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Unexpected violence in CBS' revamped reality show0 

Big Brother's Lazy Eye

So exactly how did a guy with a record of three assault charges make his way onto CBS's TV's second go-round of its "Big Brother" franchise?

Probably in much the same way that a couple with a child made it onto Fox TV's "Temptation Island" last season.

Somebody screwed up, that's how.

Having a child and deciding to give in to "temptation" is one thing. Turning a guy who specializes in physical intimidation loose among 11 unwary strangers is another thing entirely.

In case you missed it, "Big Brother" is back with a vengeance. The "reality-TV" show, which airs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., was not even a week old before 26-year-old Justin Sebik verbally threatened an older contestant. Sebik, a bartender from Bayonne, N.J., then — while he was making out with her in the kitchen, mind you — took a mock swing at her with a carpet sweeper and held a knife to her throat.

"I was only kidding," Sebik said.

"Intimidation, violence and even the threat of violence will not be tolerated," said Arnold Shapiro, executive producer of the program.

Yeah. Right. Intimidation and violence on TV? Naah. Never happen.

Did CBS, as it claims, just not know about Sebik's record? Or did it overlook that detail as it worked to reshape the program that last season failed to do as well as the network expected? In its effort to produce more conflict, more sex, more excitement for viewers, did the network neglect its responsibility to the contestants' safety?

CBS says it hired a private investigator to check Bayonne records before "BB2" went on the air and then again after the show began airing. The P.I. found that Sebik had been arrested only once, for theft.

But a quick and easy check by reporters found Sebik's other arrest records — one more for robbery and three for assault. Why was it so easy for the media to uncover those records when CBS seemingly could not? Hmmm.

Curiously, if the "BB2" producers were playing fast and loose with their background checks in hopes of giving viewers what they've come to expect from TV, they didn't need to. The revamped "Big Brother" is much better than last season's version, primarily because of new rules, not the new contestants.

New this year is the election by the contestants of a temporary Head of Household who, in turn, nominates two candidates to boot out. Then the contestants — not the viewers — pick between the two. The new setup produces convoluted strategies and completely new dynamics. Shapiro and CBS may have a summer hit on their hands, especially with all the added publicity they got from booting Sebik off the
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