A back-to-basics revival that harkens back to its glory days of the mid-late 2000s would really go down a treat (Picture: Rex)
‘Circle message: NOOOOO! Hashtag devastated. Hashtag geezer girls of The Circle. Crying emoji. Send.’
That the above will mean absolutely nothing to vast swathes of people is perhaps why Channel 4 has decided to call time on The Circle; the relentlessly addictive reality show that locked its contestants in their own individual apartments and let them communicate only via the titular voice-activated app.
With some players catfishing and others being themselves, it managed to extract an awful lot of addictive, buttock-clenching drama out of a concept that essentially just involves a load of people talking flatly at their screens 24/7.
But the editing was slick, narrator Sophie Willan was uproarious, the producers’ meddling was subtle enough to not feel too intrusive, and the casting made for a satisfying blend of rivalries, friendships, and – in one uncomfortable instance – romance.
It may not have hit any truly massive ratings highs, but numbers grew year-on-year – and those of us who were invested were utterly obsessed. When it briefly seemed last month like its latest finale was going to be postponed in the wake of Prince Philip’s death… wow, my Twitter timeline had never seen fury like it.
Still, though, it was a big commitment for Channel 4: giving the same programme the same timeslot six nights a week takes up a lot of scheduling real estate, so it’s perhaps understandable that the network wants to now look to new ideas and new commissions, and – hopefully – let The Circle take on a second life elsewhere.
And alongside those ‘new’ ideas and ‘new’ commissions, might I suggest… something old?
Something like… oh, I don’t know… a revamped, reswizzed and revitalised Big Brother?
With The Circle still fresh in our minds, now feels like the perfect time.
Think about it: what was most fascinating about The Circle was what was most fascinating about the essence of Big Brother. It was about watching total strangers from different walks of life interacting with each-other – voting one-another out until one walks away with a cash prize.
In both formats, we watch as the show becomes a sort of microcosm of our own society. Some characters become instantly popular, others take a while to make themselves known, some go in with endless confidence but ultimately fall short, and some resort to underhand tactics in order to get ahead.
Friendships are made and broken, nominations (or, in The Circle’s case, ‘Ratings’) become a fascinating indicator of how everyone really sees each-other… and across both shows, you even have Emma Willis presiding.
It’s now been 21 years since Davina McCall ushered in the greatest reality show of our time, and 11 since its last outing on Channel 4.
Channel 5 brought the curtain down for good in 2018, and speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival in 2020, controller Ben Frow said he has no regrets over the decision.
‘The world is very crowded with reality shows, I think there are supreme reality shows out there,’ he argued.
‘Don’t go where you can’t be the best, turn left and go in a different direction and provide an alternative.’
It’s easy to see his working: at the time of Big Brother’s ultimate demise, it was struggling to keep up with Love Island – which was then well on its way to becoming an inescapable phenomenon.
When the two shows went head-to-head, the comparisons were unavoidable: Love Island’s ratings were shooting up while Big Brother’s were sliding down; Love Island was the talk of the nation while Big Brother felt increasingly niche. Love Island felt fresh, Big Brother – to many – felt stale.
But perhaps now, after a bit of time away, a back-to-basics revival that harkens back to its glory days of the mid-late 2000s would really go down a treat.
Just look at all the excitement the 20th anniversary content generated last year, or the ongoing success the brand is still having overseas.
In Australia, a successful 2020 comeback led to a recommission – and their 13th season, the second since returning, is currently in progress.
With The Circle still fresh in our minds, now feels like the perfect time (Picture: PA)
Earlier this year, it was revived in Belgium and the Netherlands (its home country) for a joint season between both nations, which went well enough for the go-ahead to be given for another in 2022.
Canada recently wrapped its ninth season, Finland is about to start its 14th, India’s Bigg Boss will be back for its 15th cycle later in the year, Spain continues to find success with its celebrity version, Sweden’s ninth and Nigeria’s sixth runs are under way right now, the US is in the midst of its 23rd season… I could go on!
There would be a lot of people thrilled to see it back in the UK as well – especially if it were to return to Channel 4, where it could appeal nostalgically to those who loved it in its early years but didn’t follow it to Channel 5 (for what it’s worth, I think some of its Channel 5 series were severely under-rated – but I digress).
The format would have to be just right – simple enough to not seem too convoluted, but exciting enough to avoid being outright boring – and the casting would be crucial.
Look again at The Circle – it proved that while reality shows do need big, explosive characters that give us the dramatic moments (Manrika? A legend!), they don’t all need to be toned twentysomethings who look great in a bikinis, or rising influencers who are only in it for the Insta followers. That alone could set BB apart from its rivals.
The Circle also proved that there’s a lot to be said for fun as well as for backstabbing and shock twists. And when Big Brother was fun, it was really fun.
And hey, the public vote doesn’t need to play so big a part: The Circle was just fine without any public interference – and we all know that once you open up anything to a viewer vote, it’s often the inoffensive lads who are at an advantage (10 of the 19 civilian winners last time round were white men, and no BIPOC women ever made the top two – though it’s worth pointing out that the show was ground-breaking at the time for crowning two trans winners).
So even if it’s just a quick two or three-week-long series rather than an all-out, three-month spectacular, surely the time has come to bring Big Brother back.
The only thing that could have potentially stood on its toes was The Circle. And as we wait and hope for it to be picked up by Netflix, it’s time for Elstree’s most iconic bungalow to re-open for business.
Credit: Original article published here.