Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Circle: My favourite pastime, drinking alone in a Travelodge, just became TV

Once upon a time, if you were to get drunk on your own in a Travelodge and start shouting at your TV, all you'd get in return is a pissed off porter knocking on your door and saying "Mrs Fish, please, we've had another complaint - you need to keep it down - no I'm not room service... I... I don't know who you ordered pizza from."

Nowadays this same behaviour is apparently enough to earn you £50,000 and the 15 minutes Andy Warhol promised.

If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about then I envy you, as you obviously weren't assaulted with Channel 4's newest reality TV show, The Circle, as you sat in a comfy, post-Great British Bake Off haze last night.

Presented by Maya Jama and Alice Levine (who I've just realised is Alice from My Dad Wrote a Porno omg love her), The Circle will see its contestants squat in an abandoned Travelodge for three weeks, only interacting with each other via a made up social media network called The Circle.

I think it's the Travelodge on the North Circular.

The general idea is to avoid being blocked or removed from The Circle and to eventually win the prize money by being voted the most popular person at the end of the show. There is a twist though, contestants can make up entirely fake personalities rendering the whole thing fucking pointless in the first place.

"When anyone can be anyone... WHO ARE WE REALLY TALKING TO!?!?!" asks the voiceover sagely.

"MOSTLY MY MUM." I yell at the TV over my wine, getting into the spirit of things.


a) I'd be so good at this, I am legit way better on the internet than in real life.

b) I'd be so bad at this, I'd be kicked off for trolling in about 6 hours.

c) If this show is named after the Emma Watson movie (me, an intellectual: "Um do you mean the Dave Eggers novel?"), then we might be in for a treat as the whole shebang deteriorates into a futuristic totalitarian regime with contestants driving themselves off bridges just to escape the constant never-ending surveillance and pressure to perform.

d) Nope, turns out we're actually in for nearly an hour of watching people choose their profile picture.

First up is Aiden, who looks like that girl off Instagram. You know the one.

All of them.

Aiden spends some time carefully choosing her profile picture and eventually decides on the close up pout with head tilted to the right.

Close up pout with head tilted to the left was too boring.

ASIDE: In the future, when forcing my husband to choose which picture I should put on Instagram out of eight identical pictures I just took of myself, I'm totally going to start calling him 'Circle'.

Next up is Dan the Estate Agent. Since I am currently flat hunting, I hate him already.

"Circle, private message Dan. Subject: Justify these tenant fees you fucking tightwad."

Dan says he likes being social but likes being on his own at the same time and... well yeah, I mean, same.

Dan has also BYOT (Bring Your Own Turtle) and suddenly Dan is not so bad.


The contestants have to write profile bios to go with their profile pics. Dan goes with 'smart', 'witty' and then comes up with the inspired 'always up for a laugh', which he celebrates as though he just finished writing War and Peace.

Since they're both up and running on The Circle, Aiden and Dan can now talk to each other, which they do via dictation at their TV.

From the way they shout their commands I can only conclude that The Circle is either elderly or partially deaf.

Another person is here. Her name is Jennifer and I'm going to be nice about her because she runs a digital advertising company and I am a freelance copywriter.

Looking beaut, Jen. Hire me.

Jennifer hates social media and is going to pretend that she's a younger junior doctor to show how you can't trust anyone on the Internet, in case you hadn't picked up on that theme. On the other hand, she's using actual pictures of herself so, you know, she's not great at it.

Jennifer says people might find her game tekkers 'morally questionable'.

Nah it's alright babe we don't give a shit.

Next up is Mitchell, who says that people think he's a dickhead when they first meet him but soon realise there's more to him than that.

He's also a wanker.

Mitchell dictates his bio and the first cracks in The Circle begin to show.

For example, it cannot spell 'meeting'.

But when we cut back to the same shot a couple of seconds later, the spelling error has disappeared...

This is some serious Black Mirror shit, guys. I think all of these people are going to die.

Jennifer decides to message Mitchell and shows her age a bit by leaning into the screen and yelling.



