There’s A Catfish Among Us
Sliding Into DMs
The Player I’m Saving
Declare Your Rival
The Last Rating
This review is based on episodes 1-4
The Circle is a fascinating experiment and when it dropped on Channel 4 in the UK several years ago, it was one of the more unusual and unique reality TV ideas in a genre chock full of pretenders and overly familiar tropes. Never one to miss a trick, Netflix’s USA reboot of the reality show by the same name may not be original but it does re-open that interesting idea of online personas and connections not always being as simple and genuine as they first appear.
If you’ve never heard of it before, The Circle is essentially a game show, wrapped up in a reality TV bubble. 8 very different but very lively personalities enter the same house but remain separate in their own rooms, crafting a social media profile and competing for a cash prize at the end. Where things get interesting though comes from the inclusion of catfishes and candidates not being wholly truthful around what they’ve written on their own online profiles. From guys pretending to be girls, through to those looking to play it straight and being accused of deceitfulness, there’s a whole host of juicy paranoia and drama delivered through the solo players in each room.
The opening episode serves as a starter, whetting the appetite and introducing the 8 players competing for a cash prize of 100k. Among them, 2 are catfishes and several are larger than life personas. Joey is the typical life-of-the-party guy, Chris is essentially a mash-up of Ru-Paul and Rylan Clark (and my personal favourite), and these players trickle down through to the intelligent Indian-American Shubham (who everyone believes is a catfish but is actually playing it straight). After crafting their profiles, the players head online and begin engaging in text chats with one another, complete with group conversations, private DMs, hashtags, emojis and all the usual social media tropes you’d expect from a show like this.
With little in the way of face-to-face drama, a lot of the show relies heavily on monologues and players expressing their thoughts out loud, alone in the privacy of their own rooms. This works quite well though, especially during some of the flirting where the girls roll their eyes but respond with wink emojis while the guys see these winks as genuine reactions and fist pump the air. It’s such a fascinating experiment and much like the UK version, a lot of the enjoyment comes from seeing these players start to doubt one another and the little romances spark up between players. During episode 3 Chris and Joey have a hilarious back and forth, while one of the catfishes becoming an influencer in episode 1 is a really juicy twist.
Speaking of twists, there’s a few rules to this one that help spice things up. Every once in a while The Circle throws in different games, including “Ask Me Anything”, “Ice-breakers” and Rating profile pictures and how genuine different people are. It’s really interesting seeing how different people work and as a social experiment I couldn’t take my eyes off this one. Adding to the drama is the inclusion of any players voted off being able to visit another face-to-face. This comes to fruition during episode 2 where one unlucky person is voted off and confronts the very person who made that decision. Talk about awkward!
With 4 episodes coming every week and the finale taking part on the 15th January, The Circle feels like a gateway, testing the waters for future iterations of this idea – especially given Netflix appear to have two other versions of The Circle grayed out on the interface (France and Brazil I believe).
I’ll be the first to admit I dislike reality TV in general and have had to reach out to more people than I care to admit to politely decline covering Love Island on this website (at least until I can pay someone to do that of course!). The Circle though manages to combine all the best elements of reality TV with a game-show feel and the result is something that has a distinct American flavour to proceedings but still manages to channel the same essence that made the UK version so interesting and engaging. Will I tune in next week and watch all four episodes? Absolutely. It’s not perfect, and at times the show does suffer from a couple of superficial bites of drama but for the most part The Circle does well to keep you engaged. The big question now is – who’s going to win The Circle?
|The Circle is available to watch on Netflix. Feel free to click here and sign up now to check this show out!|
Verdict - 8/10