EXCLUSIVE: He is the only person who has worked on every Big Brother series from 2001 – 2013, yet despite his clear loyalty, Mike Goldman was divided over whether to look back on the show for TV Tonight.
“It’s been a love / hate relationship because I’ve been on the edge of hosting big shows but at the last minute execs say ‘You are still too Big Brother, we can’t use you,'” he reveals.
“But I’m not like Melissa George who won’t talk about Home & Away! I love talking about history. At one point I was hosting more Live Television than anyone else in Australia.”
Goldman started out as the voice-over guy for the reality show when it boldly started on TEN. But he would go on to span multiple roles, including audience warm-up, Up Late editions and Friday Night Live.
“The warm-up guy fell through at the last minute and I had done a few shows like Gladiators. They were desperate, so they threw me on and it went really well.”
In the 2000-strong Dreamworld amphitheatre he worked the crowd before Live eliminations hosted by Gretel Killeen.
“It was like doing a one-hour show,” he recalls. “I was getting dressed up, playing songs on the guitar, stand-up, pulling kids out of the crowd for Best Dressed competitions -which became incorporated into the show.”
“We had no idea anybody would be watching”
The first series was a pop culture hit for TEN with original housemates such as Sara-Marie, Blair & Ben proving so popular with viewers, they became pop culture stars. It was Truman Show proportions with housemates staggered by their instant fame.
“They still say ‘We had no idea anybody would be watching. We thought it was the most boring load of crap!’”
Others would follow including a soapie-like romance between Marty & Jess, and gal pals Reggie Bird & Chrissie Swan, notably going up against “Bully Ben” in the true-life storylines.
“They never chose housemates that people would 100% love. In the auditions if everybody loved a housemate they were not automatically in. You were more likely to get in if half the people loved you and half hated you.”
Merlin Luck’s “Free the Refugees” protest became TV history whilst “Farmer” David Graham’s coming out on primetime TV triggered an emotional reaction.
“Farmer Dave was an amazing moment. There were a lot of gay people working on the show and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We were so supportive of him in every way. When you are on a show that big in popular culture, it changes peoples’ lives when you see someone else sharing their feelings and emotions,” Goldman recalls.
Aside from the “dancing doona” moment, did housemates have sex whilst in the BB house?
“I didn’t really see any of it,” Goldman reveals.
“You would be watching the streams late at night at work and someone would pull the sheets off and be entertaining themselves! You would have to look away!
“Yes people had sex, for sure. I can’t remember exactly who.
“And people would sneak into the toilet to have a conversation about who to vote out, thinking they were not on camera.
“There were people trying to skydive into the house, and ice-cream companies trying to drop ice-creams from a helicopter into the pool.”
“Big Brother is not family friendly”
But the most notorious moment, a “turkey slap” by two male housemates thrust upon a female may not have made it to air (seen only by a small audience online) but it ricocheted around the country, all the way to Canberra.
“It was amplified by Seven and Nine on Today Tonight & A Current Affair, who showed it to millions of people. So who is to blame?” he asks.
“John Howard said ‘Get that stupid show off the air.’ That became a reason to watch it! I was always of the mind that any publicity is great publicity. But there were conservative people working on the show who wanted to make it ‘family friendly.’
“Big Brother is not family friendly. If you look at all the other countries around the world, it is played late at night. So when you have people wanting to turn it into a family show at 7:00 … we can do it, but you still have the naughty side.”
The ‘naughty side’ was largely confined to Big Brother Up Late, a free-wheeling, sometimes risqué Live feed hosted by Goldman, with quizzes & viewer calls. Goldman was hosting unscripted, marathon viewing in the late hours of the night.
“I remember speaking to Peter Abbott who was executive producer and voice of BB. I said, ‘Thanks for the opportunity to host Big Brother Up Late‘ and he said ‘What’s Big Brother Up Late?’
“It started with me in a room all alone, with no cameraman, linked to a truck out the back,” he continues.
“They couldn’t film the housemates because they might be talking about people on the outside, or something illegal, or having sex, so they would just cut to me.
“It was so random. The runner would walk in while I was mid-conversation and say ‘Mike do you want some food from the BP?’ and I’m like, ‘No I’m talking on the TV right now!’
“The set caught fire and I ran in and had to stomp it out with my foot, but the director was abusing me to get out of the way, because I could die!”
“I was always in trouble for saying something accidental”
Such was the unpredictability of the show it could also be bedlam behind the scenes.
“The way the publicists would hover around your phone calls back then. They were like the CIA. ‘Don’t say this! Don’t say that!’ I was always in trouble for saying something accidental,” he admits.
“I was hosting BB Up Late and a housemate wanted to leave and I said ‘Let’s cut back to him’ and a producer came storming in yelling, ‘You can’t talk about him, what are you doing?’ What am I supposed to say….?
“I think sometimes people came from other worlds of Television where they could control everything. But on BB they became stressed-out wrecks!”
At one point Nine even called on Goldman to audition for its own late night quiz show.
“I said ‘Do I have to audition, I’m still doing Up Late at the moment and I would have to fly down from Queensland when you can just watch me hosting?’
“And they said ‘That’s a little bit arrogant isn’t it?’” he laughs.
Goldman’s enthusiasm, and audience interaction, led to an envious following from die-hard fans. It followed with Friday Night Live games, alongside former housemates, Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald and Bree Amer.
“Let’s get BB to become a comedy series”
After TEN abandoned Big Brother, Nine revived it for a family-friendly revival for 3 seasons but with Sonia Kruger as host instead of Gretel Killeen (the final TEN season was hosted by Kyle & Jackie O).
“It was sad to see Gretel go because she had such great recognition. If it came back to TEN she would be the perfect host! Sonia was everybody’s pal on set, an incredible talent who love bed working on the show,” he insists.
“Nine lost Two and a Half Men and said ‘Let’s get BB to become a comedy series’ which we did, successfully, until they wanted more fighting and drama. And the timeslot (moved) from 7:00, 8:30, for an hour or half an hour -it was all over the shop.”
Goldman is of the view that the Live feeds and racier content are integral to the brand.
“Now that Nine are doing Love Island that’s pretty much the naughty element of BB. Unless they try and tame it down,” he suggests.
In addition to narrating Meerkat Manor, Goldman’s CV includes corporate work, radio, corporate work, dabbling in acting (Hoges, Robot 4), running the Sanctuary Cove Film Festival and filming docos (Shooting Goldman) with AFTRS students. He will be MC at Commonwealth Games beach volleyball, and narrating new titles for Nat Geo & Discovery.
But while he is hoping another exec will give him another shot at presenting, he is still a big fan of Big Brother.
“I still get messages every day on social media asking when the show is coming back?” he explains.
“People in the industry are in agreeance that there is still nothing like it on Television. In this day and age it’s so much more viable. Facebook wasn’t even around when BB started. Now you can get so much more content when people are hungry for it.”
So are there any whispers of a revival at all?
“Not that I know of. I would be the last person to find out!” he laughs.