The seven-episode Spanish production adds a few more hidden camera wrinkles to the “cast in a house” formula.
[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]
Where to watch “Insiders”:Netflix
At one point in “Insiders,” there’s a montage of people being told they’re going through the next “round” of a reality TV casting process. Almost every one of them asks if they can hug or kiss the producer who is telling them the good news. (They only get handshakes.) It’s a burst of happiness and relief from a group of individuals who don’t even realize the show they’re thinking of auditioning for is on its way. .
It’s the main hook for “Insiders,” a series that puts a dozen people through a period of “training,” supposedly to see which of them are cut out for a show whose none of them know that she will never come. Instead, the minimalist practice living space they’re all trapped in is the show, with hidden cameras and microphones picking up every element of intrigue and secret alliance building that’s already in motion.
Like most reality TV shows, it’s an elaborate social experiment in the guise of a bit of TV stardom. And the audition trick isn’t the only way “Insiders” plays with the well-established formula. Host Najwa Nimri constantly teases the next new wrinkle, sometimes even skipping in a clip a few days ahead along the timeline that shows how someone’s plan or principles will eventually change.
Condensing several weeks into seven-hour episodes is necessarily going to lose a lot of the context around some of these interactions. Given the “nothing is as it seems” carrots hung in front of the contestants, “Insiders” doesn’t go so diabolically hiding key details from the watching audience. But it’s still an interesting case study in reality TV strategy, especially in the conversations that happen when those involved don’t suspect they’re being taped.
It’s another drop in the global ethical darkness of reality TV. It’s obviously not the same as the show drawing a house full of strangers to watch against their will, but there’s a distinct level of manipulation here that feels less like a point game. There are segments that rely on seeing people at a level of vulnerability that sometimes feels more invasive than the usual reality TV idea.
With the ongoing caveat that there’s always a question of emotional authenticity in this TV subgenre, the eliminations on “Insiders” truly feel like a funeral. It’s a question for audiences to answer whether the amount of tears with each send stems from sadness that someone is leaving, gratitude that they’re staying, or fear that they might be next. There are inevitably massed narratives that pop up throughout the season, but in addition to highlighting some brewing rivalries and short tempers, it avoids pinning any specific person out of that dozen as an outright villain” me against the world”.
Eventually, “Insiders” settles into a familiar rhythm, though the show has a few more surprises in store for the season’s waning moments. It’s less about grafting fabricated drama onto an already tense situation and more about making simple changes to an ongoing and developing one. In a self-contained world of one-way mirrors and algorithmic personality biometrics, all it takes is a small pebble to send ripples through the whole group.
By spending as much time as you do with this group, without outside travel or corporate brand ties, you adapt to the pace of the show and the difference one or two people can make. There will always be a barrier between the “real” person and who they are on screen, but this show goes one step further by trying to make it as thin as possible.
Pair it with: For a reality show, there are few better complements than the “Frenemies” episode of “This American Life.” Not only is there a lexicographical discussion of the origins of this word and one of the late David Rakoff’s iconic contributions, but it contains Rich Juzwiak’s classic breakdown of “I’m not here to make friends “.
And for an extra Netflix dose of people being unwittingly subjected to psychological conditions they largely don’t know exist, try Derren Brown’s “The Push” special, another example of television showing just how impressionable people can be. when they think no one else is. to pay attention.
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