Alex's girlfriend, if you're reading this, ask yourself if this has come out of nowhere.

Alex says he wasn't popular at school and that he's been catfished before in the past and I start to wonder whether his suspiciously attractive 'girlfriend' has ever actually been seen by any of his friends or family in real life.

Since 'Kate' is hot, Mitchell rapidly exits his boring conversation with Jennifer and slides into Kate's DMs. For someone who says she is just playing a game with a bunch of idiots from the 'narcissistic selfie generation', Jennifer looks overly gutted about the turn of events.

Come now Jennifer, don't make this weird.

Another person enters The Circle 👉👌😂. His name is Freddie, he is from Essex, and he works in a call centre, just like Aiden.

This show is going a long way towards explaining many of my frustrating customer service experiences.

Freddie is gay but his gameplan is to hide this fact while he's in The Circle.

... good luck Freddie.

Freddie chooses to say in his bio that he is a 24 year old straight man from Essex who 'loves the ladies, is hardworking, and wants to start a family'. Clearly Freddie has never met a 24 year old straight man from Essex.

He also PRETENDS TO HAVE A DEAD DOG before laughing that he 'can't fucking stand animals' because Freddie is a PSYCHOPATH.

Fuck you, Freddie.

Next up is Sian, a model/student who wants to know if people really like her for her personality or just for her looks.

In order to achieve this, she's choosing to only show herself looking 'rough'.

Fuck you, Sian.

Oops someone called Genelle has accidentally booked into the Travelodge with her child and inadvertently become a Circle contestant!

Guys, you should really tell her there's cameras in there.

Genelle's baby is too cute for words and Genelle seems too nice for this show.


Everyone is now online so the contestants get a chance to take a look at each other's profiles. Aiden freaks out that Mitchell likes 'going out' and 'tea', screaming that they're going to get on so well.


Jennifer's profile is not going down very well but then again she did write in her bio that she's a 'keen walker' so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The gang enjoy some inane group chitchat that goes on for way too long.

Genelle's baby starts screamcrying.

Me too, kid.

ASIDE: There's actually a lot of screaming on this show. Won't the other Travelodge customers complain?

Finally something else is happening. The contestants now have to give each other a rating out of five stars based on absolutely fuck all.

This social network is apparently a mix of Facebook and Uber.

Unsurprisingly, the very beautiful 'Kate' is rated most popular because, beautiful. Estate Agent Dan is second because, turtle. Genelle and Sian are joint third because, blah. Aiden and Freddie are fifth and sixth, Mitchell is seventh, and Jennifer is last because she seriously thought 'keen walker' was a thing her fake popular persona would write.

You literally work in advertising.

As her/his reward, 'Kate'/Alex is allowed to choose another contestant to join him/her for cocktails in a 'private area' called The Hangout.

I start to get excited that Alex's big deception is going to be revealed so early and all as a result of his own successful conniving MUHAHAH- except that the hangout is just two chairs with a wall between them where they will continue to talk to each other through The Circle.

"But they already have booze and a private chat function in their apartment so this prize is entirely redundant!!" I hear you cry.

Well, yes, but do they have...


KateAlex chooses Mitchell to enjoy some sweet sweet profiteroles with.

"I hope you have fun in The Hangout, you pair of dicks." mutters a disgruntled Dan. I idly wonder about how much better this show would be if it started randomly broadcasting everything the contestants said out loud.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is actually getting ready for his 'date' because he's a fucking idiot.

The perfect outfit for sitting in front a brick wall.

Cue several minutes of painful date 'banter' between Mitchel and KateAlex. If you've ever been a 14 year old on MSN Messenger, you'll get the gist.

AND THAT'S ALL FOLKS! We're encouraged to download The Circle App (certainly not) and given a little preview of the following night's show, which is mostly just people shrieking "OMG!!!??".

However there is a tantalising glimpse of Jennifer tearfully questioning "How can this be happening so soon?" that does keep me hopeful for a dystopian catastrophe in which The Circle has a full on AI meltdown and locks all the contestants in the Travelodge FOREVER.

Fingers crossed.