In a bid to blur the line between cable and streaming platforms, Netflix’s latest game-show Flinch is a reminder of why people jumped over to streaming services in the first place and a bizarre, out-of-place choice for Netflix’s growing catalogue. If you like watching people get electrocuted this may just be a show for you. Unashamedly uncomfortable, Flinch is a game show that attempts to turn contestant’s pain into audience pleasure. There’s echoes of Fear Factor here, wrapped up with the over-the-top silliness of Nailed It! with an unnerving shine of a Black Mirror episode come to life.
Split across 10 episodes, each clocking in at around 25 minutes a piece, Flinch begins with a brief introduction to the format of the show. Three hosts, Desiree, Lloyd and Seann, each pick from a handful of contestants in a remote barn in Ireland to face three different challenges designed to invoke fear and make people jump. The rules are simple and act as a throwback to the old playground game at school – do not flinch. Each flinch results in a painful punishment ranging from slaps to the hand, electric shocks and more. Every time these contestants flinch they accumulate points which go toward one of the hosts. Whichever host has the most points at the end of the episode face a flinching challenge themselves.
In many ways, this feels like a budget version of Fear Factor, only chock full of unlikable contestants and a trash-TV tone that feels like something rejected by E4. Each episode combines slow motion shots of flinches, silly segments involving the contestants introducing themselves and all the usual tropes you’d expect from a show like this. Given the setting, I’d actually recommend watching Release The Hounds instead. While that game show preys on people’s fear, it’s genuinely entertaining and imaginative, while unfortunately the same cannot be said for this.
To make matters worse, the show feels cheap and a little lazy at times, rehashing the same challenges throughout the 10 episodes but reversing the roles between hosts and contestants. With 3 challenges an episode and a final challenge for the host at the end, Flinch runs out of steam pretty early on and to be honest, you’ll know very early on whether this is a show for you.
With so many other game shows out there, including those that dabble in this idea of conquering fears and projecting bravery, Flinch doesn’t come closer to matching those. The combination of classical music, ugly yellow text, slow motion shots and all the usual tropes seen in these sort of shows cheapens the whole affair. There will be an audience for this sort of thing but whether it’ll be in the numbers Netflix may be expecting is still up for debate. Unfortunately, Flinch currently holds the crown for worst show of 2019 and it’ll certainly be a tough one to beat for that accolade.