Channel 4’s latest high-concept reality show, Rise and Fall, creates a society of haves and have nots, one with power over the other, and makes them absolutely hate their rivals. It’s not a new idea – Big Brother flirted with this sort of enforced segregation a few times, but it’s certainly the most on-the-nose reality TV “social experiment” we’ve yet seen.
Like BBC One’s The Traitors, the producers of which are also behind this, it’s another opportunity for people to work together or screw each other over in the pursuit of increasing a prize pot (which could reach £100k) that only one of them can win. Unlike The Traitors, producers have packed the competition (with a few exceptions) with some of the most immediately despisable people on television this year, with all of the desperate energy and misplaced confidence of the average Apprentice contestant.
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The show plays out like a cross between those three reality staples, the back-stabbing and duplicity of The Traitors, the naked greed of The Apprentice and the hothouse intensity of Big Brother. It’s already fiercely addictive. Hating everyone is always fun.
Hosted by Radio One’s Greg James, the show divides its 15 contestants into six “rulers”, living the life of Riley in a luxury penthouse, served amazing dinners and sleeping on feather beds, and nine “grafters”, boiler-suited grease monkeys, living off “potato peel soup and bread”, enduring rock-hard mattresses and cold showers. The grafters must endure physically exhausting “work shifts” (the first one involves electric shocks) to boost the prize pot, the rulers must decide how much they work and how hard they can be pushed. Every night they vote a ruler out altogether and promote a grafter. It’s a solid format that’s precision tooled to make one group of people resentful and one feel superior.
Already we’re seeing those patterns emerge. Down in the boiler room of the grafters, resentment’s building among the proles as they observe their new overlords giving out their instructions… there’s also absolute joy as they watch them pull each other down. Meanwhile, in the ivory tower of the penthouse they’re already plotting and manoeuvring. Producers knew this would happen – how could they not? It’s exactly what happens in the real world every day.