What makes a great reality television show? Is it the entertaining cast of characters? Mindless drama? The over-the-top competition? Reality television has always had its core following. Shows like The Bachelor, Jersey Shore, Real World, or Ru Paul’s Drag Race often dictate pop culture conversations. It makes sense that Netflix would want to capitalize on such a lucrative and popular genre. In fact, it’s almost amazing that they waited this long to throw their hat in the ring.

Netflix kicked off 2020 with the release of its first reality TV show, titled, The Circle. The Circle combines the best aspects of the most addictive reality television shows. It also sheds light on the beauty and the problems that can arise through social media.

How The Circle Works

In The Circle, each of the show’s eight contestants are isolated in their own apartment. They were then asked to set up a social media profile and communicate solely through a voice-activated television screen called the Circle. No face-to-face contact is allowed. At the end of each episode, contestants are asked to rank their fellow Circle-users based on the interactions they had with them throughout the day. To win the $100,000 prize, the players must flirt, schmooze, and connect their way to the top. Those who came in last in the rankings are eliminated, or “blocked.”

The Circle apartment building in which the contestants stayed.
Courtesy of Netflix (2020)

Every player entered the competition with different strategies. Players like Seaburn, Karyn, and Alex decided they would pose as other, more attractive people, otherwise known as “catfishing”, to strengthen their connections. Meanwhile, contestants like Jersey Shore-esque Joey, dorky Shubham, and eccentric Chris played the game as themselves. They banked on their personalities being enough to win the competition. Along the way, allies were formed, enemies were made, twists were thrown at the contestants, and eliminated players were replaced with newer ones.

1. A Crazy Cast Of Characters

The Circle has all the makings of great reality television. Within its modern framework, the show has an incredibly lovable cast of characters. The final contestants create an incredible bond with each other. This bond pushes them to beat out newer contestants and eventually leads them to the final. Each contestant has a larger-than-life personality, and a distinct purpose in the show.

Two contestants deliberate about who should be eliminated in The Circle.
Courtesy of Netflix (2020)

It is common knowledge that despite it being “reality”, reality television is made, cast, and shot with a specific purpose in mind. Everyone is there for a reason and each contestant plays it wonderfully. After all, it is hard to make interesting television with just a camera filming someone isolated in a small apartment. You need the right people to make it entertaining.

The excellent writing highlights the impeccable casting. This is the show’s first season and the writers do a great job of familiarizing the audience with the rules. The writers also do a great job of throwing curveballs. They would create new games in order to forge or sever relationships. They would also announce surprise eliminations, which always made for excruciating drama. Netflix’s lack of commercials allows you to become fully engrossed in the outrageous drama the show presents, making it one of the most binge-worthy shows to ever grace the platform. 

2. What The Circle Has To Say About Social Media

The Circle serves as a reflection of the social media-based culture we live in. It touches on the troubles of social media, highlighting how easy it is to lie about who you are on the Internet. It also expands on the problem of judging a person simply based on photos and online conversations. In perhaps one of the most heartwarming beats of the show, contestant and catfish Sean reveals her true identity. Sean went into the show believing she would be judged and cast out immediately because she was plus-sized. This fear led her to catfish as her friend, who is more conventionally beautiful. The lying eventually gets to her. She then confesses to her closest allies on the show, all of which go on to show unwavering support for her.

Sean's real social media profile after she stops catfishing as her friend
Courtesy of Netflix (2020)

3. Genuine Connections Formed Online

Although the show has no qualms about demonizing social media culture, it also does an exceptional job of showing how social media can create genuine connections. The friendships made between the final contestants were heartwarming, despite the fact that they were competing against each other for $100,00. The most lovable, and perhaps surprising, relationship to come out of the show was that of Shubham and Joey. Shubham, who was adamant in staying his true, nerd self throughout the whole game, connected on a deep level with Joey, a mama-loving, gym rat.

The final five contestants of The Circle.
Courtesy of Netflix (2020)

Each character played a certain stereotypical role, but through social media, they were able to portray themselves as more than their stereotypes. They were able to form relationships with people who they might not have interacted with in person.

Why You Should Watch

Netflix’s The Circle has emerged as a surprise hit for the streaming platform. It plays as addicting television, especially enhanced by its binge-watch-ability. It has made stars out of regular people like all the best reality shows do. At its most entertaining and vicious, the show portrays how easy it is to lie and manipulate others via the internet. But at its heart, The Circle shows that when used correctly, social media can be used to forge genuine connections with people you do not know, and may not have ever met otherwise.