The Circle is back for its second series on Channel 4 – while it may have only caused a small ripple in the ratings when it launched last year, the social media (un)reality show achieved cult status among its fans thanks to the antics of its catfishing contestants.
The latest series sees The Circle upping the ante, with our hopefuls now having to win friends and influence people on the social network for a longer period of three-and-a-half weeks – with the stakes even higher as the prize fund has now risen to £100,000.
The show has now also seen a change of host, with Emma Willis taking the reins from Alice Levine and Maya Jama for series two. Willis will now be fronting a live-show every Friday night – naturally inviting comparisons between The Circle and Willis’s previous presenting gig, Big Brother.
But the 43-year-old believes The Circle is a whole different ball park to the godfather of reality TV, explaining that The Circle involves far more manipulative gameplay.
“I always watched Big Brother with a purist mentality – for me, it was a social experiment,” Willis explained.
“But I very much watch [The Circle] as a game. I hated Big Brother being compared to a game but this is clearly a game with the interaction of people, how they’ll react in certain scenarios and then seeing who is going to be themselves and who is going to play it to try and be the most popular and win that money.
“I know there’s this kind of suggestion it is just a replacement for Big Brother for me but I view it quite differently.”
Willis only got into The Circle after Big Brother bowed out of the schedules, having been taken off air last year due to falling ratings.
And the seasoned presenter, who also fronts ITV’s The Voice, believed she wouldn’t be a fan of The Circle’s manipulative game-playing elements.
“I totally missed it because I was doing Big Brother and it was our competition!” she said. “Before I’d watched it, I was like, ‘this is glorifying what is wrong with social media, where anyone can be anyone. You don’t know who you’re talking to.’ But I hadn’t watched it and that was just my opinion.
“I didn’t think I would like it. Then I watched it and I thought, ‘this is a glowing beacon to teach people, do not trust who you’re talking to online. Because you just don’t know!’
“So I think it’s a brilliant vehicle for education in the way that a game is showing you that you should be so wary of anything that you’re doing online, who you’re talking to.”
While Willis views The Circle very much as a game show, series one winner Alex Hobern, who posed as ‘Kate’ on the social network, said The Circle was heavy-going on his mental health.
“I was completely unprepared for the amount of isolation that there was,” he told RadioTimes.com. “I’ve had continuous care since I’ve left and they still check back in.
“They still give us continuous support now and I think the modern generation see therapy as a really good thing.”
The Circle returns to Channel 4 on Tuesday 24th September at 9.15pm