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Just 8 of the wildest things that happened on Big Brother Australia.

Gather ’round children, and let me tell you about a time before MAFS and The Bachelor, when reality TV was about more than just strangers pretending to fall in love.

T’was a new millennium. We’d survived Y2K, LeAnn Rimes was at the top of the charts, and a woman named Gretel Killeen and her hairpieces beamed through our cube-shaped TVs on a show called Big Brother.

That formative slice of reality television ran for a whole eight seasons on Channel 10 before being canned in 2008. It was then revived by Channel 9 in 2012 for three more seasons, because, kids, it was just that good.

In the years since, the Big Brother mansion has been left to rot at its Dreamworld home. It now barely stands, a charred relic of its former self, thanks to a bunch of kids who set it on fire last year.

Watch: What to expect for the new season of Big Brother.

Video by Channel 7

A new season is currently being filmed in a fancy new house in Sydney, and will go to air in June with Sonia Kruger at the helm.

Here are eight of the wildest things to happen in the Big Brother house, in no particular order.

1. Merlin’s “free th [sic] refugees” protest.

Merlin Luck‘s protest is still one of the most stunning moments in the short-but-thorny history of Australian reality TV. And not just because it proved some contestants actually have a conscience.

The 2004 housemate used his live, post-eviction interview to draw attention to the asylum seekers imprisoned on Nauru under the Howard government’s strict border-protection policy. His methods were simple. As he wandered down the ramp to the stage, he taped his mouth shut, whipped out a homemade sign and then just… sat there.

Gretel tried to get him to talk. She really did. But he just kept on jiggling his legs and staring straight ahead, which was uncomfortable for everyone. But hey, we still remember it 15 years later. Maybe he should give it another crack.

Video by Channel 10
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2. That time a contestant rubbed his genitals on another contestant and the Prime Minister weighed in but the show still didn’t get cancelled.

Image: Channel 10.

It became known as the 'turkey slap' incident. A grainy piece of night-vision footage from the sixth season captured a male contestant holding down a female contestant, while his mate rubbed his genitals on her face.

The men involved, Michael “John” Bric, 22, and Michael “Ashley” Cox, 20, were kicked off the show, and police investigated. No charges were laid.

But the outrage extended well beyond the realm of commercial television audiences.

Prime Minister John Howard called for the show to be axed. Germaine Greer wrote a column about it. And the Australian Communications and Media Authority was directed to investigate the issue (it recommended changes to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, including a clause that "prohibits the broadcast of material presenting participants in reality television in a highly demeaning or exploitative manner").

The show itself was not penalised, as the incident was only broadcast via the website and never made it to air.

3. Tully returned to the house to kiss Drew's frozen face.

Tully Smyth entered the Big Brother house in 2013 in a committed relationship, only to be publicly dumped via Twitter after her girlfriend watched her openly flirt with fellow-constant Drew on national telly.

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After her elimination, Tully made a brief return to the house during a freeze challenge (think musical statues but without the music... or children). So she strolls in, walks up to a motionless Drew, pashes his unmoving mouth and whispers, "By the way, I'm single." Then strolls right on out of there.

Video by Channel 9

Had it happened now there would likely be think-pieces about consent and 'what if the roles were reversed'. But at the time, it was more, just...

"OMG YOU GUYS — TULLY AND DREW! TULLY AND DREW!"

4. The mystery of the "dancing doona".

Pete and Christina, of dancing doona fame. Image: Channel 10.

It was season one, 2001, and we were still new to this whole thing. So when the Big Brother Uncut cameras captured a suggestively undulating duvet, beneath which were housemates Pete Timbs and Christina "Ballerina" Davis, our innocent little minds exploded.

The pair never commented on precisely what went on, because it's clearly none of our business what they were doing on a national television program that's premised on a complete lack of privacy.

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But their 'no comment' only added intrigue, and the event soon went down in the Aussie pop culture cannon as the "dancing doona". (Seriously though. It was, like, totally all anyone could, like, talk about on MSN Messenger.)

