Netflix’s “Squid Game”-Inspired Reality Show Labelled A “Disaster” After Participants Reveal On-Set Horrors

Were the critics right all along?

When Netflix announced its mammoth project of Squid Game: The Challenge reality TV show in 2022, it immediately grabbed popular attention, thanks to the vast global viewership of the Korean drama Squid Game the show was based on. The dystopian thriller drama is centered around a group of poor people brought together through a game where they fight each other to their deaths in order to win the big cash prize, as wealthy VIPs watch the fatal games unfold from a gallery for entertainment. People familiar with the drama’s plot couldn’t help but question how could a reality show based on this concept possibly end in a good way.

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And according to the testimonies of several participants from Squid Game: The Challenge, the concerns were proven valid during the show’s filming. The filming took place in the U.K., where 456 contestants were gathered to play real-life versions of the games shown on Squid Game as they fought for the prize money of $4.56 million USD. It was supposed to be the reality show with the largest number of participants and the biggest prize money in TV history.

But all the shiny ambitions fell apart one by one as more and more participants started coming forward with the horrific experiences they had on set. One incident, in particular, had made headlines across media outlets. Multiple reports stated that the working conditions on the set of Squid Game: The Challenge were so bad that participants had to leave on stretchers. Netflix promptly refuted the claims, saying they had taken all the precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of the contestants during filming. The contestants themselves, though, had other horror stories to tell.

Netflix’s Real-Life “Squid Game” Contestants Allegedly Stretchered Out During Filming

Since all the contestants had to sign NDAs with the streaming platform to participate in the show, they couldn’t reveal their identities while sharing their experiences with the media. But their stories were consistent with each other’s accounts and revealed the fundamental issue of faulty resource management on set, leading to dangerous working conditions. According to one participant, one of the games they participated in was a human horse race, which was “the cruelest, meanest thing” they have ever been a part of.

We were a human horse race, and they were treating us like horses out in the cold racing, and [the race] was fixed.

—Anonymous participant, Rolling Stone

The show also recreated the infamous “Red Light, Green Light” game but failed to create a safe working environment for the contestants. The filming reportedly commenced on January 30, Monday. Participants were woken up early in the dawn and bussed to the location, two hours away from the hotel they were staying at. The filming occurred at Cardington Airfield, a former Royal Air Force base. The temperature that day was freezing, with some reporting around 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius).

| Netflix
The Cardington Airfield | BBC

Apart from the green jumpsuits identical to the ones on the show, the participants were given two pairs of thermal underwear and socks along with heat packs. Producers also asked them to bring their coats mandatorily for the filming. But once the cameras started rolling, the heat packs and the coats were taken away. They also had to keep their chest unzipped to make sure the participant numbers on their t-shirts were visible.

| Netflix

Cold weather aside, participants also complained about the long and stressful hours that went into shooting. The “Red Light, Green Light” game was supposed to be over within two hours, but it went on to touch the nine-hour mark. Individuals report that they had to stay frozen in places for up to 30 minutes, waiting for producers to take drone footage and review who was to be eliminated.

I’m shaking, and I’m talking about like, I’m-on-top-of-Mount-Everest-and-I’ve-got-nothing-on shaking.

—Anonymous participant, Rolling Stone

According to a different participant, people at the shoot pushed themselves too far to accommodate the bizarre conditions because the money at stake was life-changing for many.

I noticed a lot of people with the idea that they are going to change their family’s lives. These people were willing to die. Somebody says, ‘I’m going home with this, I don’t care what it takes.’ I think the producers wanted that. They wanted people to not think about their health, to not care about their safety.

—Anonymous participant, Rolling Stone

But a lot of them apparently didn’t get a fair shot at winning the prize because, aside from working conditions, another concern raised by participants was the evident bias towards particular contestants. Many have claimed that the show’s producers bent the rules to ensure the pre-selected participants went ahead in the game. They also unfairly eliminated those who successfully finished the challenges on time. Two said they saw some contestants clearly moving when they were supposed to be frozen yet weren’t eliminated. One claimed they saw a contestant eliminated, only to be added back to the game.

This kid is sitting at the finish line, he’s crying, and cameras are on him, and he’s waiting for his mom. They added [more time] to the clock for her to get across because she was one of the people that they wanted to be in the show.

—Anonymous participant, The Rolling Stone

Two contestants revealed that when they got their original flight to London, their return tickets were already booked. And their return flights magically lined up with the time of their elimination from the show. “Instead of Squid Game, [they] are calling it ‘Rigged Game.’ Instead of Netflix, they’re calling it ‘Net Fix’ because it was clearly obvious,” one player stated.

| Netflix

The show is being jointly produced by two production houses, Studio Lambert and The Garden. Both companies have remained unresponsive to media requests for comments regarding the fixing allegations.

Source: Variety and Rolling Stone
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