New year, new television obsession. Netflix dropped the first four episodes of new reality competition show The Circle, and you’ll undoubtedly crave more as soon as you watch them. The series, and the original British version which has gained a huge following on social media (catch the original The Circle on YouTube), essentially involves watching social media interactions play out on your screen in a Big Brother-style environment. And things get weird. Fast.
Is The Circle A Real App?
The Circle starts with eight players in an apartment building, but they won’t meet each other face to face unless they make it to the final. Instead, they communicate strictly through The Circle app. Unfortunately, The Circle isn’t a real app. But, it doesn’t need to be. The faux-app mimics things that happen every day on Instagram and Twitter, but with voice command so we can follow along, rather than watch eight people hunch over their phones for an hour at a time. It won’t be hard for fans to imagine they are inside the camera-filled apartment, playing along with The Circle contestants.
How Does The Circle Work?
Players in The Circle can only “talk” to each other using the titular voice-activated app to dictate messages. There’s no way for the players to know for certain who they are talking to unless they make it to the end or are blocked from the circle and meet one player in real life. This means there are plenty of opportunities for catfish to infiltrate the game, just like (you guessed it) on real social media apps.
Because it's one big social experiment, Big Brother fans will feel right at home. Both are designed to study how people actually connect with each other and how far some people are willing to go to deceive others for personal gain. Some players enter the game with profiles that include pictures, personalities, ages, lifestyles, or views that are very different from their own in an effort to cultivate the most likeable social media profile, rather than representing their authentic selves.
From what we can see, this deception is practically the foundation of this wild new game show, and it's UK counterpart. A black woman on The Circle in the UK decided to catfish as a white man to see if her opinionated personality would be more acceptable in a different form. Players who feel they have been judged or misunderstood their whole lives may choose to create a profile that looks like someone they think represents a more relatable person. But it's not always the best strategy: Catfishes that last in the game are the players who are able to mold the catfish’s personality with their own. The ones who can’t seem often seem one-note or suspicious pretty immediately and end up getting blocked from The Circle.
And yes, blocked means "eliminated" in Circle-speak.
The concept of seeing strangers locked in their apartments for three weeks without any in-person contact with other people might sound boring, but from the intense strategizing to the the contestants' hilarious solo dance parties and awkward one-on-one dates in the hangout, this show is lots of fun. There are also seemingly innocent games (see: not at all innocent) designed to create drama and raise suspicion among the contestants. Real friendships are formed and some contestants even try to strike up a romance or two. It cliche, but it's true: Anything can happen in The Circle.
Can You Vote On The Circle?
Unlike the UK version, Netflix's The Circle isn’t filmed in real-time. While the British series was airing overseas, viewers voted on choices that impacted the game. Netflix's The Circle has already wrapped filming on season 1, which will air in three blocks throughout January on the streaming service. That means, unfortunately for the US players, there's not way to affect how the game unfolds. A player’s fate is only determined by what they think will make them the most popular player in The Circle, and only in The Circle.
Who Wins The Circle?
Just as the least liked players get blocked, the two players who are the most liked each week become influencers. The week's influencers chat (via The Circle) and choose who to block from the lowest scoring Circle members, which could allow them to cut their competition and have better odds at making it to the finale to win the $100,00 prize. It could also put a target on their back whenever they lose their top ranking or simply tank their ranking. Contestants need to walk the line between being liked by their cohorts and being influential in order to survive all the way to the end. Only the person who's managed to play both sides wins, in the end.
If you are new to The Circle, get ready for pettiness, laughs, and scheming. And if you are a fan of the British version, be prepared for just as much cursing and viciously cutthroat gameplay from the start.