The traitors

The traitors

Everyone who works in TV knows it’s true: if you don’t take some new risk, you’re bound to fail.

That means throwing a few darts at the board, which 10 have done with regularity this year: True Love Boat, Brain Eisteddfod by Shaun Micallef may not have hit the mark, but Hunted down he sure did. The cheap seats it also found an audience last year with Working Dog’s deliberate under-the-radar strategy.

Now The traitors is ready for debut. The show is based on a Dutch format and is offering up to $250,000 for its 24 contestants.

Invitingly set in a stately 1924 hotel (The Robertson) in the Southern Highlands of NSW, you could almost have walked into an Agatha Christie or Trace history book. Think grand staircases, fountains, lamps, chess pieces, candles, bookshelves, decanters, statues, and Professor Plum in the Library with the revolver. Yes, there is nothing else like it.

Host Rodger Corser, greeting us handsomely in a black suit, describes it as a “deliciously dangerous game” in which the contestants are divided into faithful “goodies” or The traitors, who are “bloodthirsty villains”. Every night someone is going to be ‘murdered’ – ok, I’m here for that Rodger, even if you’re assuming some kind of character-that-is-not-a-character… more on that later.

24 is coming Short degree-style in a big old Rolls Royce and gather in the Billiard room. They include the instantly dislikeable MK, a criminal defense attorney and ex-cop who admits to defending drug dealers. Can we take you out first, man?

There’s a brilliance of Brissy, a personal trainer, a forensic crime scene investigator, a “chick at the till”, a boy with golden wings on his shoulders, a chess champion, a student of politics and more .

Tasmanian Nigel Brennan was held hostage in Somalia and now works as a negotiator. I’m not sure how much there is to call out for this, but I’m impressed they have him cornered for it. There is even a clairvoyant who says that Pablo Escabar entered while she was watching narcos – I’m sorry what? She desperately wants to work with the police. Watch your back, Patricia Arquette.

While all of this feels cheerful if somewhat underwhelming, it’s in the Banishment Room where Corser walks us through the game. With the contestants blindfolded, he goes around tapping 4 on the shoulder to become Traitors. Wait, then Murder in the dark is it now a tv show? Riiiiight.

Every night on the 4th Traitors wear suits and masks to gather in the Conservatory to figure out who to kill, or maybe to throw a trendy swingers party Eyes tightly closed. The cameras don’t allow us to hear who they settle on, which is a bit frustrating, nor to witness any kind of murder. Whaaaa?

Instead, as in an Agatha Christie novel, it remains for us to see who shows up for breakfast to find out who has died or who has been knocked on the door by a runner. Robbed.

The rest of the game includes Incredible racestyle challenges to build the prize pool followed by an exile ceremony where all players will decide who to vote out of the island or from the Observatory. Since the audience knows who the Traitors are, the reveal format is about who they’ll take down and the look on everyone’s faces when they’re told whether they’ve taken down a Traitor or a Faithful.

Unlike The mole, where I guess to see if I chose the Mole, there’s none of that joy here.

Even the opening episode at 1:20 commercial-free is too long, perhaps 10 offering a double episode to establish the heavier cast.

Sure, I’m impressed to hear Hemmingway quoted on a reality show, but I admit to my perplexity at Corser’s Machiavellian style of presentation. He’s a solid actor, so he comes across as himself or channels Michael Caine Investigator, Enter Tim Curry Trace? It feels like a foot in every field for me, and as a result it distracts me….

All in all, this show is way too polite. The traitors he needs to do everything rather than furtive whispers, icy stares and croissants for breakfast. Drive me crazy bat shit, Squid game murders, elaborate Final destination death scenes, blood on screen with Joker malevolence.

Knocking on the door while I sleep in front of the fireplace? Wake me up when you’re serious.

The Traitors airs at 7.30pm Sunday to Tuesday 10.