February 07, 2008

SIUC graduate to compete in 'Big Brother 9'

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Saluki fans have a chance to vote for one of their own beginning next week.

Parker Somerville, a May 2007 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's renowned Department of Radio-Television, is one of 16 houseguests on CBS' reality show, "Big Brother 9," which premieres at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12.

To help kick off Somerville's quest to be the last remaining houseguest and capture a $500,000 grand prize, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts is holding a special viewing party in Kellogg Hall. The viewing party begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the residence hall's viewing lounge.

Krissi Geary-Boehm, the college's coordinator of internship and placement, is hoping that Somerville, 26, receives support from his Saluki family.

"Whenever people who knew Parker as a student hear the news, no one is really shocked. Parker is a true character, full of talent, charm, and charisma," she said.

The show's premise is a group of strangers live together in a house where cameras and microphones record their every movement 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reports are that this series has a "soulmate" theme, where houseguests are paired with the possibility of being voted off together, Geary-Boehm said.

Houseguests voted each other out of the house over a three-month period. The runner-up receives $50,000.

After the premiere, the show will air on Sundays and Wednesdays. Midway through the show, fans can vote via the show's Web site or by text message for their favorite houseguest to receive a special reward not available to other houseguests, Geary-Boehm said.

Somerville, who is from Springfield, moved to Los Angeles shortly after he graduated and is a member of the paparazzi for the celebrity news and gossip Web site, TMZ, while working to enter the television field. His show bio states Somerville, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1999 to 2002, "wears his heart on his sleeve and will always say what he feels."

Geary-Boehm and Somerville keep in touch on a regular basis. "Big Brother 9" did casting calls in 17 cities, and show producers talked with Geary-Boehm at length recently for reference checks, a standard practice, she said.

"Only Parker, with that undeniable charisma, could beat out the competition to make the final 16!" she said.

Somerville, who lives in Northridge, Calif., describes himself "as inappropriate, unpredictable and authentic. He can be your best friend or worst enemy and claims to have the power of persuasion" in the show's bio. He also states his proudest accomplishment is losing 45 pounds through will power, diet and exercise. The listed hobbies include "socializing, playing his Wii, laughing at other people's expense and doing anything besides working."

But Geary-Boehm said that description is more likely for the reality show; she describes Somerville as a "workaholic."

"It's interesting that his official bio for the show implies that he is a slacker who frowns on work," she said. "Everyone at MCMA who knew Parker knows that's definitely reality TV exaggeration. Parker was involved in multiple, time-consuming activities while working his way through school. His work ethics are actually quite exemplary."

Somerville was a hard-working student active with both WSIU-TV and the River Region Evening Edition. He also participated in an internship in C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., in summer 2006. He was also very involved in the National Association for Black Journalists on campus.

He was also a member of the first group of GUIDES (Guides for Undertaking Internships and Demonstrating Excellence beyond SIUC) in fall 2006. GUIDES is a group of peer leaders chosen by the college to mentor students who are interested in doing internships.