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Is Netflix’s The Circle Real?

Is Netflix’s The Circle Real?


  • The Circle
    is one of the realest reality shows on Netflix, with genuine interactions and unscripted messages from players.
  • While some elements are embellished for entertainment, the game flow remains authentic as players make their own decisions.
  • Questionable moments still arise, but overall,
    The Circle
    provides a unique and genuine look at human interactions in a tech-savvy world.

The Circle came out of the gate strong as one of Netflix’s original reality competition series. The premise, based on the U.K. show of the same name, is like Big Brother meets Catfish, and it fits perfectly with our modern tech-savvy society. Like any other reality show, however, fans often question whether The Circle is real or at least partly scripted. This question was brought to the forefront again in the latest sixth season when the show introduced an AI computer as one of the players, catfishing as a young man named Max.

Considering the players are isolated in separate apartments, chatting only through a messaging app called “Circle” on TV screens in every room of the abode (yes, there are even small TVs in the bathroom and kitchen, so they never miss a conversation), it would stand to reason that there’s not much to fabricate or script on the show. But is this truly the case?

The Circle Is, For the Most Part, Real

Fans can rest easy knowing that there aren’t many elements of The Circle, one of the best reality competition shows on Netflix, that can be contrived. Since every text-based message comes right out of the player’s mouth after they speak the prompt “Message” in response to something someone else has said, there isn’t much that can be done to adjust, edit, or even influence what they say.

The players are indeed isolated from one another as well as the outside world. According to The Cinemaholic, players are not permitted to bring phones, laptops, or other internet-connected devices with them. While they can enjoy the rooftop patio, hot tub, and gym, production makes sure they never cross paths with one another and only visit one at a time. The show’s inaugural winner, Joey Sasso, spoke with The Cinemaholic and confirmed the realness of the show.


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What Isn’t Real on The Circle

That said, a few things are embellished on The Circle for the sake of entertainment and to make the episodes more interesting. One of the most notable is the capabilities of the Circle app. The app itself does indeed exist, but it isn’t quite as tech-savvy as it appears to be.

The app doesn’t have voice recognition capabilities to transcribe what people are saying or understand the emojis they want to use. There are humans behind the scenes typing out the player’s messages as they are being dictated, according to Vulture. This might explain why conversations are usually so succinct and terse, as well as why players like Seaburn in Season 1 spoke so slowly. No producer, after all, wants to re-type a complicated monologue.

Further, that loud “Alert” sound that occurs throughout every episode doesn’t actually happen: the bullhorn-like tone is all for dramatic effect and added in post-editing, reports Showbiz CheatSheet. The word “Alert” does pop up on the screens, as fans watching at home see, but it does so silently. That’s fine because, with a large-screened TV in every room, players notice it rather quickly anyway.

Another element that’s real but for dramatic effect is the surprised look all the players have when a blocked person is walking down the hall to meet one of them. Producers do knock on everyone’s door to get footage of surprised reactions from each player. But that’s to help build suspense until the identity of the person they’re actually going to visit is revealed.


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In terms of the overall flow of the game, players aren’t told what to say or who to chat with, though they are limited in how many chats they can have each day, according to Showbiz CheatSheet. This makes it important for them to choose who to talk to wisely, and thus, it might prevent them from squashing beef or forging deeper bonds with more people since they have to pick and choose.

Like any other reality show, producers and camera operators help players through moments in the game. So, some outside influence might encourage a player to start a private chat they’re reluctant to initiate or plant a seed that makes them rethink a decision. It’s likely, however, that any influence in this respect is strictly to prevent the game from becoming stale and stagnant.

Finally, the footage is obviously edited to create the episodes, and it could be (and likely is) arranged in the most entertaining way possible, potentially to drive and emphasize certain narratives. With only so much airtime, entire conversations or parts of conversations must be left out, and some of this content could change viewer perception. Considering the linear fashion of the show, however, and the fact that most conversations happen in response to something else, what’s left out is likely the most mundane chats. Chances are, not nearly as much is left out or spliced together as there would be in other reality shows.

Still, There Have Been Questionable Moments on The Circle

Despite the knowledge that the show is pretty much as real as it gets when it comes to reality TV, there are still moments and details that fans have questioned. For example, in the first season, player Sean Taylor entered as a catfish using her real name but another, much thinner woman’s photo. Halfway through her journey, she wanted to show her authentic self and revealed her true profile photo. Was that a planned storyline from the beginning?

Then there’s Max, the AI, in Season 6. While producers say its interactions with other players were entirely real, they also admit there were test runs and coaching. They noted that during testing, they had to remind “Max” that “he” was a 26-year-old Gen Z male and thus likely wouldn’t use slang terms like “rad,” according to Netflix Tudum. Once play began, producers say they typed the text replies from other players into the chatbot’s screen and then re-typed Max’s AI-generated response. But fans aren’t convinced that there was no intervention at all after that.


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Another moment that raised eyebrows is in the latest Season 6 when Caress decided to become the sacrificial lamb for Kyle in the Ride or Die twist. She claimed it was out of guilt because she ranked low most of the time, while Kyle had previously consistently ranked high, and she didn’t think it was fair that he should have to go down as well. But in a game for $100,000, the move didn’t make sense and didn’t seem like something Caress would have done. This has fans questioning if she was influenced to bow out or felt like she didn’t have a chance of winning anyway when Kyle did and wanted to do the honorable thing.

The Circle Is Among the Realest Reality Shows

Despite a few moments that have fans questioning things, of the many reality TV shows that exist today, The Circle is undoubtedly one of the realest there is. What viewers see is what they get. Sometimes, that means the show can get, frankly, boring as viewers listen to each player narrating their own internal monologues. But that’s because the messages are genuine and reflect exactly how the player is feeling at that moment. The gameplay is each player’s own, and the feelings are real.

Players on The Circle might only connect through text messages on a screen, but that’s precisely what encourages them to let their guards down and be open in a way they might not be when looking at the others face-to-face, especially if they’re not even playing as themselves. The Circle might rely on at least a few players being fake, but the show itself is anything but. Stream all seasons of The Circle on Netflix.

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