brother. In 2002, Alex took the job as producer and has since worked through the ranks and managed to get to the executive producer role. This is his eighth season working on Big Brother and he confesses that "there really isn't a lot about Big Brother that [he doesn't] know".
He has worked in the control room where they choose what stories are aired, on the challenges. He has also been in charge of Friday Night Live - the live game show - and was the series producer in the last aired season. And now in 2012, he finds himself in the top job.
As the executive producer, Alex is simply responsible for everything. Since November last year, he started working on the design of the house - picking rooms, the look and feel and creating a house from scratch alongside a production designer. Then there was picking the 300 crew members to work alongside him to create the beast that is Big Brother. Then, the important thing - choosing the housemates.
"If you get the cast right nothing else matters," says Alex of the hit show.
"You think about people like Chrissie Swan and Reggie and Sara-Marie and Fitzy (Ryan Fitzgerald) and all these kind of heroic people that have come out of Big Brother, they are always the star of the show," he says matter-of-factly adding it's never a task, a twist, a piece of music or furniture, it's always the housemates.
Alex has spent months and months travelling around Australia visiting the 200,000 people who have put their hand up to be part of this televised social experiment. From that huge number, he whittled it down to just the 12-16 housemates for the series.
"The housemates that excel are the ones that enter the house with no agenda," he says when trying to find the right people. "If you go in there with an agenda to be famous, to be controversial, to be funny - Australian's are smart enough to see through."
After the housemates were chosen, it was time to work on the creation of the show - from what nights and times they were going to screen certain shows, to the ideas and content of the show to the tasks for the housemates. But unlike other years - and what Alex believes to be one of the reasons for the shows demise - they are steering clear of too many twists and turns and returning to the psychological and social experiment that makes Big Brother one of the most watched of all reality television shows today.
Big Brother is a reality tv show that sees a group of people living together in a large house completely isolated by the outside world. They are continuously watched and filmed by television cameras that air in a series of shows. Each housemate has to survive weekly evictions until there is one left standing who wins the cash prize. Big Brother was first aired in the Netherlands in 1997 and the format has become a worldwide television franchise airing in many countries worldwide, including Greece.
But what has made Big Brother such a global success for so many years?
"It's about real people," says Alex simply. "You don't have to cook, to sing, to be a supermodel or be able to renovate - you just have to be yourself."
Alex adds that Big Brother is as real as reality tv gets. There is never a time where the producers of the show has ever stage managed housemates, asked them to say things, or told them where to stand. He says its "pure voyeurism".
"Big brother is a soap opera," he says. Viewers invest not only their emotions but a heck of a lot of time when you think about the amount of shows one season of Big Brother spawns.
And this year is no different. The executive producer says they are going to stick to the original global format but with "less involvement" by the crew behind the scenes.
"Towards the end of its past life - as it was on for eight years - you really have to try and keep people interested and we were guilty of throwing too many twists and tricks," he says adding that the previous housemates had become complacent and sat back waiting for the next task thrown at them from Big Brother. This season he says the housemates themselves will be the ones to create the show. It's watching what they do next without any prompts from the show that can be so fascinating.
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