The Circle

Rating 6.2
Streamer All4
Seasons 3
Episodes 62 x 45 mins

If you’re one of those people who thinks social media is turning our youth into a bunch of like-seeking zombies who value online affirmation over human interaction, look away now. This reality show is taking the power of social media to the next level, and has contestants competing in a digital popularity contest. But not all of them are being #honest…

The Circle is reality show Big Brother  smacked over the head with Instagram, and then trapping all its contestants into their own, individual diary rooms. Because with this reality show, the participants never meet each face to face, and only interact via The Circle.

For the duration of the show, the contestants are living in what looks like one of those new apartment blocks that just appears out of nowhere in a currently-being-gentrified borough of London. And despite no apparent covid symptoms, there they isolate for three weeks, only able to communicate with each other online via instant messenger chats. The players then rate each other based on likability, with the highest rated becoming ‘influencers’, whilst eliminations or ‘blockings’ happen for those with low scores. The aim of the game is to make it to the final, where contestants rate each other one last time, with the highest-rated player taking home £100,000.

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The real drama, however, comes from the catfish. Certain contestants play it sneaky, and set up fake profiles on The Circle and pretend to be someone else – a bit like those people whose dating profiles say they’re a 6 foot 3 entrepreneur, when they really still live at their mum’s and work in IT – like a social media catfish. This is definitely one of those guilty pleasure shows that you, against your better judgement, become obsessed with, but never admit to your clever mates that you watch.

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Variety’s Daniel D’Addario says this is a “flawed but deeply interesting addition,” to the reality TV roster, which takes on the “greater existential threat” that the genre faces from social media. The Independent’s Sean O’Grady likes the fact that the producers pick “annoying” contestants, calling the show “interesting, predictable and dispiriting,” and saying it’s “superior to Big Brother because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Luckily.”

And this may be what has caused the show’s huge success, which has led to spin-off series in Brazil, America, and France. The Guardian’s Dominique Sisley says “Part of what makes The Circle so compelling is its casting. Rather than filling the flats with sun-baked, cosmetically enhanced twentysomethings, the producers pull contestants from all walks of life. The winner of the most recent UK season was Paddy Smyth, a 31-year-old account manager with cerebral palsy, while the early favourite, and third-placed finisher, was Tim Wilson, a flamboyant 59-year-old theology professor.”

First shown September 2018. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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