Reality TV was under renewed fire in Portugal after the winner of the nation’s first edition of the popular ‘Big Brother’ series threatened to kill himself recently.
José (Zé) Maria, 27, parked his car on the 25 de Abril bridge over the Tejo river in Lisbon and threatened to jump. It took two policemen 45 minutes to talk him down. He was subsequently admitted to the psychiatric wing of the city’s Curry Cabral hospital.
Zé became a star four years ago, after he won the first edition of the television show where contestants are locked in a house and filmed for 24 hours a day. But, after an initial flurry of media attention and several short term advertising contracts, the press began to lose interest. He soon spent his 100,000 euros prize-money, investing in a number of failed business ventures.
In recent media interviews, Zé had expressed his regret at his participation in the show, whose format has been criticised around the world, but is watched by millions of viewers. The Correio da Manhã newspaper devoted six pages to Zé’s suicide bid, describing it as the result of him being “abandoned by the machines that produced him”. “From this drama, the question remains – don’t those who placed him in the sky, without preparing him for the inevitable fall, now have something to say?” it added.