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'Big Brother' threatens pilot over banner that would reveal 'Player' twist


By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 08/07/2007 

Surprise plot twists are a big part of Big Brother, but producers of the long-running CBS reality series apparently feel they should be the only ones who have a hand in the way the houseguests play the game.

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Last Thursday morning, lawyers representing Big Brother's Endemol USA production company sent a cease and desist letter to a pilot they claimed had been hired to fly a banner that would have informed Big Brother 8's houseguests that Eric Stein, a single 27-year-old talent management assistant from New York, NY, is secretly serving as "America's Player", according to TMZ.com, which obtained a copy of the letter Monday evening.

According to the letter Endemol's lawyers sent Blue Yonder Air pilot Jerry Hider, Hider's banner -- which allegedly would have specifically revealed that, as "America's Player," Eric has been basing his weekly eviction votes on the results on home viewer voting -- would have caused "tortuous interference" with Endemol's "business relationships" and caused the company "to suffer immediate and irreparable injury."  In addition, although neither CBS or Endemol have any exclusive right to the airspace around the Big Brother house, the letter also that claimed "excessive noise pollution" caused by Hider's plane would "interfere" with Big Brother 8's production as a reason to cease and desist the flyover.

The letter -- which also alleged that Hider had been improperly using the Big Brother name on his company's website and demanded he immediately stop doing so -- gave Hider until 1PM that afternoon to "confirm... in writing" that he would "abort" his "plan of action."  If he did not, the law firm planned to begin "seeking immediate injunctive relief."

Hider agreed to Endemol's demands in a letter he emailed the production company's lawyers shortly before the 1PM deadline, however he apparently wasn't happy about doing so.

"If I had a bunch of lawyers, I would fight this, but it's not worth my time," Hider told TMZ.com.

According to Hider, he had no intentions of ruining the game for Stein or anybody else and was just planning to do his job and fly a banner he had been paid to fly.  While he wouldn't say who had paid him to do the deed, Hider told TMZ that up until Thursday's cease and desist letter, he had enjoyed a "symbiotic relationship" with CBS and Endemol that included a special segment in 2001 about banner flying over the house (a common occurrence during Big Brother's first few seasons, after which producers began requiring houseguests leave the backyard whenever any banner planes entered the area).

"It's always great to have fans that are this engaged and passionate about Big Brother," said CBS in a statement to TMZ.com.  "However, we also need to protect the integrity of the competition, which does not allow any outside influence on the houseguests who are sequestered from the public broadcast and therefore unaware of some of the secret twists in the show."

However although Hider's banner never got into the sky on Thursday, another one apparently did.  During Thursday night's fifth Head of Household competition (which, since it was an endurance challenge, ended up airing primarily on Sunday night's Big Brother 8 broadcast), a plane pulling a banner that read, "We (heart) Nick.  Eric and Amber are liars! LNC is the Nerd Herd." flew over the house while the houseguests were stuck outdoors competing in the backyard competition. 

Despite Eric's best efforts to dismiss the banner, its message has apparently already resonated with a few of the houseguests, who insinuated they may be looking to backdoor Eric during this week's eviction.

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