When a new reality show becomes a viral hit, the first question I have is whether it's original or a remake of a British show. American remakes of U.K. reality shows have become a hot trend: When shows like Love Island and Great British Baking Show take off across the pond, Hollywood is quick to green-light the U.S. version. The Circle, season 2 of which is currently airing on Netflix, is the latest show to follow the trend. The reality competition originated in the U.K. in September 2018; the U.S. version came out in January 2020. In fact, the four international versions of The Circle are all produced in Britain, and contestants are flown out to compete in the same apartment building in Salford, England. The France and Brazil versions are available on Netflix, but the original British version, unfortunately, is not.
The Circle U.K. is one of the country's most popular reality shows, and it's both longer and more intricate than the U.S. version. In an interview for Vulture, creator Tim Harcourt said that the U.S. season 1 cast mostly stayed true to their friendships, and wouldn't turn on each other because of strategy. "The Brits, on the other hand, would probably sell their grandmother for a prize. They happily turn on each other," he said.
How is 'The Circle' U.K. different?
While the U.S. version of the The Circle is engrossing, the U.K. version is a more interactive experience for viewers. The U.K. show has more episodes; it has a schedule similar to Love Island, airing a new episode every day of the week except Saturday over the course of three weeks. The extra episodes allow the U.K. version to add more surprises and twists to the gameplay, such as allowing blocked players to come back as catfishes and introducing new players anonymously. The competition also takes place as it's being aired, instead of being pre-recorded like the U.S. version. U.K. viewers vote on events as they happen, and they're given the chance to block and save players once a season. In a game where players can go from placing first in the popularity rankings to seventh over a few days, audience voting shakes up the game even more.
The Circle U.K. also has a weekly live show where presenter Emma Willis shows additional clips and discusses the past week of the show with blocked players and celebrity fans. The blocked players, who have been isolated the whole time, get to see the true identities of all the players still in the game. The U.K. audience gets more catfish reveals and see more of the host, which would also be awesome for the U.S. version. (Anything to see more of Michelle Buteau.) The latest U.K. season did not have live shows, due to the pandemic, but that may come back in future seasons.
How popular is 'The Circle' in the UK?
Though it doesn't reach Big Brother- or Love Island- level ratings, The Circle is one of the more popular reality shows in the UK. According to Deadline, the season 2 premiere had an audience of 1.3 million, an increase of 30 percent from the first season premiere, with half of the audience being age 16-34. It's known for attracting a large amount of young viewers, thanks to its social media premise. According to its airing network, Channel 4, the second season was highest-rating 10 p.m. show among the age 16-34 group since 2010.
How do I watch 'The Circle UK'?
All three seasons of The Circle UK are available for free on All4, the streaming platform for Channel 4. The website only allows access to UK residents—or people with a UK IP address, if you already have a VPN to watch Love Island live. The first two seasons of the show were previously available on YouTube, but they've since been taken down, so the All4 website is your best bet to watch.