The Traitors: a game that keeps us hooked, and guessing

How good is The Traitors? At last, a show you actually sit down and make the effort to watch. It has rescued the genre of reality television from the dregs and shown how it can be done.
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Series one was superb, but the second is even better, and that’s despite the contestants having a clear insight into, and understanding of how it works, so a tip of the hat to the producers for creating the perfect cast of villains, sleuths and fall guys. They’ve got it spot on.

The Traitors is, basically a guessing game - one for the faithful players, and the armchair ‘tecs tuning in to collar the baddies, or traitors, and get rid of them before they steal the jackpot.

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It’s a game of cat and mouse, with some Chinese whispers, a bit of misdirection and the chance to manipulate the herd mentality that infects us all, and it is put together quite brilliantly. It has class and style; two qualities rarely associated with reality television as the genre continually panders to some of the most shallow, wretchedly self-centred, untalented wannabes around.

Claudia Winkleman presents The Traitors (Pic: BBC)Claudia Winkleman presents The Traitors (Pic: BBC)
Claudia Winkleman presents The Traitors (Pic: BBC)

By looking beyond the fame hungry 20-somethings all in search of their 15 seconds of fame, the producers found a whole new category called ‘ordinary people’ - folk who were just like us. Normal.

In the hands of any other producer, the suspicion would be ramped to the max, conflict would be exploited, and tantrums repeated at least twice, while dramatic music pounded through the telly. Oh, and there’d be a shouty live studio discussing who should have gone, and why the winner shouldn’t be that shifty looking bloke.

The Traitors has taken a huge step back from all the cliches that infest reality television, and stepped back to calmer times. It has adopted the less is more approach with no live feed, and only the most sober of podcasts as an extra which, if anything, is the dullest part.

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The contestants don’t come across fame hungry - I can barely recall the names of anyone who took part last year and, so far, haven’t seen them crop up on Dancing On Ice or Bake Off - and there is underlying sense that everyone is, for once, playing the game for the right reasons.

The Traitors also succeeds because it is brilliantly edited. We get to see just a fraction of the debates which go on, and base our own opinions on each person on the screen time they get.

And there is something rather wonderful watching someone almost piece the clues together to find a traitor only to get outflanked or ignored by the rest of the group.

The traitors have played it brilliantly this season. Paul was a joy to watch - a puppet master who loved the game, ramped up the am-dram responses at the round table when the heat came his way, and then departed with the finest bow you’ll ever see this side of a west end stage. Old school villainy at its finest.

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It reminded me of Nasty Nick, still the best Big Brother baddie who sparked nationwide uproar simply by smuggling pencil into the house. A pencil! From death by 2HB to banishment by chalk and slate - as low tech as it gets but more compelling than anything on the telly right now.

The Traitors is casting for series three. Faithful or traitor? I can’t decide which I’d rather be ...

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