'Squid Game: The Challenge' looks eerily like the fictional Netflix drama that inspired it

“Squid Game,” the class-conscious 2021 Netflix sensation, asked viewers a cynical question: How far would you go, or how much would you endure, for a large sum of money?

Now, viewers can get a glimpse of people asking themselves the same thing in real life in the upcoming reality competition show “Squid Game: The Challenge,” which dropped its first teaser trailer Friday. The reality show, which streams starting Nov. 22, will feature 456 people competing against each other for $4.56 million. Players are expected to go through a series of challenges, some inspired by the show, along with new games, Netflix said in a statement.

Netflix claims the multimillion-dollar sum is the “biggest cash prize in reality show history.” For comparison, a winner on CBS’ ”Survivor” earns a $1-million cash prize. The same goes for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” where the pot can be split among team members. The MTV show “The Challenge” saw winners earn a little over $1 million each in recent seasons. And legendary “Jeopardy!” contestant Ken Jennings, who now hosts the show, has won more than $4 million, rivaling “Squid Game: The Challenge,” but that amount has been cumulative over multiple seasons of play.

Similarities between the expensive “Squid Game” spinoff and the original are uncanny in the new teaser trailer. Contestants are dressed in the drama’s iconic green-and-white jumpsuits. Framed in the drama’s memorable overhead shot, competitors march up and down colorful flights of stairs. A glass orb filled with bundles of 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 toward the finish line of the notoriously brutal Red Light, Green Light game, complete with the giant singing doll that was featured in the drama’s first episode.

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

During the shoot at Bedford’s Cardington Studios, located 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 weather (minus-3-degree Celsius) during a devastating U.K. cold snap, according to Variety and the Sun.

“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.

“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 a joint statement to The Times.

In the fictional 2021 “Squid Game,” created by Hwang Dong-hyuk and inspired by his own struggles under capitalism in South Korea, contestants went through much worse, facing off in games with lethal consequences, such as falling to your death or getting shot. Their prize money, however, was much larger: $45.6 billion South Korean won, or roughly $38 million. Lee Jung-jae starred in the show as Seong Gi-hun, a man with a gambling addiction who joins the deadly games to win the cash prize as a means to win custody of his daughter before she moves to the U.S. with her mother and stepfather.

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

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.

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