That Squid Game Reality Show Is Off to a Great Start

A scene from Netflix's Squid Game with a girl's head turned 180 and looking crosseyed.

Yup, couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t want to participate in a game show based on this.
Screenshot: Netflix

Contestants on the upcoming Squid Game reality show reportedly faced hardships that even the contestants of the satirical hit Netflix series didn’t even have to face. Reports out of the UK where filming for Squid Game: The Challenge is taking place noted sub-zero temperatures early this week, and contestants reportedly had to deal with freezing conditions while running the gauntlet of the gun-toting red light, green light robot.

The shoot for the contest’s first episode was set for Monday in Bedford, England out of a decommissioned airbase that’s been converted into Cardington Studios located north of London. Of course, large airplane hangers don’t offer much insulation, which became a problem as the UK suffered a snap cold last week that’s been extended into this week. This brought temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, -10 degrees Celsius, in some parts of the country according to forecasters. The first episode was reportedly filmed at around 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or -3 degrees Celsius.

British tabloid The Sun originally reported that contestants suffered injuries during the shoot due to the cold, but Gizmodo could not independently verify any of that report. A Netflix spokesperson told Gizmodo via email that the production “invested in all the appropriate safety procedures.” While the spokesperson did say it was “very cold” on set, they said the participants were prepared and denied there were any serious injuries.

There were 456 contestants, plus crew, gathered in the airport hanger, including many people flown in from all over the world including the U.S. and Australia, all hoping to win $4.56 million. It’s the largest prize pot for any reality game show, ever. The Red Light, Green Light episode of the drama included a giant robot girl who acted as arbiter of the game. It counted out “red light, green light, 1, 2, 3” before swiveling its head and spotting if any approaching contestants moved. Any who were caught moving were immediately shot by hidden gun turrets.

Of course, being forced to stand in the cold for moments at a time must have been incredibly uncomfortable to say the least, especially for those contestants coming from much warmer climates.

The series is supposed to run for 10 episodes and include games based on the South Korean show which won multiple major awards after it first came onto the scene in 2021. Unlike in the show, contestants who lose in The Challenge don’t get shot, they are simply told to leave. Variety reported only 228 contestants made it past the first challenge.

Squid Game creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk had previously said he hopes the game show adaptation of his work “will be carrying on my vision and intention as much as possible for the show.” Torturing contestants with extreme temperatures isn’t likely what he meant by his “vision and intention,” but Squid Game has a lot to say about the awful effects of poverty and how far desperate people will go to reach a sense of prosperity. You just have to look at episode 2, titled Hell, where (spoilers) the main characters return home only to find their situations so desperate playing a deadly game seems preferable to one more day of real life.

In effect, a series of children’s games are more “fair” than real life, even though all their pain is being engendered by the extremely rich individuals and the capitalist forces that sow the seeds of their poverty.

When I first heard of the Squid Game reality show, my original thought was that whichever studio execs greenlit the thing were planning their own attempt to torture hundreds of people while they scrambled over each other for a multi-million dollar cash prize. A Squid Game season 2 is already in the works, so at least showrunners now have a new design element they can incorporate into their own drama.

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