What Is The Circle: What To Know About Netflix's Reality Show

Netflix's The Circle

On January 1, Netflix plans to launch an all-new reality series called The Circle. The Circle is a bit of a mixture of a variety of different reality series, like Big Brother, Catfish, and The Real World, with some elements similar to The Black Mirror episode “Nosedive.” The big twist of The Circle is that all the interactions happen through social media and messenger-style chats. The contestants all live in the same building, but unlike with Big Brother, the players stay separated, and The Circle keeps them confined to their own apartments and select areas.

The Circle is a complex game of strategy and manipulation. Obtaining popularity is the main objective of The Circle: at the end of the three weeks, one person wins $100,000 for being the most popular player. Those deemed less popular or disingenuous face elimination. The Circle sounds complicated, but it’s simpler to follow than it appears. The Circle turns the everyday mundanity of social media into a thrilling game of deceit, power, and triumph.

Netflix's The Circle

What Is Netflix’s The Circle About?

Netflix’s The Circle is about the power of social media: It can create influencers and destroy someone’s reputation. In terms of how the show actually works, each contestant is set up in their own apartment where they can only communicate with one another through the show's social media platform and chats. So they don't actually see each other, but viewers are able to watch them as they interact with the other contestants in an attempt to form friendships and further themselves in the game. The point of the game? To avoid getting "blocked" through each elimination round.

Because they're quarantined separately, the format allows people to present any persona that they want. The Circle showcases this message by giving each contestant the freedom to choose a profile image that they believe will gain them popularity. While some will choose a flattering photo of themselves, other contestants of The Circle choose to catfish the others by pretending to be someone they're not. They can either take the personality and pictures of someone in their lives, or make up a person that they think will be popular. On Netflix’s version, two of the original eight contestants are taking on completely new personalities.

As it's revealed in the first episode, a contestant named Seaburn uses his girlfriend’s image to catfish the other Circle contestants, and a contestant named Karyn uses a completely new persona to represent herself. There are also little instances of omitting information to try to rank high in popularity. A professional basketball player—with his girlfriend’s permission— decides to change his relationship status to single instead of in-a-relationship.

The Circle contestants communicate in several different ways. They have an initial profile, which contains a picture, their written bio, relationship status, age, and other general information. This profile introduces each player. The contestants then communicate through a main chat that everyone can see, or through group and private chats.

The Circle is a revolving door of players, at least until there are only very few days left. In the U.K. series, after a contestant leaves, another one moves into their room. Usually there are eight contestants living in the apartments at any given time. The influencers vote out players of The Circle each week. Every few days, The Circle contestants rank each other from least to most liked players. The players with the highest averages become the influencers, and then they discuss in private rooms who to block (aka eliminate).

Before exiting the Circle, the eliminated player gets the opportunity to meet one of the players face-to-face. That's a game twist used in the U.K. version, and it looks like Netflix's version of the series will include it as well. This face-to-face meeting can either end in a sweet meeting between new friends, a huge confrontation between enemies, or a Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man interaction if they’re both catfishes. The Circle only lasts for three weeks. At the end, the final remaining players rank their favorites. The player with the highest overall average wins the game and $100,000. On the UK version, all the finalists meet in person at a dinner. Netflix will hopefully follow suit with that portion of the series, as there's so much potential for drama.

Netflix regular Michelle Buteau, who appeared in Always Be My Maybe, Someone Great, and Isn’t It Romantic, hosts and narrates The Circle.

Netflix's The Circle

When Does The Circle Arrive on Netflix?

The Circle begins on Netflix on January 1. The streaming service plans to release four episodes of the series on Wednesday, and then four more episodes every Wednesday until January 15. There will be four new episodes on January 1, January 8, and January 15. This brings The Circle Season 1 to 12 episodes.

Channel 4's The Circle winner Alex

The Circle is a direct import from the British version that launched on 2018. Netflix bought rights to the American version in October 2018, with plans to develop versions of it for Brazil and France as well. The Channel 4 series gained a lot of buzz and popularity during its first season, but seems to have become even more popular with season 2. The Circle Season 2 finale, which aired in October 2019, drew 1.2 million viewers. Currently, it appears that The Circle US is a direct copy of The Circle UK. They both share a premise and style.

UK Circle spoilers ahead! If you're planning on watching the original series, skip the next section!

The first season of the UK The Circle ended with Alex Hobern winning. He used his girlfriend’s pictures to catfish as a girl named Kate. The Circle Season 2 divided fans as James Doran, pretending to be a single mom named Sammie, led a group of fellow contestants to manipulate the voting system to ensure that one of them became influencer for the remaining votes. This strategy worked because one of Sammie’s co-conspirators Paddy Smyth won the season.

Netflix's The Circle

How Is Netflix’s The Circle Different From The British Version?

Since Netflix hasn’t officially released The Circle, we won’t know all the changes until all 12 episodes air. However, the UK version of The Circle aired daily five nights a week, and each episode was filmed only a few days before they aired. Based on what's been reported, Netflix's version has already filmed. Because the UK version of the series filmed close to the air dates, they were able to include interactive polls that allowed viewers to influence the game. If Netflix has already filmed all of its Circle episodes, it's safe to assume viewers won't be interacting with the game in any meaningful way.

The UK version had many twists, some of which involved audience participation, including a fan favorite prize at the end of the season. And during The Circle season 2, there was a fan vote to decide if two players should be eliminated or have to play as one new fake player. It seems unlikely that we'll see those kinds of twists play out on the Netflix Circle, if it's all pre-taped. But there may be changes from the original format in store.

Netflix gave fans of The Circle a late holiday present with a half hour sneak peek of The Circle Season 1’s premiere, which you can watch on Youtube. The first four episodes of The Circle are set to arrive on Netflix on January 1.

Jerrica Tisdale
Freelance Writer

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.