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.
Have you ever been so excited you put your fist in your mouth to suppress a squeal of glee? Have you ever been so excited that you could swallow your own fist down and keep going up past the elbow and beyond, squealing away regardless? It’s not often I go full fangirl about anything, but guys, it’s nearly time to see the very last series of The Bridge! And I am so excited. You can keep your Infinity War. This is the original most ambitious crossover event. It’s time for Denmark and Sweden to put their differences aside and work together again on outrageously gruesome killing.
It goes without saying that someone is murdered near to the Oresund Bridge. Yes, it’s a woman and yes it’s totally brutal. However you feel about that on TV more generally, you have to admit this is The Bridge’s classic calling card. Why change now? This woman is Margrethe Thormod, the head of the Danish Immigration Board. And she and her team have recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons – filmed clinking champagne glasses and celebrating the deportation of a gay man back to a Muslim country where he will most probably be executed. Taariq Shirazi has gone to ground and Margrethe is murdered in a way that seems to have cultural and religious connotations. Is there a connection?
There’s no getting around it – Channel 5 has a reputation. It’s a scuzzy low-class broadcaster renowned for poverty porn. Let’s all point and laugh at the disadvantaged people in society. It’s their fault they’re poor, unemployed, stupid, ill, struggling with debt – delete as required. There are very few reasons to watch the channel at all. But the tone of the adverts for Rich House, Poor House was quite different. This programme was billed as an experiment in happiness. Would it be repellant Victorian slum tourism, or something more worthy?
In episode one we meet the Caddy and Williams families, both big families by the UK standard. The premise is that they swap homes, budgets and lives for a typical week. Each family is selected from the richest and poorest 10% of the UK.
The Williams are at the poor end of the spectrum. Mum Kayleigh and Dad Antony have 6 kids, a product of a blended family. They rent a house in a council estate in Weston Super Mare and proudly they announce they are not on benefits. They survive on just £110 per week after rent and bills. Only 22 miles away from them in frighfully middle-class Clifton live James and Claire Caddy with their 5 kids. The family is older than the Williams with some children at university. Their spending money is a frankly staggering £1700 per week, mainly I think thanks to young and hip looking Dad James with floppy Brian Cox hair who is semi-retired after selling his software company.
I am worryingly out of fashion on the internet. As we all know by now it’s a place for spitting bile, name calling and generally being a dick. All happy, positive and sincere thoughts are banned. Despite fears that I might end up sounding like Professor Brian Cox or the fabulous theme from The Lego Movie (everything is either amazing! or awesome!) it turns out it’s easier for me to review things I like. If I enjoy something I watch I want to tell you about it. Simples.
And even though I promised myself a full year ago to get out of my tv comfort zone and try new things I still fail. If you can only stand to watch 10 minutes of a programme, it can’t be worth discussing can it? And is it fair to judge a show on such a short viewing? Probably not. But dear sweet baby cheesus, sometimes 10 minutes is more than enough.
As you may recall back in September BBC2 introduced us to a superstar in pretty unusual circumstances, and I thought he was fantastic. This was Abz Love, ex-boyband member of 5ive breaking with his past and being born again as a super enthusiastic small-holding farmer. In my review I was hoping for a follow-up, and the Christmas telly listings gave me that gift.