At its core, Big Brother is a game about personalities and alliances; contestants live in a mansion watched by an Orwellian figure called Big Brother, reveal their inner thoughts to a “diary room,” build connections, rivalries and sometimes romance, and nominate each other before the public vote each other off.
Originally, our players would compete in activities and challenges on Friday Night Live and we’d see beloved housemates evicted once a week. These two events split up the Big Brother week and made all those micro moments between contestants more engaging.
When the series first came down under, it rewarded socialites and personalities. But now, Big Brother housemates compete in daily obstacle courses, are rewarded for their physical strength over their mental, and are eliminated every episode. Look at someone like Flex Mami, a social media queen who would’ve dominated the original style but completely flopped and was underappreciated in this new format.
WATCH: The Circle Season 2 | Official Trailer
Cut to Netflix’s The Circle, a show that combines everything you loved about old school Big Brother but combines it with the social media platforms of today. The show's set up is simple: contestants live in an apartment building and are neighbours but never meet. Instead, they interact through social media, creating profiles - of themselves or someone else. Every two episodes, the residents rate each other and the top two are given the power to collaborate and decide who gets blocked and evicted.
It’s an incredible format that speaks to how we interact with one another and communicate with each other now compared to the early 2000s, but is also a deliciously dramatic recipe for misinformation, alliances formed in secret group chats and private convos, and things being misconstrued. Things can change almost immediately as new profiles enter the chat, new bonds are formed between two people who are catfishing as other people, and an unclear text can turn potential best pals into rivals with an explosive feud.
In the first episode of The Circle season 2, Savannah, a 25-year-old robotics expert, and Terilisha, a 34-year-old school teacher, bond over their superstitions around one of the male contestants, single father Trevor (played by Trevor’s IRL wife Deleesa). When the group has to rate one another, the pair end up as the top 2 contestants of the week and deemed "influencers," granted the power to give one of their fellow contestants the block.
Here, their rivalry begins to stir as the two disagree on who they want to save and eliminate. After the elimination, Terilisha insinuates that first eliminated yoggie Bryant wasn’t her preferred decision, implying that Savannah didn’t want to save Too Hot To Handle star Chloe Veitch, who she previously said she would in a girls only chat.
Then, in the third episode, Bye, Bye, Bye!, the contestants play a game of truth or dare and the pair go from subtly shading each other to outright fighting in the comments. Terilisha, asked who her biggest player is in The Circle, pulls no punches and writes, “Savannah.” Savannah claps back and asks, “is it that I’m a game player or that you see me as a threat?” before she chooses Terilisha as the player she trusts the least.
Suddenly, the eight contestants are split between sides: Courtney and Trevor (Deleesa) vouch for Savannah while 20-something River (played by 50-something Lee) and Chloe fight in Terilisha’s corner. As elimination round draws near, contestants strategically set up private chats with other players to build some sort of connection that’ll keep them in the competition.
In Big Brother 2021, we are missing this kind of tension and drama. In both shows, contestants have only been in the house for a short period of time, but only one is making us sit at the edge of our seat, gasp and clutch our phones for support. Perhaps, if Big Brother had incorporated social media in its new social game, we’d be having a different conversation but, if you’re tired of this new Big Brother format, we encourage you to check out The Circle.
The Circle is available to stream on Netflix.