Why are so many people obsessed with ‘The Traitors’? The reality TV phenomenon explained.

By | February 23, 2024

If there’s one show that’s dominating the cultural conversation right now, it’s that The traitors.

Since the Peacock series launched its second season on Jan. 12, the mafia-style murder mystery competition — which pits A-list reality stars against each other in a lavish Scottish castle for a $250,000 prize — has become a full-fledged phenomenon.

The streaming numbers prove it. The traitorsAccording to Peacock, the season 2 premiere saw a 75% increase in streaming reach compared to the first episode in 2023, becoming the streaming service’s most-watched reality series debut in its first five days.

NBC hosted a special broadcast of the second season premiere on January 22, where it attracted 1.4 million viewers. Soon after, The traitors was renewed for a third season. The franchise’s sudden popularity isn’t lost on the creative team.

“The bar is set pretty high with season 2,” The traitors said executive producer Sam Rees-Jones during the Television Critics Association press tour on February 14.

What’s the show about?

Based on the Dutch game show The Traitorsthe American version remains true to the original format. Presented by Scottish actor Alan Cumming, The traitors follows a group of contestants competing for a cash prize worth more than $250,000.

A handful of competitors, handpicked by Cumming on Day 1, play the game secretly as ‘Traitors’, who can win a larger share of the pot if they sabotage and eliminate the other participants, collectively known as the ‘Faithful’, from the League. . It is up to the Faithful to successfully identify the Traitors and banish them by voting them out every night at the Round Table. The Traitors version of Survivor‘s Tribal Council. Likewise, the traitors can decide who to ‘kill’, with that person immediately removed from the competition.

If all remaining players in the game are loyal, the money is divided equally. If any of the traitors remain, all the money goes to them. A few quirks are added to complicate things, from immunity shields to the possible recruitment of new traitors over the course of the game.

There have been more than a dozen international editions The traitors, including the popular British and Australian versions. Many have remained true to the original concept. If there are any differences, it is often in the approach to casting. For example, the British competition features only ordinary people, while the American edition is based mainly on established public figures, reality stars and personalities who have achieved a degree of fame.

How was season 1 received?

All 10 episodes of The traitorsThe first season dropped straight away on Peacock on January 12, 2023, with a reunion episode premiering more than six weeks later. The cast was a mix of civilians and former reality stars, creating a unique dynamic in the competitive field of twenty.

Among the notable names who participated were Brandi Glanville (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Rachel Reilly (Big Brother), Cody Calafiore (Big Brother), Kate Chastain(Below deck), Arie Luyendyk Jr. (The Bachelor franchise), Kyle Cooke (Summer house), Reza Farahan (Shahs of sunset), Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and eventual winner Cirie Fields (Survivor).

Includes cast of The Traitors season 1. From left: Rachel Reilly, Shelbe Rodriguez, Robert Includes cast of The Traitors season 1. From left: Rachel Reilly, Shelbe Rodriguez, Robert

The traitors The season 1 cast included, from left to right, Rachel Reilly, Shelbe Rodriguez, Robert “Bam” Nieves, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Christian De La Torre, Kyle Cook, Amanada Clark, Reza Farahan and Azra Valani. (Euan Kers/Pauw via Getty Images)

The season was an audience-favorite critical success, with an approval rating of 95% among critics and an equally impressive 82% among viewers, according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Cumming’s extravagant wardrobes, Scottish sass and chewing antics were praised by fans and critics alike. NPR praised The traitors first season for embracing the clichés of the reality genre and describing it as “wacky, hyperdramatic, suspenseful and quite entertaining.”

If there were a breakout star from Season 1, it would easily be chaos agent Chastain, whose snarky zingers, no-nonsense approach, and feuds with Reilly made her a standout — so much so that many named the former Below deck star “reality TV gold.”

How is season 2 different?

Peacock went for a weekly episodic rollout instead of a binge drop. The first three episodes were released together on January 12, with subsequent episodes releasing every Thursday at 9 PM ET to boost primetime streaming.

The season 2 cast was also made up entirely of celebrities, the majority of whom are reality TV greats from the Bravo franchises (Real housewives, shahs of the sunset, married to medicine), strategy matches (Big brother, survivor), dating shows (The Bachelor, Love Island) and slice-of-life experiments (The real world, Bling empire). Participants include Peter Weber, Phaedra Parks, Johnny “Bananas” Devananzio, Dan Gheesling, Janelle Pierzina, Parvati Shallow, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Chris “CT” Tamburello, Sheree Whitfield, Larsa Pippen, Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Chastain, who was again included in the game has a second chance to win the prize, among other things.

A scene from season 2 of The Traitors. A scene from season 2 of The Traitors.

A scene from The traitors Season 2. (Euan Cherry/Peacock via Getty Images)

“It’s a very, very crowded market here, and NBC and Peacock all thought it would be helpful… to have people who were well-known. And we thought it worked,” executive producer Stephen Lambert said at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Mixing celebrities with regular people in Season 1 “didn’t seem to be the best thing,” he said. “It felt a little awkward.”

So far, the season has been dominated by several storylines: Weber was outwitted Big Brother mastermind Gheesling and plays a key role in his downfall, Parks’ cunning and masterful gameplay and after the most recent episode, Chastain’s new status as a traitor alongside Parks.

Why has it become so popular now?

The weekly episodes, an interesting and likable cast of celebrities, and an impressive production value are some of the factors that explain why The traitors captured the pop culture zeitgeist. It also helps that international formats are readily available on streaming.

“Releasing it weekly has really helped it gain traction,” Andy Dehnart, editor at Reality Blurred, told Yahoo Entertainment. “While last season all the episodes were out and people finished them within a day or a weekend. This is for the better. You grow in momentum.”

Myles McNutt, associate professor of media studies at Old Dominion University and editor of Episodic Medium, said having episodes in primetime “really built a social conversation, where if you’re not watching that episode [when] If they release it on Thursday, you’ll be spoiled for choice with what’s going on with Phaedra.

It is a recognition of the dynamic relationship between communal viewing and real-time engagement that is “so central to the [reality] genre,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “That still has so much power in this industry. They really take advantage of that with the choice to release the show on a week-to-week basis.

Assembling a cast of personalities, many with pre-existing tension (see: Shallow and Diaz-Twine’s Survivor beef) or relationships, only fuels the drama from the start and all but guarantees real investment from the audience.

“When they had their first interaction at the mansion, it was an instant story,” McNutt said of the Survivor awkward first meeting of the winners at the Traitors castle. “All those stories, all those layers [the show] such a big lead – that they don’t start all over again to see how these characters interact. That is a powerful tool that gets people hooked more quickly.”

From left: Chris From left: Chris

Chris “CT” Tamburello, Phaedra Parks, Peter Weber, Trishelle Cannatella and The traitors. (Euan Kers/Pauw via Getty Images)

It also leads to unexpected developments and creates a unique dynamic among the players.

“[It’s] a fascinating opportunity to watch people play a brand new game. And then things happen that are completely unexpected,” says Dehnart. “A bachelor who effectively caused the downfall of one Big Brother winner is not something I expected coming into this season. That makes for pretty good television.”

New episodes of The traitors drops Thursday at 9pm ET on Peacock.

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