'The Traitors should win every award going, but please don't make a celebrity version'

As The Traitors final looms, TV critic Ian Hyland shares his verdict on the second season of Claudia Winkleman's BBC reality show

Harry, Andrew, Evie, Claudia Winkleman, Jaz, Mollie  - The Traitors S2 finalists. (BBC)
Harry, Andrew, Evie, Claudia Winkleman, Jaz, Mollie - The Traitors S2 finalists. (BBC)

It’s finally here, so I suppose I should say Happy Traitors Final Day, everyone!

Of course, what I actually mean is Happy Spending The Whole Day Proudly Predicting Exactly What Is Going To Happen In The Final Of The Traitors Even Though No One Has A Clue Really Day, everyone!

I’m not going to tell you to stop wasting your time though. We all know that coming up with wild theories as we count down the hours is half the fun. And we all know that there is zero point in fighting it. Once The Traitors has you in its grip you are in it until the bitter — or possibly happy — end.

I’ve been doing this job for many years, and the last time I can remember a TV show being this all-consuming was way back in the early days of Big Brother. It’s also the first time my kids have wanted to actually sit in the same room and watch a TV show with me since they left Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom behind eight or nine years ago.

I fully understand why some refusers have been scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about. To them it’s just 22 people mucking about in a Scottish castle while some emo singer performs a breathy, slowed-down version of Hickory Dickory Dock and Claudia Winkleman does her best Cruella De Vil impression and snipes about the patriarchy despite the fact it was her who chose more men than women to be traitors at the start.

Claudia Winkleman has rang the bell on the best reality show of 2024 - The Traitors. (BBC)
Claudia Winkleman rang the bell on the best reality show of 2024 - The Traitors. (BBC)

However, for the seven million — and rising — devotees of the show it is an itch that won’t be properly scratched until we've found out who has skipped away with the big money prize.

On that I have a theory, which I think you will find pretty irresistible. I believe something wonderful and life-affirming happened following that dinner party on Final Eve, where Evie, Mollie, Andrew, Harry and Jaz put forward their reasons for deserving the prize, like Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant and the gang playing “best sob story gets the last brownie” in Notting Hill: Off camera, the Traitors and the remaining Faithful made a pact to split the prize five ways no matter what happens in the final.

Yeah, right. We all know Harry himself is going to shaft themselves and there’s almost nothing they can do to stop it. Which is where Claudia and the producers come in. Come on, after serving up a series so full of brilliant twists and turns, do you really think they haven’t got one last dastardly surprise up their sleeves?

Or maybe I’m just being greedy. Over the course of eleven glorious hours they’ve already given us more than enough this year. In fact, show me almost any category at the National TV Awards and I will offer you a fairly convincing argument as to why The Traitors deserves to win it.

I know it’s only January, but will there be a better line of dialogue in 2024 than Diane’s “... but Ross is”? Will there be a funnier moment than that brilliantly-timed wink Ross gave to the camera in the back of the car?

Will there be a more dramatic death than Diane’s? Will there be a more memorable moment than Paul’s spectacularly over-the-top parting bow? Would Toby Jones dare to suggest his acting in Mr Bates Vs The Post Office ever approached the levels Miles deployed the morning he walked into breakfast and saw the very much not dead Diane there?

Given how much coverage the likes of Good Morning Britain, Lorraine and This Morning have afforded it, The Traitors could even have a large say in which show wins Best Daytime. Speaking of ITV’s bizarre obsession with constantly promoting a programme on a rival network, I’m already wondering what’s next for The Traitors.

Evie, Harry, Mollie, Claudia Winkleman, Jaz, and Andrew - The Traitors S2 finalists. (BBC)
Evie, Harry, Mollie, Claudia Winkleman, Jaz, and Andrew - The Traitors S2 finalists. (BBC)

I sincerely hope the BBC has it tied down to a long contract, because it is surely only a matter of time until a big money offer comes in from ITV. It would be nice to think that the production company would repay the Beeb for its part in helping to grow the show into such a massive hit, but, y’know, that’s what we all said about The Great British Bake Off.

The one thing I am sure about is what I do not want to see happening to The Traitors: a celebrity version. I genuinely cannot think of anything worse.

As for tonight, I’d be more than happy to see Harry scoop all the money. Partly because he’s been in my Top 3 favourite contestants list from the start. (Diane and Paul were the others, of course.)

But mainly because I’ve never bought the notion that the traitors are baddies that must be stopped. It’s a game.

And in any good game, the best man — or woman, obviously — should always win.

The Traitors final airs on BBC One at 9pm on Friday, 26 January.

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