Reality TV Time: Too Hot to Handle

Whelp, Netflix has done it again. The streaming TV service is legit winning the quarantine game, releasing one splendid, bingeworthy, let’s-forget-what-day-it-is-and-escape-this-hellish-landscape-called-modern-life program after another.

Their latest offering: #THTH, otherwise known as “Too Hot to Handle.”

(I know I said I was going to talk about Tiger King, but honestly, in this fast-paced, binging environment, TK is old news and we have got to get to the hot, new, young disaster programming).

“Too Hot To Handle” is indeed, muy caliente. The dating game/reality series was filmed at a $15,000 a night private resort in Punta Mita, Mexico sometime last year. The show feels very familiar at first: there are 10 very attractive young people (mostly from the UK and the US) with the expected outsized egos (Several of them mention their super attractiveness during their intro reels, as well as the size of their ahem, eggplants. Honestly, you start off hating each and every one of them).

There’s Haley, the sorority girl from Florida, Francesca, an Instagram model from Canada, Chloe, a model from Essex, Rhonda, a restaurant manager from Georgia; Nicole, a social media influencer from Ireland. On the guys side, there’s Sharron, a model/entertainer from New Jersey, David, a nutrition coach from London, Harry, a YouTube “star” from Australia, Matthew, a model from Colorado and Kelz, a football (not soccer, American-style football) player from London.

The whole show has very much got the whole “Love Island” vibe, right down to the soundtrack and even the setting, which is very similar. But unlike Love Island, which clocks in at oh, approximately 40 episodes, each one hour long (not kidding. My reality-TV-life-partner, XFE and I watched all of them over the holidays and it was a project, let me tell you), Too Hot To Handle is just eight sexy, sweaty 40-minute episodes.

THTH is also very reminiscent of that other Netflix gem, “Love Is Blind.” Not because our singles first meet each other by flirting through a frosted wall in a weirdly called, “pod.” But, both shows do push the ridiculous narrative of “forming deeper emotional connections” with members of the opposite sex.

But while Love Is Blind tried to capitalize on the idea of forming a connection based on personality and conversation, not physical attraction, the folks at THTH try to push a deeper emotional connection (PLOT TWIST) by banning sexual activity. No kissing, no putting things in other things, and no self-gratification.

And, because that no sex rule truly seems impossible when you have 10 hot, young horndogs running around in skimpy resort wear for 30 days, the producers had to add an incentive: a $100,000 pot of money. They don’t really outline who will win the money or how, exactly, but they do make it clear that money will be deducted for every indiscretion. Also, neither we, nor the contestants, find out how much will be deducted until an infraction occurs. Which it does, almost immediately.

And the reason we know that is because of an Alexa-like, digital assistant known as Lana who is placed throughout the resort and is basically spying on our hot, young singles. Lana then spills the beans on any infractions — often in graphic detail which for some odd reason was bleeped out — during a nightly gather-around-the-firepit.

The show was actually a very interesting psychological study, because you really did get an idea of how different people are motivated by different things. XFE pointed out that all of the contestants could just agree from the start that they were all going to bonk like little rabbits for the next 30 days on this gorgeous resort and who cares about the money? You basically got a free vacation and nonstop sex.

But they didn’t do that. Some of them (mostly those who weren’t immediately attracted to someone else) really cared a lot about the money and did not want to see the pot dwindle at all. Others, the “rulebreakers” often felt a lot of pressure to not give in because they didn’t want to get grief from the rest of the group. And in a few instances, the rest of the group felt the “rulebreakers” had actually formed a deeper connection by getting physical and therefore agreed that it was ok and probably worth the price.

There are a couple of other hokey, typical dating-show twists thrown in throughout: some self-improvement workshops that are mostly silly, a fantasy suite, a reward system, a couple of attractive “grenades” thrown in to try to shake things up—most of which didn’t necessarily need to happen, but kept the show from getting stale the last couple of episodes.

I think it remains to be seen whether any of the “rulebreaker” couples really did form deeper, more lasting relationships – unlike Love Island and Love Is Blind, there isn’t a reunion episode (but articles can be found all over the Internet). But Too Hot To Handle did help me form a deeper emotional connection with Netflix’s excellent programming choices and made me even more wary of our Google Home devices.  

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