Channel 4’s ‘The Circle’ becomes a lesson in utter banality
Contestants are less endearing and more craven as the 'social experiment' continues
‘The Circle’: the show seems to work off the same premise as the Nosedive episode of ‘Black Mirror’, where individuals are given a rating based on their online personality
It’s hard to care about The Circle, Channel 4’s “social experiment” where eight narcissists are isolated, housed in separate rooms in a soundproof apartment block catfishing each other to win £50,000.
It’s supposed to reveal how social media is turning everyone into needy, superficial pathological liars but who needs three weeks of dullards preening into a TV screen to understand that when you could just post a heavily edited selfie and wait for the likes to roll in.
Most social media addicts are self-aware enough to recognise the disturbing dichotomy between wanting to engage with people as your true self whilst participating in the vapid popularity contest that is Twitter or Instagram or have had experiences with individuals who use these sites to concoct a character that doesn’t really exist.
The show seems to work off the same premise as the Nosedive episode of Black Mirror, where individuals are given a rating based on their online personality. If they fall below a certain amount they are blocked from continuing within the process.
The one who retains their popularity wins. So far, so nightmarish, but the problem with The Circle is the casting. The subjects seem intent on hatching mediocre Machiavellian plans to get ahead of the game.
So you have Jennifer (a social media sceptic) who decides to appeal to the group’s empathetic side by pretending to be a junior doctor specialising in oncology. Or, on a less offensive level, there’s Alex, who is using his girlfriend’s photos to transform into “Kate” to see if an attractive female will be more palatable to The Circle. The only person trying not to overthink things is party-girl Aiden who wants to be “herself” but ironically is the one the others are the most sceptical about.
With each contestant spending the bulk of the show sitting alone dictating messages to one another via the Circle app that appears on a giant TV screen in the apartments, it becomes a lesson in utter banality.
There are only so many times you can watch someone say “hashtag whatever babes, smiley dog face” without wanting to grind a pint glass into your eyes. The production team behind Gogglebox (who are responsible for the show) may have believed that The Circle in essence follows the same format as their ratings smash – watching people doing something ordinary but somehow spinning it into relatable gold – but whereas Gogglebox emanates warmth and genuine comedy, the callous premise of The Circle only makes the contestants less endearing and more craven as the series continues.
As with Channel 4’s survival misery-fest Eden, which was pulled off air without its participants knowing, who would really miss this bunch of squawking schemers? Maybe The Circle could provide a vital service by keeping these social media sociopaths cooped up from society, bellowing their nonsense into the abyss forever. Hashtag amazing work, thumbs up, smiley face.