As the embattled host of CBS's reality experiment Big Brother, Julie Chen has been on the receiving end of the harshest critical lashing since John Travolta wore his hair in dreadlocks in Battlefield Earth. So it's safe to assume that the Early Show newsreader is relieved the nightmare will come to an end with tonight's finale (8 pm/ET). Well, you know what they say about people who assume...

"I would love to continue doing it," Chen tells TV Guide Online of a second Big Brother, which may hit airwaves as early as February. "It was really fun for me. I love live television because it's unscripted and you can have fun with it. You're not interviewing the secretary of defense or a politician, you're interviewing real people with real emotions and [it can get] wild and crazy."

CBS has yet to ask Chen to return as Big Brother's big sister — a fact that comes as little surprise to her. "I think if they were to ask me, they would only do so after they had already inked the deal [for another Big Brother]," she points out. "But they also have to consider what this means to The Early Show. I don't want to leave [them] in the lurch. If I had to choose between the two, I would stay at The Early Show. But I'd love to do both."

Regarding the critics, some of whom said she severely compromised her integrity by presiding over an entertainment show, Chen is taking the drubbing in stride. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion... they don't have to be educated [opinions]," she laughs, before adding, "I don't think the show has compromised my role as a journalist at all, because my role was to interview someone on live television, which is what I do anyway for a living. And these same [contestants] have been interviewed by journalists at MSNBC and CNN.

"I also think that a lot of the [criticism] came out in the beginning, before anyone really knew how Big Brother was going to shake out," continues Chen, who believes tough guy Eddie stands the best chance of winning the $500,000 grand prize tonight. "I don't know if those same people still feel this way after seeing what the format is. And if they do, fine. I have no regrets. I enjoyed it and I still believe I made the right decision."