It became the most controversial Dutch TV programme ever, and a talking point from Brussels to Berlin.
Could BNN’s Big Donor Show really be as “crazy” and “unethical” as it was cracked up to be? Broadcaster BNN kept its cards close to its chest, and during the programme’s final moments it became clear why.
Lisa, the terminally ill woman who was giving away her kidney as a grand prize, turned out to be Leonie, an actress. Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, for one, must have heaved a sigh of relief.
This is not the first time that a reality TV show has caused a stir. Here are some examples of previous shows that hit headlines.
-THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MIRIAM (UK)
Six men were invited to spend several weeks wooing an attractive woman. The contestants were warned that there would be shocks, Miriam said
But they threatened to take legal action when they found out that the object of their desires was a transsexual. Some of the contestants on Sky One’s programme were seen in intimate situations before learning that Miriam had been born male.
“I made some good friends on the show and I hope that we can all have a happy reunion one day,” said Miriam.
This seemed unlikely; the men received undisclosed payouts before the programme was broadcast in 2004.
-SERIOUSLY, DUDE, I’M GAY (US)
Two heterosexual men were to appear in a reality show where they had to persuade friends, relatives and strangers that they were, in fact, gay. The winner was to have been rewarded with $50,000 (£25,000)
As well as providing accommodation in a trendy loft apartment, the Fox network planned to find them flatmates who were homosexual, send them to gay-friendly nightclubs and line up blind dates with other men. A panel would then decide which of the contestants was the most convincing homosexual and pay out a cash prize.
But the show was scrapped before it could be broadcast in 2004, following an outcry from campaign groups including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
-LAPDANCE ISLAND (UK)
Up to 20,000 people applied to take part in a series which would supposedly have seen 10 men stranded with 40 lapdancers – with no touching allowed.
But the trailer and the accompanying online application form were a part of an elaborate joke, developed by E4′s The Pilot Show. Would-be contestants were asked to provide references and to explain how they would deal “with high levels of lapdancing”.
Another fake idea broadcast on the same programme, the Spaceman, promised to send one lucky contestant to the Moon.
-SPACE CADETS (UK)
They thought they had blasted off into space from a cosmonaut training camp in Russia – but in fact, they were stuck in a fake spaceship in a warehouse in Suffolk.
Contestants on Channel 4′s show were strung along for two weeks in 2005, with the original line-up of 10 whittled down to three “winners”. Each of them received £25,000 for their efforts, although they did admit to being disappointed that they had been fooled. They became suspicious after being asked to hold a ceremony on their “spaceship” for a celebrity Russian dog called Mr Bimby.
-BIRTH NIGHT LIVE (UK)
A boy was born by Caesarian section during Five’s live broadcast from a maternity unit in Nottingham.
Viewers saw the “smooth” arrival of baby Caleb, which visibly moved co-presenter Andrew Castle and left him “quite emotional”. The production team followed several heavily-pregnant women in the days before last October’s show. There were no natural deliveries while the show was on-air, although one woman gave birth a few minutes before transmission and another had her child straight after it finished.
Five years earlier, US network ABC showed five live deliveries on its programme Super Baby Tuesday.
-DESTINATION MIR (US)
Devised by British producer Mark Burnett, who oversaw the US version of Survivor, this NBC series had intended to send a viewer to the Russian space station Mir.
About $40m (£20m) was to be spent on the show. However, its development was plagued with difficulties – not least the Russian space agency’s decision to bring Mir down after 15 years in orbit.
On entering Earth’s atmosphere in 2001, it disintegrated, along with any hopes that the programme would be broadcast.
-WHO’S YOUR DADDY? (US)
It must have seemed a good idea to the Fox network at the time – take people who were adopted, put them before a line-up of strangers and ask them to pick their real father.
A woman won $100,000 (£50,000) by correctly spotting him and was then reunited with her real mother as an added bargain.
It was a “useful and empowering” experience, Fox said at the time of the broadcast in 2005, but a relatively low audience of about 6 million people tuned in and one Fox affiliate in North Carolina refused to screen it.
And the US National Council for Adoption berated the decision to “commercialise” such a “very personal, meaningful experience”.
-I WANT YOUR CHILD AND NOTHING ELSE (NETHERLANDS)
Two years ago, Dutch network Talpa broadcast a trial episode of a show in which a woman searched for a sperm donor.
The channel – owned by John de Mol, the producer behind the Big Brother format – decided to let men e-mail the contestant in response to her appeal.
But this pilot edition was not developed further.