‘Big Brother’: Julie Chen Moonves Nearly Lost the Job to a Popular TV Host
Although it’s hard to imagine anyone else talking to the viewers from “outside the Big Brother” house, host Julie Chen Moonves revealed she almost didn’t get the gig because the network initially offered it to another popular anchor.
Julie Chen Moonves previously served as anchor of CBS Morning News
Born in Queens, New York City, to Chinese immigrants, Julie Chen graduated from the University of Southern California in 1991, majoring in English and broadcast journalism.
She received her first job in the industry as an intern for CBS Morning News alongside Bravo producer Andy Cohen in June 1990. The journalist went on to work as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio, and weekend anchor in New York City before returning to CBS Morning News in 1999 as the anchor.
She also served as the news anchor of CBS This Morning and The Early Show until 2002. Chen then co-hosted the breakfast television show until 2010, when she became the moderator and co-host of the CBS daytime series, The Talk.
However, the New York native left the series in 2018 following several sexual assault allegations against her husband, then-CEO of CBS, Les Moonves.
Meredith Vieira almost hosted the competition series
In 2000, only a year after obtaining her anchor position at CBS Morning News, the network approached her with the opportunity to host its new reality competition series, Big Brother.
According to Chen’s interview in the docu-series, For Real: The Story of Reality TV, the producers wanted a journalist to speak to the audience.
She also revealed they initially tapped former CBS Morning News (1992-93) co-anchor, Meredith Vieira, to host the show.
However, the broadcast journalist declined. Therefore, the producers reached out to Chen, who accepted the role. During the first season in 2000, she delivered her lines in such a scripted way it earned her the nickname, Chenbot.
The anchor has embraced it, noting in a 2006 Entertainment Weekly interview that she understands the criticism comes from her journalism background where she’s taught to “be objective.”
Over 20 seasons in, including celebrity spinoffs and an online exclusive, she has loosened up when talking to the contestants and audience, and started implementing words of wisdom in her prompts, but the nickname has still stuck.
Vieira has since hosted ‘Who Want to Be a Millionaire’ and more
When Big Brother producers initially reached out to Vieira, she was in her fourth year of serving as the moderator and co-host on the original panel of Emmy Award-winning daytime series, The View.
Two years after the reality show debuted, Vieira became the first host of the American syndicated version for the British game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, where she earned two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host; the second woman to win following Betty White.
She also served as co-executive producer from 2005 until her departure in 2012. In 2006, she succeeded Katie Couric as co-anchor of the NBC talk show, Today, for five years.
The broadcast journalist then landed her own daytime talk series, The Meredith Vieira, which lasted for a couple of seasons before returning as a host in 2019 for Fox game show 25 Words or Less.
As Vieira went on to win Emmys and Chen has solidified herself in reality television culture, the game show host’s rejection of the role worked out well for both of them. Big Brother 23 returns in 2021.