By: Dana Hathaway
In a world where most reality TV shows play off the same ideas — who’s going to be a couple, who can survive physical challenges, and which team can win a race — the Netflix show The Circle is a refreshing and engaging shift from these overdone themes. I’ll admit that I started watching this show because I was sure it would require exactly zero brainpower to understand, and as a hard-working student I require a “so bad it’s good” show at all times to unwind from the burden that is high school. But — plot twist — The Circle actually was enjoyable, and since Netflix recently released Season 5, it is my duty to explain why this social media-based saga is well worth a watch.
The premise of The Circle is simple. Up to 13 contestants compete over a few weeks to become the most popular player via a screen-based interface in order not to get eliminated before the final vote. The producers pull competitors from all different walks of life. Some compete as themselves, but the digitization of the game allows those who wish to catfish (portray themselves as someone else) an opportunity to assume a different job, look, or personality if they believe they will be more successful as someone else. While some catfishers are utterly hopeless, like the 22-year-old girl who tried playing as a middle-aged marriage counselor and eventually admitted she didn’t know what a memoir was, others find success, like Deleesa St. Agathe, who won Season 2 while pretending to be her husband.
Part of what makes The Circle so intriguing is the meticulous cast selection. Producers ensure that those who end up in the show are talkative, likable (for the most part), and overall interesting people. There is no shortage of personality in The Circle. Some of my Season Five favorites include sassy Sam, who claims, “I am the spiciest thing ever…Whatever’s the hot one, I’m that,” bold Oliver (he entered the Circle by saying: “Sorry I’m late, ya girl was stuck in traffic!”), and my queen Raven, whose profile reads, “When I’m not working, you can find me twerking for self-care.” Not only do viewers become attached to their favorite characters, but it also appears like the characters themselves form genuine connections with each other. This makes the show enthralling, and the side plots of friendships and relationships ensure the show stays interesting.
Another reason I haven’t grown tired of this show (yet) is because of the various twists and turns the producers keep coming up with. For example, the players partake in new games each season that have different consequences and rewards. In the current season, two rewards consisted of “dates” where players dressed up and selected someone to have a romantic chat with. It was interesting to see buff Martin attempting to flirt with Tasia (a lesbian catfish) who consistently laughed at his efforts while pretending to be into him. The players also differ each season. In Season 5, two young players were eliminated on the first day, only to come back to catfish together as a 51-year-old dog trainer.
While I will try not to give out too many spoilers, I can assure you that Season 5 is a work of reality TV art, and I will remain a loyal Circle watcher for as long as I can be on my parents’ Netflix account.