‘The Circle Brazil’ Is a Delightful Cure to Coronavirus Anxiety
Goofy characters, low-stakes drama, and candy-colored dorms have made ‘The Circle’ oddly perfect quarantine event television.
Netflix’s The Circle Brazil could not have arrived at a more bleakly appropriate time. As the novel coronavirus shuts down everything from Coachella to the N.B.A., a reality show that quarantines its contestants feels darkly appropriate. And in what can only be described as a cosmic joke, the first four episodes of the Netflix show’s latest season premiered hours before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. The universe is known to love a good joke from time to time, but this one feels particularly on the nose.
It’s hard to think of a better metaphor for the darkness of the streaming era, which seeks to turn every human experience into content, than Netflix releasing coronavirus event television completely by accident. But on the bright side, The Circle Brazil is just what the doctor ordered during these anxious times.
For the uninitiated, The Circle first premiered on the U.K.'s Channel 4 in September 2018. Netflix announced a month later that it would produce seasons featuring casts from the U.S., Brazil, and France. The show moves all of its contestants into trendy but tiny apartments in the same building—but never lets them meet in person. (The aesthetic is something like if Queer Eye’s interior design guru Bobby Berk were to convert a bomb shelter into a one-bedroom apartment.) Players communicate through a social platform called, you guessed it, “The Circle”—and while some play as themselves, others opt to catfish. For instance, in The Circle Brazil, a young woman named Paloma poses as her dreamy dude friend Lucas. In the end, whoever forges the strongest friendships and alliances wins.
The Circle is the kind of reality series that lives and dies by its cast—both the players’ charisma as individuals, and their chemistry as a group. In the U.S. season, which Netflix unveiled in January, Joey Sasso—an inoffensively flirtatious, skincare-obsessed bro with a heart of gold—imparted a quirky sense of heart. More sardonic characters like butch lesbian Karyn Blanco, who catfished as a femme hottie named Mercedeze, gave the season wit.
This season’s Brazilian contestants are every bit as outgoing as the last bunch, if a little less amusing to spy on. And all of the show’s funniest gags—like the solo dance parties and cheesy competitions—remain in tact.
One striking trend among the Brazilian cast members is how many play as themselves this season—but tweak a couple details. For instance: Akel, a 20-year-old business student, pretends to be a 30-year-old dietician. The character, he said, has “already been tested in real life... I dated a girl for five months pretending to be a doctor.” Playing doctor grows difficult for Akel later, however—when a fellow contestant he’s flirting with turns out to have a medical background of her own.
Other cast stand-outs include artist Dumaresq, a bubbly 22-year-old named Lorayne, and flight attendant Marina—who is posing as an amateur singer. All three are formidable strategists from the start—but more importantly, they also drop the kinds of amusing soundbites that feel readymade for an out-of-context Twitter account. There are plenty more characters where that comes from as well—including a man who poses as an extraordinarily horny woman who won’t stop referring to herself as “Auntie” and using fire and knife emojis.
Jokes about The Circle as a quarantine survival guide made the rounds online as coronavirus has spread. And indeed, working from home for even a few days in a row—while practicing social distancing in one’s free time—can start to feel like living inside The Circle. (“Will the exclamation points in this email make me sound cheerful to coworkers?” office workers across the country ask in unison, “Or unhinged?”)
As the panic surrounding coronavirus continues to spread, The Circle Brazil could become a unifying distraction in a scary time. The U.S. season seemed to give everyone a common obsession in the beginning of the year, and right now it seems we could all use something to fixate on—besides the growing pandemic. (Speaking of which—have you washed your hands in the past few minutes? Go wash your hands!) The bottom line? The Circle Brazil is a solid follow-up to its predecessors—and comes with the added bonus of learning Brazilian text jargon—like “huashuashuashua” for “lmao” and “lolol.” We could all use a little silliness right now—and this feels like just what the doctor ordered.