REALITY TV shows are unquestionably my guilty tv pleasure. I like a few but my current fixation is Channel 4s new offering, The Circle. Contestants are playing for 50k and are housed in rather plush flats somewhere in London. If you want to know where then look for a bloc of flats with an actual giant metallic circle on its side, not one of the shows subtler touches.
The catch is they can only communicate via a specially created social media platform, the ‘Circle’ of the title. This twist certainly adds a new dimension to the show. It ramps up the tension as it means that determining a characters authenticity is, of course, 10 times harder. In many ways, it makes the game a shade more sophisticated as it makes the alliances formed always unsteady and with massive potential to shift. Every couple of days, the players rank each other and the top two, the influencers, decide who is ‘Blocked’ from the Circle. Usually, those that are blocked get to visit one other player in the flesh before they leave.
Half of the cast is currently catfishing either mildly, in the case of gay Freddy who is playing himself but just straight, to the more severe cases like Alex who is masquerading as his actual girlfriend, Kate or Sinead, a female careworker in her mid 20s, who is playing 65-yo Christopher. In many ways, it is more slow-burning and less visual than other shows in the genre, the emphasis is on the game playing and strategy much more and you do not really get to know the contestants in as much depth as you may well do on say Big Brother.
So, is The Circle the next generation of reality TV show? It certainly does capture one aspect of the social media world very well, that while it brings people together it also isolates them and makes them especially vulnerable to manipulation. At the end of last nights show, ousted Aiden visited ‘Kate’ a.k.a Alex and how she reacts to the truth will certainly be interesting. I don’t ultimately think it will ever achieve the cult status that say Love Island or Big Brother has as it is slower and more cerebral than those two shows but I think it will slowly build a core of dedicated followers who appreciate its subtler charms and revel in the overt trickery and skill of the game players. It certainly has its place among reality shows and is a welcome addition to the genre.