CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Claudia’s killer show murdered by a bunch of big-headed non-entities
The Traitors U.S.
Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes
Fluke or surefire formula? Claudia Winkleman’s reality format The Traitors, the mind game set in a Scottish castle, was the runaway surprise hit of last year.
The question is whether its sadistic, addictive effect on millions of viewers was an accident, the inadvertent result of its perfect cast of characters combined with Claudia’s previously unsuspected streak of cruelty.
The only way to answer that is to try it again. The Traitors U.S. (BBC3) does just that, in the same setting, with the same missions, even the same blacked-out limousines.
But there’s a crucial difference, one that betrays a lack of confidence in the format from its American producers. Instead of bringing together a group of unknowns with big personalities, half the players in this version are ‘celebrities’ from other reality shows.
Instead of bringing together a group of unknowns with big personalities, half the players in this version are ‘celebrities’ from other reality shows
They were all so in love with themselves that there was no chance for those flirtations and crushes that made Claudia’s clan of traitors and faithfuls so loveable
For British viewers, at least, these are the most obscure celebs imaginable. Their fame is on the scale of subatomic particles.
It’s not just that nobody here has heard of Arie Luyendyk Jr, Kate Chastain or Reza Farahan — their shows also are meaningless to us. The Bachelor, Below Deck, Shahs Of Sunset . . . those titles sound like fakes generated by a sarcastic computer program.
And while you might know that Big Brother and The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills are popular in the States, please don’t kid me that you have any clue who Cody Calafiore or Brandi Glanville are.
Their presence scuppers this remake, because half the first episode was devoted to deluded nonentities gloating about how overwhelmed the other players would be to encounter such stardom in their midst. ‘I’m kind of an icon,’ bragged Rachel Reilly, who won the U.S. edition of Big Brother in 2011. ‘This is my chance to use their fandom of me to my advantage.’
‘I love judging people,’ proclaimed Kate. ‘But I’m honest to a fault,’ 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 for those flirtations and crushes that made Claudia’s clan of traitors and faithfuls so loveable.
All 15 episodes of Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes (BBC2) are on iPlayer, as the actor goes rambling round the North-East with friends
Actor Alan Cumming is the new host, but the rules remain essentially unchanged. Three of the 20 players are secretly designated as ‘murderers’, eliminating one rival from the game each night.
The others have to guess who the killers are and can expel those they most suspect. The traitors lie to protect themselves . . . and the innocents turn on each other.
Aerial defence of the night:
Aerial defence of the night: Gaynor and Greg (Alexandra Mardell and James Nelson-Joyce) were plagued by a seagull on The Family Pile (ITV) and planning drastic action — with either a dog or an air rifle. That’s stupid and illegal.
The only protection against dive-bombing gulls is a stout umbrella.
The Americans have introduced one good twist. The players now sleep in the castle itself, and Alan stalks the battlements by moonlight in electric blue tartan, like Banquo’s ghost on a modelling assignment in Macbeth.
This first show is repeated on BBC1 tonight — and the whole series is on iPlayer. So are all 15 episodes of Robson Green’s Weekend Escapes (BBC2), as the actor goes rambling round the North-East with friends.
This time, he was visiting the seaside with actor Mark Benton, not doing much more than eating ice cream on the beach with the donkeys at Saltburn, North Yorkshire, and sucking on a sour gobstopper in the sweetshop in Staithes.
The duo had an art lesson from local gallery owner and retired teacher Ian Burke. He told them he’d been the Drawing Master at Eton College — and they took the mickey.
That was a wasted opportunity. Mr Burke was the senior member of college staff cleared in 2006 of helping Prince Harry with his written exam work. Robson and Mark should have asked him what he thought of the reluctant royal’s current ghostwriter.