CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Claudia’s great show killed by a bunch of stubborn non-entities
The Traitors USA
Weekend getaway from Robson Green
Fluke or surefire formula? Claudia Winkleman’s reality format The Traitors, the mind game set in a Scottish castle, was the surprise hit gone wild last year.
The question is whether the sadistic, addictive effect on millions of viewers was an accident, the unintended result of the perfect cast of characters combined with Claudia’s previously unsuspected ferocity.
The only way to answer that is to try again. The Traitors US (BBC3) does just that, in the same setting, with the same missions, even with the same blacked-out limousines.
But there is a crucial difference, one that betrays a lack of confidence in the format of the American producers. Instead of bringing together a group of strangers with big personalities, half of the players in this version are “celebrities” from other reality shows.
Instead of bringing together a group of strangers with big personalities, half of the players in this version are “celebrities” from other reality shows
They were all so in love with themselves that there was no chance of those flirtations and infatuations that made Claudia’s clan of traitors and believers so lovable.
If anything, for UK viewers, these are the most obscure celebrities imaginable. Their fame is on the scale of subatomic particles.
It’s not just that no one here has ever heard of Arie Luyendyk Jr, Kate Chastain, or Reza Farahan – their shows are meaningless to us, too. The Bachelor, Below Deck, Shahs Of Sunset. . . those titles sound like fakes generated by a sarcastic computer program.
And while you may know that Big Brother and The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills are popular in the United States, please don’t kid me that you have any idea who Cody Calafiore or Brandi Glanville are.
Their presence hampers this remake, as half of the first episode was devoted to deluded non-entities gloating at how overwhelmed the other players would be to encounter such fame in their midst. “I’m kind of an icon,” boasted Rachel Reilly, who won the 2011 American edition of Big Brother. “This is my chance to use their fandom of mine to my advantage.”
“I love judging people,” Kate proclaimed. “But I’m fair to a mistake,” she said, before adding that she’s a natural detective because Sherlock Holmes was related to her great-grandfather.
They were all so in love with themselves that there was no chance of those flirtations and infatuations that made Claudia’s clan of traitors and loyal followers so lovable.
All 15 episodes of Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes (BBC2) are on iPlayer as the actor tours the North East with friends
Actor Alan Cumming is the new presenter, but the rules remain essentially unchanged. Three of the 20 players are secretly referred to as ‘killers’, eliminating one rival from the game each night.
The others must guess who the killers are and can evict those they are most suspicious of. The traitors lie to protect themselves. . . and the innocent turn against each other.
Air Defense of the Night:
Air defense of the night: Gaynor and Greg (Alexandra Mardell and James Nelson-Joyce) were plagued by a seagull on The Family Pile (ITV) and plan drastic action – with a dog or an air rifle. That’s stupid and illegal.
The only protection against diving seagulls is a sturdy umbrella.
The Americans have done a good job of it. The players now sleep in the castle itself, and Alan stalks the battlements by moonlight in electric blue tartan, as Banquo’s ghost on a modeling assignment in Macbeth.
This first show is repeated tonight on BBC1 – and the whole series is on iPlayer. So does all 15 episodes of Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes (BBC2), as the actor travels across the North East with friends.
This time he visited the coast with actor Mark Benton, doing little more than eating ice cream on the beach with the donkeys in Saltburn, North Yorkshire, and sucking a sour gobstopper at the candy shop in Staithes.
The duo were taught art by local gallery owner and retired teacher Ian Burke. He told them he had been a draftsman at Eton College – and they took the mickey.
That was a missed opportunity. Mr Burke was the senior member of the university staff who was authorized in 2006 to assist Prince Harry with his written examination work. Robson and Mark should have asked him what he thought of the reluctant royal’s current ghostwriter.