Perhaps the best Netflix original programming we’ve ever seen?
We love reality TV and we love competitions, so it was a given that we were going to watch ‘The Circle’ a reality competition entirely playing out over social media. Which is fascinating to say the least!
The premise is simple, imagine the well-known ‘Big Brother’ reality TV concept, a household of young (under 35s), interesting and attractive people, forced to live with one another while being filmed around the clock, like a sociological experiment – while the producers and we sit back and watch the drama unfold. However, where The Circle differs from the BB concept, is that the players/housemates/neighbours never meet in person! They don’t even get a chance to hear each other’s voices! All of their interaction is conducted over ‘The Circle’, a social networking app which connects the players wherever they are in the apartment block, and all throughout the 15 day ordeal, they never meet each other in person or see who their fellow neighbours are, until a player is ‘blocked’ from the competition. It’s all very strange, while quite reflective of most of our social interactions these days.
I have to admit, during the first 10 minutes of Episode One, I thought this show perhaps wasn’t for us – as each player was introduced to the viewing audience, each one of them was loud and a bit obnoxious. Dare I say…they were ‘very American’? However, as the players settled in to their apartments, they toned down some of their big personalities, and by the end of the series, each player presented quite a genuine side to themselves – and characters which were quite grating at first, turned out to be quite lovable.
With reality competitions like Big Brother, oftentimes we as the viewing audience aren’t able to grasp how it’s like living in there – as we’re not experiencing how it’s like to be living with 12 other people, never having a moment to yourself as there are roommates everywhere! However, The Circle is completely different, because we as the viewer are granted access to see behind every curtain, see into every apartment where they live on their own. So where the players only know each other through what each chooses to present to the others, we, the voyeur, see it warts and all! And for us, we see each player, we hear them talk to themselves and read out aloud to themselves each of the posts which come through to the screens – but we forget, that in reality these guys were sitting in an apartment on their lonesome with no real human contact for up to 2 weeks! That’s pretty wild hey? Almost like a period of coronavirus quarantine!
When entering The Circle, each player completes a short profile of themselves (a profile pic, their name, age, status and a short bio), and that is all that is presented to the other players. So like in the Twitterverse, the players may pretend to be someone that they’re not, for the reasons of believing that they are more likely to win and are more likely to be accepted by others if they presented a more appealing version of themselves to others- be that pretending that they’re female when they’re a dude, or using profile pics of others who are more attractive than they believe themselves to be. And all the while, we the viewer know the truth, and sometimes cringe when watching the players interact with each other, seeing one side thinking that they’re developing a deep meaningful connection, when we know that everything is a lie!
But as trashy as this all sounds, The Circle was actually quite a meaningful show, uncovering some interesting modern-day social aspects about our society, and seeing integrity, loyalty and friendship play out on our screens.
In most of the episodes, there is a time where players rank each other from the first to last – the top 2 ranked players are given a blue check mark, labelling them as ‘Influencers’ – giving them the power to ‘block’ one player, thus eliminating them from the show. The eliminated player is then given an opportunity to confront one of the other players in person – and for us, being a bit of a wuss when it comes to confronting people face-to-face, this was a bit cringing for us to watch – but oftentimes the meeting turned out alright. Even when a ‘Catfish’ is unmasked…….
And once a player is blocked, a new player is brought in to replace them – thus continuing on the game for the full 12 episodes. And in the final ep, the contestants are brought in front of a live audience, where the winner is announced and they take home $100K in cold hard cash! And during the episodes, throw in some ice breaker games in between evictions – some games designed to stir the pot, and throw in a few twists and turns along the way – and here you have The Circle USA!
If you spend a significant amount of time on the various social media platforms – then it’s a no-brainer, you have to watch ‘The Circle’, as it’s everything you love and hate about interactions and friendships over Social. But if you’re a hater of social media, I also challenge you to give ‘The Circle’ a go, as it might just change your perception of virtual interactions.
To start watching ‘The Circle’ from Netflix, click HERE!