5. When the housemates had to pick sides during a public eviction.

If you were bullied at school or the last to be picked for a team during P.E., this may be a tad triggering.

There was an eviction in the final season that took place in front of the two nominees: Jake and Gemma. The housemates had to literally stand behind the person they wanted to stay in the house, and all but one chose the former.

The sight of poor Gemma standing there with a solitary supporter sparked viewer backlash and headlines about the show turning "cruel" and "nasty".

Ooft. Image: Channel 9.

6. A grieving mother was forced to care for a toy baby.

During season seven, the show introduced a challenge that involved the housemates caring for robotic babies. They did this knowing all too well that one of them, Kate Gladman, had endured a traumatic stillbirth just 18 months prior.

Reflecting on the cruel stunt on ABC program You Can't Ask That in 2018, Kate said when she saw the plastic dolls, she approached producers in protest.

“I said, ‘you’ve done this deliberately, and I want to leave the house’. And they said, ‘you can’t leave. You have to stay, and you have to tell your story’.

“That’s how they manipulated me."

At the time, Ten released a statement saying Kate had told production she had dealt with her baby’s death.

6. Lawson's cheating scandal

The scandal surrounding the whole Tully and Drew flirtation was trumped by the 'Clawson' saga of 2014. In case you missed it, housemate Lawson Reeves struck up a relationship with fellow star Cat Law, despite having a long-term partner on the outside.

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Fellow housemates expressed concern, as did... well, most of Australia, leading Lawson to offer a tearful public apology in the Diary Room.

"I can't even imagine how [my partner] would feel; embarrassed, I would assume," he said. "She's a really good person. I'm not. She definitely didn't deserve this. I think I'm sorry for ruining her life."

Despite the moral outrage surrounding the beginning of their relationship, Clawson actually stayed together for 4.5 years after the show.

Speaking to Mamamia in 2019, Cat said, “We just had so many things in common and it was just genuine love, he was a really significant person in my life and I will always have really strong feelings towards him I think.”

7. Bree was accidentally evicted.

Bye. Actually... wait. Image: Channel 10.
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Viewers were a tad baffled when 2004 (it really was the golden season) fan-favourite, Bree Amer, was evicted two-thirds of the way into the series. That's because it was a mistake.

Someone at a company called Legion Interactive had a bad day at work and accidentally mucked up the maths. I guess he/she did the right thing and told someone, because hours after Bree was booted from the house, a producer told her she'd be going right back in.

Bree recently told Tim Dormer's Popcast podcast that she was in the middle of a post-eviction party when she learned the news, and that she initially wasn't fussed about the stuff-up.

“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s all right’" she said. "I’d been drinking cocktails with my friends for two hours, and was like, ‘Whatever! I’m having the best night ever!’”

But scared she might sue them later — you know, because she could have won a million bucks — the producers brought her around: “I took a fair bit of convincing, and eventually they were like, ‘We want you to go back in tomorrow,’ so they immediately put me back into lockdown.”

8. The great blackout of 2004.

In 2004, the wall-of-TVs backdrop went black, the audience was plunged into darkness, and dear Gretel was forced to figure out how to host several minutes of live television in the middle of a blackout.

It's unclear what happened that night, but we presume it involved a dodgy powerboard from a $2 shop, or a bored intern doing the old 'I wonder what this button does' thing.

The spotlight on Gretel stayed mercifully lit, because she would definitely demand a backup generator in her rider. She's practical like that.

As viewers began to get the sympathetic stress sweats, Gretel asked Big Brother if transmission had been lost. It hadn't. We were still there, watching.

"Good," she said. "They're going, so I guess I'll just... make the rest up."

Hooray!

What happened next was a masterclass in improvisational drama that involved throwing to a bloke sitting in a Mitsubishi and getting the shits at disembodied voices — "Everyone in my head please be quiet." (Been there, Grets. So been there.)

What was your favourite Big Brother moment? Let's reminisce in the comments below.

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