The Circle is a new social media reality show, launched in the week that Channel 5 has finally confirmed what viewers have known for years. Big Brother, once the undisputed king of reality shows, is dead as a dodo. It’s strange times indeed in telly land. The Circle was trailed heavily on Channel 4 for weeks, with each advert being a full instruction manual for the show, not really helping the initial audience reaction that it was overly complicated. Then before and after every ad break the presenters Alice Levine (My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast, coming to HBO in 2019) and Maya Jama (dunno, off some youth radio show at a guess) took the opportunity to again explain the rules in painful detail. We get it – you’re expecting the audience to be on the thicker end of the education spectrum.
So this is the start of three weeks of Alice and Maya talking about a bunch of people talking to themselves in their pokey little flats, sorry apartments, with an all-knowing Alexa console for company unless they’ve had the foresight to bring their own baby or turtle for company. The twist on the classic Big Brother format is that they don’t ever meet face-to-face. All contact is conducted via a specially-designed social media platform – the eponymous Circle. The total number of contestants vying for the £50,000 prize is eight which is surely more than enough. But apparently people who get evicted get replaced! Dear God – is this Black Mirror? Is three weeks actually eternity? Will it ever end?
So down to the fundamentals – how do you get people to like you? Are you true to yourself, as every Insta bio assure us is the way, the truth and the light, or are you more controlling of the image you portray to the world. Do you edit out your bad bits and concentrate on your good bits, both in your personality and your physicality or is it slightly repulsive to be so obviously manipulative? Is all this false advertising even ethical? Some of these contestants have said fuck ethics and they’re halfway to scamming retirees out of their pension as a sketchy African prince.
Well I told you it’d be a vintage year and well worth tuning in for, but I did not expect that. What a night! Let’s try to put some of the craziness in context. I’m not even sure where to begin.
So Eurovision 2018 gave us a huge variety of music with many genres represented. In my lifetime I never thought I’d see anyone stage dive at Eurovision! The way the initial jury voting went the field wide open with any of 6 or 7 songs that could have won. There was pop, metal, dance, ballads, opera and loads of different languages on show, mainly by people who all looked the same. So much for diversity, but baby steps. We also had four female presenters, none of them particularly gifted in comedy or the essential schmoozy green-room chat, but fully female-fronted is a big deal. This was especially obvious as creep after creep giving the jury votes commented on their appearance, hilariously the Portuguese man was the absolute worst. He made my ovaries cringe and shrivel up inside me. Ick.
Peer pressure. It’s peer pressure plain and simple.
The Top Gear reboot was going to be such a big event it was unavoidable. Everyone was going to have a loud and aggressive opinion about it so last night I found myself putting it on at 8pm sharp, telling Mr H not to get too used to it. Neither of us drive, so it’s pretty difficult to be entertained by what is essentially a car review show.
As far as I can tell, Top Gear has always been awful. Either too serious, too factual and too boring in its initial inception and then after the 2002 relaunch too stupid, too loud and too macho. The presenters were men old enough to know better running around growling politically incorrect nonsense and shouting their surnames at each other like retarded public school boys.
Well thanks BBC2 for this new tea-time waste of time. Too Much TV is the perfect name for a desperate and disparate bunch of ‘presenters’ – some with little or no presenting experience – chatting awkwardly about television shows that are all at least 469% better than the one they’re hosting.
They’re a motley crew of left-over raffle prizes in the school hall that should never have been grouped together (“The chocolate and wine are gone! I want to get my moneys worth but I don’t want lavender soap or a fucking Spanish wicker donkey!”). They’re like the very end of a list of potential presenters shouted out at random at a BBC meeting: “Can we get Dermot O’Leary? Fiona Bruce? Oh God, Terry Wogan has died! How about Carol Vorderman?… None of them? Oh shit, I guess this lot will have to do”.
So it’s Christmas Eve, (in the front room, not the drunk tank… not this year) and we’re gathered to watch a festive treat on BBC 2 The Great History Quiz. “We’re so old” moans Mr H. Nope, not me. I’ve always been like this – a total geek for history, ever since Mrs Green dressed us up in togas for our Romans project when we were 12. And any show about the Tudor dynasty is bound to appeal to kids. I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t like grizzly tales of ancient plagues and beheadings. The continuing success of the wonderful Horrible Historiesshould make that abundantly clear. More on that later.
How do you reassure a very young child after a terrorist attack? After the horrific events in Paris last Friday I’m sure a lot of parents are wondering the same thing. Le Petit Journal’s interview with a father and young son hs gone viral. The father speaks beautiful words of reassurance to his young son. And importantly the response to the question “Do you feel better?” is “Yes, I do feel better”. Bless.
But I was a cynical kid and I’m not sure I would have been entirely satisfied with that answer. Papa – what do you mean there are bad people everywhere?! That alone might have brought on a panic attack. Flowers and candles are pretty and it’s nice to see the world united in expressions of sympathy for Paris but how exactly is that going to keep us safe?