The surprise smash of last fall, South Korea’s Squid Game enthralled and appalled fans in equal measure. Struggling chauffeur Seong Gi-hun accepts an offer to appear in a game show to win cash prizes, alongside 455 other contestants. However the players quickly realize elimination from the game results in death. The idea of a deadly game show isn’t a new one – we saw it in the 1980’s in Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man, and the 2000 Japanese cult classic Battle Royale. However, the moving of the concept from a dystopian future to the present day struck a chord with viewers. Likewise, the increased run time of a TV series – the first season’s nine episodes clock in at just over eight hours versus the two-ish hours of a movie – allows for greater character development, giving viewers time to make an emotional investment. Small wonder Squid Game ranked highly in our ‘Best TV Shows of 2021’.
News has broken that Squid Game’s broadcaster, Netflix, has commissioned a real life version of the game. For those of you recoiling at that news, they have already stated that “the worst fate is going home empty-handed”. Ten episodes will be made, and like the series, 456 contestants will take part. The grand prize has been pegged at a cool $4.56m. Players will be invited from across the world, taking advantage of Korean media’s burgeoning popularity, which has been building over the last few years. Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite scooped six Oscars at the 2020 Academy Awards. IBTimes reports that K-pop helped revive American physical album sales in 2021. However, in countries where there isn’t a significant Korean population, it was bringing Korean entertainment into viewers’ homes that pushed Squid Game over the top.
Squid Game had universal appeal, with its popularity reaching across the globe. In a Gala Bingo piece on the UK’s favorite television shows in 2021, it ranked third, whilst in France and Germany over 8m and 10m viewers were tuning in by the end of the first season. In November 2021, Variety reported that Squid Game ranked as Netflix’s biggest show, hitting more than double the viewing figures of previous leader Bridgerton.
Staying at the top
Season two of Squid Game has been commissioned, but early projections are scheduling 2024 for the premiere. In the meantime, Netflix mean to make hay on this Korean renaissance. At the time of writing their K-drama section has over 80 shows to choose from, and zombie horror All Of Us Are Dead followed in Squid Game’s footsteps by hitting the top of Netflix’s global viewing figures in January 2022. However, the offering isn’t all death and destruction; the schedules run the gamut from comedies such as Hi Bye, Mama to teenage dramas like So Not Worth It. Netflix have been understandably tight-lipped about what games the contestants in the Squid Game game show will participate in. Will they be mass contests like the Tug of War or Red Light, Green Light? Will the jackpot prize be awarded to one contestant or split between many? Will they be allowed to keep their costumes? It’s a valid question as sales of green tracksuits went through the roof, and shoemaker Vans saw their sales of white slip-on shoes similar to those the Squid Game contestants wear go up over 7,000% in September 2021.
Filming will begin in the UK for the Squid Game game show when the daunting task of finding 456 contestants has been completed. One thing is for sure; Netflix won’t be short of applicants or viewers.