Squid Game: The Challenge looks just like the fictional Netflix K-drama, will have 456 people competing to win US$4.56 million

Squid Game, the 2021 Netflix K-drama sensation, asked viewers a cynical question: how far would you go, or how much would you endure, for a huge sum of money?

Now viewers can see people asking themselves the same thing in the coming reality competition show Squid Game: The Challenge, which dropped its first teaser trailer last week.

The reality show, which starts streaming on November 22, will feature 456 people competing against each other for US$4.56 million.

A still from “Squid Game: The Challenge”. Photo: Netflix
Netflix claims the multimillion-dollar sum is the “biggest cash prize in reality show history”. For comparison, a winner on US reality show Survivor earns a US$1 million cash prize. The same goes for America’s Got Talent and The Amazing Race, where the pot can be split among team members.

The Challenge, a reality competition show on US channel MTV, saw winners earn a little over US$1 million each in recent seasons. Legendary Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings, who now hosts the show, has won more than US$4 million, rivalling Squid Game: The Challenge – but that amount has been collected over multiple seasons of play.

The similarities between the Squid Game spin-off and the original are uncanny in the new teaser trailer. The contestants are dressed in the drama’s green-and-white jumpsuits. Framed as they are in the fictional show’s memorable overhead shot, the competitors march up and down colourful flights of stairs. A glass orb filled with cash hangs above their bunk beds.

“People do a whole lot more for a whole lot less,” one person says, while contestants are seen scrambling towards the finishing line of the notoriously brutal Red Light, Green Light game, complete with the giant doll featured in the drama’s first episode.

The reality show, which was filmed in the UK, made headlines earlier this year when reports alleged that the Red Light, Green Light competition resulted in medical emergencies amid below-freezing temperatures.

A still from “Squid Game: The Challenge”. Photo: Netflix

During the shoot in a hangar on a former Royal Air Force base north of London, players began to feel unwell during takes, while others crawled to a finish in 26-degree Fahrenheit (minus-3-degree Celsius) weather during a devastating cold snap, according to magazine Variety and The Sun tabloid.

“Even if hypothermia kicked in, then people were willing to stay for as long as possible because a lot of money was on the line,” one contestant told The Sun. “Too many were determined not to move so they stood there for far too long.”

Netflix and its production partners, Studio Lambert and the Garden, downplayed the harrowing conditions described by the contestants.

A still from “Squid Game: The Challenge”. Photo: Netflix

“We care deeply about the health and safety of our cast and crew, and invested in all the appropriate safety procedures. While it was very cold on set – and participants were prepared for that – any claims of serious injury are untrue,” they said.

In Squid Game, created by director, producer and screenwriter Hwang Dong-hyuk and inspired by his own struggles in South Korea, contestants faced off in games with lethal consequences such as falling to their death or getting shot.

Their prize money, however, was much larger: 45.6 billion South Korean won, or roughly US$38 million. Lee Jung-jae starred in the show as Seong Gi-hun, a man with a gambling addiction who joins the games to earn the cash prize as a means to win custody of his daughter before she moves to the United States with her mother and stepfather.
A still from “Squid Game: The Challenge”. Photo: Netflix

Netflix’s most watched series made awards show history in 2022, becoming the first Korean series – and the first series not in English – to win a major Primetime Emmy award.

Hwang won for drama series directing. Lee won for lead dramatic performance. Both were the first Asians and native Koreans to take home either prize.

Squid Game was renewed for a second season in June 2022 and, before the actors’ and writers’ strikes, was expected to begin filming this year.


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