As November comes to a close, Black Friday deals now behind us, this week sees yet another new Netflix number one series rise to the top of the streaming service (in both the UK and USA – it's that popular). It's a Netflix Original gameshow derived from the original series of Korean classic Squid Game – a show that was wildly popular during lockdown, the legacy of which clearly lives on.
However, while Squid Game: The Challenge is certainly proving popular in viewer numbers, the critics are less than generous in their reviews – with the show landing a mere 44% on Rotten Tomatoes (the well-established review aggregator site). Seems harsh? Many of you agree, as the very same site shows the all-important audience score is double that figure, at 88% positive (at the time of writing, at least).
Squid Game: The Challenge echoes the original show's premise: 456 'players' are entered into various games in which they must survive. In between those games – in the original show players are actually killed; the gameshow version instead gives them an explosive inky end, to mimic a gunshot, and the players have to play dead (however reluctantly) – they are housed in an open-prison-like sleeping quarters.
You can see how that translates well for TV: many are comparing The Challenge to Big Brother – the fly-on-the-wall series, which commenced in the UK way back in 2000, as a social experiment – and while I can understand the comparisons, Squid Game: The Challenges's five episodes format [edit: a second part of five episodes commences 29 November, totalling 10 episodes overall] means you'll see breakout characters inevitably come and go. For me it's the games and the tactics that are most interesting to watch.
Semi spoiler alert though: you will have wanted to see the original Squid Game to get a really good understanding of what's coming. The original games from the series are well reproduced in the gameshow (with a few big changes, likely on health and safety grounds) and tastefully shot and edited. I know from the production team that it was a mammoth task tracking and capturing those 456 players, and it plays out well on screen.
All in all, I think it's great to see the best streaming services continue to deliver variety: while Netflix's recent price rise was questioned by many, so long as shows such as Squid Game: The Challenge continue to give us all reason to watch then I'll continue to pay – especially going into the Christmas period, when I'm sure there'll be plenty of classics also appearing. Despite the Netflix password crackdown, I won't be unsubscribing any time soon...