It’s the new Netflix Reality fix that’s unlike any before. The Circle, a true test of online personality, puts together players who solely communicate through social media messaging hoping to avoid being blocked and eventually win $100,000.
No pre-season assessment. No cast analysis. The Circle is an impulse watch, I didn’t originally intend to do so. But I’m hooked. Netlflix has delivered a brand new American show based on the original UK series, and I’m glued to the screen! Eight players moved in to an apartment block, but they never leave their rooms because they are forced to interact with each other through ‘The Circle’ a social media service where the players can be whoever they want to be, as authentic and genuine as they wish. As some players are blocked, others move in, and when Week 1 dropped earlier this week, you bet we’re reviewing the masterful Reality show that streaming has now given us.
SPOILER ALERT! Everything below spoils the cast, the format, and the events of the first four episodes of The Circle.
There’s a bit to know about The Circle to kind of understand the game. I recommend actually watching the series, or even the trailer, found here. But basically, the players never meet. They must communicate through ‘The Circle’, like a social media platform, where they can behave however they want. This also means they can lie about whatever, and WHOEVER, they want/are. Some choose to lie about small details, like being single. Others lie entirely about their appearance by using a different person for their profile, although are authentic in how they behave. While others may decide to lie about entirely everything, from what they say, to who they are. The most popular player by the end of the season will win $100,000, and to avoid exiting, or being blocked, each round there is a player rating where each contestant ranks their fellow contestants. The top two are considered ‘Influencers’, and they must choose to block one of their fellow players, for whatever agreed upon reason. That person exits The Circle, but not before visiting another player to meet face-to-face. They are also then replaced by another contestant, who joins the game.
KARYN BLANCO plays as Mercedeze, an attractive young female who looks like everything Karyn believes she’s not. But everything she says is true, and she’s here to play and win. Often judged by her appearance, Karyn wants to give her the best advantage to communicate and connect with the other players.
ANTONIO DEPINA is a basketball player who has played in various locations around the world. His life as a player will assist him on The Circle, knowing what it’s like to find attention. He has been catfished before though, so will he learn from his mistakes?
SEABURN WILLIAMS is playing as his 26 year-old girlfriend Rebecca, knowing that ‘hot’ girls get more likes, and therefore are more popular. His only goal is to win, so he’s doing whatever it takes to be in the final one. The boy’s here to PLAY.
SHUBHAM GOEL is a virtual reality designer from California. Proud of his Indian-American heritage, he lacks in his social media and popularity grasp. He despises the platform, but is hoping to prove that authenticity is the ticket to $100k.
SAMMIE CIMARELLI has two sides, crazy and energetic, and working with children on the autism spectrum. Confident people will like her for being her, Sammie is using her appearance as an asset and her personality as a driving force.
CHRIS SAPPHIRE is a freelance artist and graphic designer, who found God as a 14 year-old. Seeing himself as one of the most genuine people in a fake world, Chris aims to own his personality and be himself to ensure he is the ultimate winner.
ALANA DUVAL is a swimsuit and lingerie model from Texas. She promises there’s more to her than her looks, describing herself as a goofball. She doesn’t want to be seen as a threat or a sex symbol by anyone, and will stay 100% true to herself to win.
JOEY SASSO, your typical New York bartender. He’s invested into his social media, but certainly has an attitude and an ego. His soft spot? Girls. Quite possibly the biggest weakness to his game is he falls for the wrong one. Joey works the OTT category well.
MIRANDA BISSONNETTE is the first intruder on The Circle, replacing the first blocked player. Describing herself as a free spirit, she loves to be spontaneous because of her lone wolf childhood. Honesty and loyalty is key to her strategy.
Some non-spoilery thoughts from me. I get why this is such a successful show. It really captures the idea that, “you can be whoever you want online”. We’ve seen some of it on MTV show Catfish, but nothing’s quite like this show. From the extreme of someone being completely different, to someone saying everything authentically but appearing different online, to the hotter players hiding their promiscuity early on, to those 100% upfront from the get go. It’s a diverse range of social media presence that reflects real life. Even lying about one detail online has a potential ripple effect on someone else, as The Circle clearly gets. There’s also no gimmick, no selling of something else, it’s very straight forward and easy to understand. This is supported through a strong cast and premise. The show sticks to its roots, and competition aside, it’s a great social experiment that has graced the streaming world and our digital age. I commend whoever thought of this show, it’s a great watch.
