Screenshot: Netflix

Like anyone else wise enough to disengage from The Discourse, I waited a few weeks before watching Netflix’s social media-reality TV show experiment, The Circle. Though its description as Big Brother meets Catfish was enough to entice, my assumption was that only the worst, most boring people on the planet would volunteer to live in solitude while communicating with strangers via a web 1.0, fictional social media platform with the aim of making $100,000. It turns out I was mostly correct. Except, of course, for the saving grace that is Joey Sasso.

Sasso is a contestant on The Circle who believes he bares a striking resemblance to a young Robert De Niro. He is Italian-American, works as a bartender in his hometown of Rochester, New York, and is worryingly close with his mother. (She comes up multiple times in nearly every episode, despite not being physically present.) Sasso spends most of his time while in The Circle at the gym, removing hair from every inch of his ripped flesh, eating brown plates of unidentifiable meat, and engaging in a multi-step skin care routine despite the fact that no one actually gets to see each other. He ends each sentence with “bro,” because he is a bro—the most charismatic guido since The Jersey Shore introduced the world to Vinny Guadagnino a decade ago. I’ve never been attracted to a bro before (before The Circle, that was a point of pride) but now I am confident that I would die for Joey. I love him. It sucks.

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Listen, I can’t imagine it is easy to come across as a lovable oaf when you communicate exclusively through macho jargon and flirtatious advances, and yet, Sasso excels. He manages to charm everyone who comes into the house, proving shirtless mirror pics are only one sliver of his personality. (And they don’t even get to see how delightful he is like the viewers do! That’s insane!) Without spoiling too much, he establishes a beautiful rapport with the only nerd of the crew, Shubham Goel, challenging the accepted notion that frat guys and dweebs can’t be friends. In a way, it’s inspiring.

However: the season is not yet over, and I have been disappointed before. Joey could very well prove himself to be a sociopath, or simply one of the better characters to come out of reality television in recent memory. I’m choosing to be naive and assume it is the latter, even when altered by a heavy dose of brilliant production. 

If you, like myself, need a palate cleanser after all that endearing Joey content, I present to you a clip from a web series he acted in titled Autumn’s Place, above. It really does the trick.

...And yet, I still want him to win The Circle. That’s fucked up, I know.

Now for something completely different: My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS, is out 7/21/20

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