Strategy, backstabbing and carnage: Welcome to the UK reality TV renaissance

The Traitors, Rise and Fall and Tempting Fortune airing back to back? We’re not worthy

Everything is shit. The world feels like it’s crumbling around us. The government is in shambles, the culture war is stoking hatred, division and transphobia and the news is making me want to throw my TV out of the window. And just when you can’t take another second of it, you flick the channel to find some of the most engrossing telly escapism you could ever hope to feast on. When things are dark, all hail the reality TV renaissance – a period I am now declaring for the UK after this halcyon period we’ve found ourselves in, in which we’ve been blessed with The Traitors, Tempting Fortune and Rise and Fall back to back. New formats, fresh ideas, normal people – if you aren’t watching, here’s why you need to be.

The Traitors ushered in a cultural shift

The Traitors snook onto our screens under the cover of darkness, and before Claudia Winkleman could take her cloaked hood down and change into her Tudor ruffle sized turtleneck it had become a national phenomenon. Through rapid word of mouth and a hefty amount of tweeting, everyone binged, caught up, obsessed, shouted ‘mother’ at Amanda and watched that finale on the edge of their seat.

The Traitors’ rapid ascent to become everyone’s favourite show on telly was insane – but deserved. It felt like a celebration of ordinary people playing an extraordinary game. Anyone could become a threat, and everyone felt like a badass. The finest storytellers in the country would struggle to write plots with more drama and betrayal and twists. When The Traitors ended, it was only the beginning.

Tempting Fortune – TV’s version of having a little treat

Next up came the Paddy McGuinness vehicle Tempting Fortune, a show that shoved 12 ordinary people on an 18 day South African trek which looked physically gruelling to say the least. Along the way were temptations, like diners, hotel suites, hot chocolates, easy routes – but at a cost. Every person who completed the trek won a split of £300k, but the prize fund dipped with every temptation spent on.

What came was a show divided – a cast torn between those who had no issue spending on a few treats here and there to have a once in a lifetime opportunity and those who sought to not be tempted once, and subsequently spent the entire show in the worst mood you could ever imagine. The rows, the divide – a fascinating watch to see different people reacting in a situation where no one was right, but peer pressure meant everything.

Completely different to The Traitors, but a formula that felt equally as fresh and resulted in viewers having similarly strong opinions.

Rise and Fall – political warfare and class division

The least watched of the trio, but arguably the most fascinating – in storms the Greg James fronted Rise and Fall, a show that pits rulers against grafters and puts the contestants through psychological and physical hell. Rise and Fall comes to us from the creators of The Traitors, and it’s all the better for it – a ruthless game of alliance, trust, honesty and backstabbing to get into the ruler penthouse and try and earn the prize fund.

Of all the shows, it’s Rise and Fall that has created the most interesting dynamics between its players. The goal is to reach the luxury penthouse and become a ruler, but the realisation that the dingy grafter basement where moral is sky high and there’s a sense of friendship and camaraderie hits players thick and fast. Airing simultaneously with Tempting Fortune, some nights literally back to back, it’s peak TV.

When dating shows die, strategy will rise

After an era where we truly cannot move due to an onslaught of never-ending dating shows, to the extent where we’re enduring two seasons of Love Island a year which each run over two months respectively, how refreshing is it to see channels and broadcasters take chances on new formats and shows that have hit the mainstream hard and provided us with new entertainment and casts that don’t look like they’ve come on TV to get a brand deal with Missguided.

Each fronted by a celeb, to varying results of success (Claudia = great, Paddy = mid, Greg = hell), these three new shows have stormed us into the UK reality TV renaissance we all needed. Never again will we bemoan the yearly TV schedule, when we know we’ve got the new faves amongst the old.

As Rise and Fall comes to an end this week, and as we prepare to returning to being bored shitless of a week night, let’s just reflect on how good we’ve had it the past few months. The question now remains: What on earth is coming next?

For all the latest UK reality TV news and gossip and for the best memes and quizzes about the renaissance shows, like The Holy Church of Love Island on Facebook.

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