Online reception has been mixed, and I can appreciate and kind of understand why. The show can, at times, be a little (and I can not stress ‘a little’ enough) slow. Particularly when the players are having one on one chats with each other, and making small talk like, “how was your day”, before the juicy bits come in. It’s only slightly tedious, but it’s necessary for the show to make the impact it does, because we all go through it in real life. But the voice activated system and sometimes monotonous conversation doesn’t make for the most compelling television. The show is strongest when the players are talking strategy, playing games, stressing over the ratings, and discussing who has been blocked/visited. Thankfully, that’s what the bulk of an episode is comprised of.
I also commend the cast on being so strong out of the gate. And they all came to play, which helps the show move forward seamlessly. Often in these shows, only half the cast understands what’s necessary to win the game, with some often wanting to explore an ‘adventure’. Having such a small group of eight that want to win, it makes for great TV. I don’t know how long the revolving door of new players will go on for. But if the first nine are anything to go off of, it looks promising. Even those that annoy me are good to watch, the mix of personalities is strong by the casting team.
Looking at the specifics of Week 1 of the show, the two catfish players are fairly good at keeping their cover well covered. Karyn/Mercedeze is particularly strong at building relationships and forming connections that keep her off everyone’s radar, although she still manages to inject some sassy personality that otherwise is pretty undetected, for the most part. Seaburn/Rebecca is certainly not as great of a player as Karyn at this stage, although he’s done okay with playing the girl persona. I’m still wondering if it’s truly necessary. I get the sentiment, and while maybe being a girl works well in the very beginning in gaining attention by the others, I’m not sure if it really matters further down the track. I’m still assessing. Chris is probably a highlight, if not the highlight, character of the show. He’s got incredible energy, great under-the-radar social and strategic gameplay, and is working his authentic self well. He’s well connected to the rest, both guys and girls, and unless he’s targeted for that reason he’s probably sitting in the strongest position.
I’m loving Sammie, she’s feisty and interesting. But she’s also pretty strategic. Her main weakness is a lack of strong connections, she kind of doesn’t have a strong asset or ally, not someone that trusts her entirely like others do. This puts her in a vulnerable position, evident by the fact she was equal second last in the second player rating of the show. If she can continue to build genuine bonds maybe she can squeeze in somewhere, but I’m worried it’s too little too late. Shubhum has done very well to climb out of last position to first for the player ratings. Yeah, those first impressions are tough, but he bounced back and kept those close allies in Joey, Antonio, Rebecca, Mercedeze, and Chris close. And he’s just made a good connection with Sammie, so he’s basically connected everywhere, even with people he sends home. I remember being surprised he was first, but upon analysis, no, Shubhum is playing a great game and honestly has a pretty good chance to win it. Joey’s annoying. Lol. But he’s still good to watch. He’s just so typical, and lacks a lot of strategic understanding on the others. I think he’ll stick around, but honestly I don’t think his charisma or charm is enough to win, it doesn’t come across as truly genuine to everyone and the flirtatious vibe might undo him.
Miranda was a great first addition, and I really like her. Another person that’s sticking to their true self. It’ll be very interesting to see if she’ll survive the first player rating where she’s the newbie. I think she can, but I don’t think she’ll make the top two. There seems to be a well rounded group of Chris, Mercedeze, Shubhum, and at an extension, Rebecca and Joey. Sammie and Miranda I don’t think quite fit that mould, and it’ll be up to her personal relationship with others to save her. To the blocked players, Antonio was my least favourite. He lacks a lot of interesting personality, although is a true straight shooter. There’s nothing wrong with him, it’s just something I probably wouldn’t vibe with. He also didn’t have a great handle of the strategic game, and misread a lot of social interactions. Dropping from being an influencer to last and out, ouch. But definitely deserved. We certainly missed what Alana really had to offer, she barely made it one night. But it is on her, she was the highest rated player of those at risk, and I’m sure that posed her as an even bigger threat than she already seemed to be. In hindsight, being upfront about being a model was probably a bad decision, and an instance where being authentic doesn’t help. She tried though, and poor Joey’s heart must have been sinking when she went home.
There is a new player introduced in the last moments of Episode 4, Alex who is posing as Adam because it’s the more attractive and capturing look Alex wants to showcase. He’s nerdy and geeky, and it’ll be fun to see how the strategy works out for him. Everyone’s worried about a catfish. And with two down that are the genuine people, everyone’s wondering exactly how many catfishes are out there. Alex’s introduction makes three, so let the games begin!
If you’re not watching, WATCH. Honestly, the social experiment aside is so entertaining. I love competition shows, but damn this really is enticing. The middle batch of four episodes are out Wednesday (Jan. 8th), and the final batch of four a week following (Jan. 15th). It’s a great mini binge each week, so give it a go. I’m certainly a big fan, so maybe I’ll become the next influencer ;).
That’s all for this week’s review of The Circle. It’s nice to have something small for January to kick off the year.
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