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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A List of Distractions: Things to Buy, Eat, Watch and Listen To

We have a friend who is a bit under the weather and is stuck in a hospital bed for the foreseeable future. Which just totally sucks. I mean, on the one hand: laying around just watching endless episodes of “Fixer Upper” is totally my jam. But on the other hand: there’s only like, five seasons of that show and then what?

(Plus, I can really only watch a few episodes of that show before I get all amped up and stressed out over how much further my housing dollars would go if I just moved back to Texas and I pull out the old laptop and start scouring the internet for real estate listings. WHEN WILL I HAVE MY OWN BARNDOMINIUM?)

More than anything, I’m sure my friend is totally bored and needs some distractions. So, in her honor, here’s a list of shit that is making me happy lately and might make her a smidge happier, too.

Because, if you can’t have a barndominium, you can at least have a jade roller.

That’s right. I said it. About a month or so ago, I jumped on the #basicbitch bandwagon and bought a jade roller and I am not ashamed to say I love that thing. I don’t think/know if it’s actually doing anything to improve my skin, but I do find it very cooling and soothing to roll all over my face and neck. I bought a mini one from Sephora ($20) and I use it in the morning with a serum (current favorite affordable option: Maelove Glow Maker) or the next love item on the list.

Whoa, girl! Two jade rollers? Slow your roll (PUN INTENDED)

Since its winter and I feel bone dry and cracked, I’ve been relying a lot on Trader Joe’s 100% Organic Argan Oil ($6). I was buying a more expensive version of this oil from Sephora but I saw this in TJs recently and decided to try it out. I use it on my face, obviously, but I also put it on my cuticles, which, for some reason really take a beating in the winter.

My other TJs obsession: Dark chocolate bar filled with Speculoos cookie spread. I don’t even necessarily have a sweet tooth, but these are amazing. It’s pretty much the only candy I like/eat and again, it’s not that often. Also, it seems smaller than the average candy bar (I think), so my hospital friend should just go ahead and eat them two at a time.

Speaking of hospital food, or actually, anti-hospital food: we made Chrissy Teigen’s mozzarella-stuffed chicken Milanese this week after watching her make it on Instagram Stories, and it was really, really good. Bonus: the recipe suggests serving with arugula salad, which has all the antioxidants needed to combat all the fried, cheese-stuffed chicken. It’s practically health food.

And it looked just like this.

After seeing all the memes on Twitter, I had to watch “Russian Doll” on Netflix. I’m so glad I did. It was fantastic. It’s a comedy about dying over and over and over again–sort of “Groundhog Day” meets “Sliding Doors” with a little “Adams Family” mixed in. The costumes and sets are amazing, the continuity completely on point, the writing is genius. Natasha Lyonne, who co-created and stars in it, is a total revelation to me. I had no idea she was so talented. Some people didn’t like the ending or were confused but I loved it from start to finish. Plus, all eight episodes clock in at just four hours, so totally doable, lunchtime watching.

Not to brag, but I read Circe by Madeline Miller in two days. I could not put it down. I read it all day Sunday until literally my eyes were tired, burning and watering. Not a good thing but I just had to finish it. It’s the modernized retelling of the story of the witch Circe from Greek mythology and the “Odyssey,” which wouldn’t necessarily appeal to me but this was the bomb. I’m at a loss on what to read next—always the sign of a good book.

I loved the book “Bad Blood” about the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos scam so of course I was fully on board with ABC’s podcast, “The Dropout.” I think if you haven’t read “Bad Blood,” then you’ll like the podcast. It definitely just rehashes John Carreyrou’s excellent reporting. However, what really snagged me was the fact that they are using all the previously unreleased tapes of her SEC deposition testimony and well, I cannot get enough of that Holmes voice! I really wanted to hear her fess up to all her lies and how she defends herself.

Another podcast I recently plowed through was The Gladiator by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. I’m not a football fan (at. all. I think it’s barbaric) but I am fascinated by the Aaron Hernandez case and what role football and CTE may have played in his actions. I walked away thinking CTE definitely played a part in some of his decision making, but he was crazy and violent long before his ascent to the NFL.

That should be enough to get my hospital-bound friend started. We love you and miss you and hope you get out of that place soon!

Reality TV Time: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Let me ask you a question: Do you know about Marie Kondo?

Of course you do! Everyone does! The whole world has gone Kondo Krazy. I don’t know about you, but my Instagram and Feedly feed is brimming with images and posts and videos of neatly folded clothing, scaled down closets and piles of “komono” to be sold, donated or thrown out.

KonMari, or the art of tidying and organizing, originated with Marie Kondo’s 2014 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I never read it, but I heard about it and understood the premise: Uncluttering by going through all of your possessions in the five main categories and deciding if the item “sparks joy.” If it does, it stays. If not, thank it and let it go. Like, forever.

KonMari is back in the consciousness and our Instagram feeds for two main reasons: 1) New Year’s Eve resolutions and 2) in a moment of pure marketing genius, Netflix released the first season of its show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” And, here’s the genius part: they released it on New Year’s Day, right when everyone was itching to tackle those resolutions to unclutter but still wanted to procrastinate a little bit longer by binge watching a show about uncluttering.

I have a third theory about why we’re all obsessed with purging and organizing right now which is this: the world feels completely out of control, so we want to control something, anything. Our own home environment is a place where we can start and feel some sense of control and order in the midst of all the chaos.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a full-on minimalist, but I’m a notorious purger. In fact, I’ve actually thrown away perfectly good money (albeit, on accident). Just saying: I am pretty ruthless. (I also accidentally threw away a box of jewelry once during a move. Mostly sentimental stuff, but still. Gone. I didn’t even turn the car around to go through the dumpster to look for it. I know full well that the Kondo Krazies can have unintended consequences, as this Georgia family also knows.)  KonMari with Kare, y’all.

Anyway, the point is I really don’t get too attached to stuff. I donate and get rid of items on a constant basis. This was especially true after consciously uncoupling from my office job. I donated so. Many. Clothes. Bags and bags of office-appropriate suits, blazers, skirts, pants, sweaters, work tops, belts and shoes went to our local Goodwill. I didn’t even bother to try to sell or consign stuff. I just wanted it all out.

Konmari’ed House

I also secretly dream that in another life I was probably a professional organizer. I love to organize and bring order to some chaos. And literally, everyone is talking about this show. Even my manicurist when I got my nails done recently was gushing about it. So, of course, I watched.

Dear reader, I could only take about 20 minutes of the first episode before I started to feel all itchy and annoyed.

The best way I can describe it is: “Hoarders” meets “Super Nanny” with a dash of some therapy thrown in. Because, like in the vein of other redemptive-themed reality shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” or “Bar Rescue,” Marie Kondo isn’t just there to help people declutter and clean. No, no, no. She’s also there to help save the family relationships. Through the magic of tidying up, of course.

So just like in “Super Nanny” where Joe the Nanny would be brought in to ostensibly help discipline the kids, the real lesson is that the parents are the ones who need help in learning how to be a parent. (On a related note, here’s a very interesting article in how the show is exposing gender biases, ie: society expects women to be the home/memory keepers and women feel they are overwhelmed and failing. Very fascinating.)

Back to the show: The first episode featured the very telegenic Friend family, who, quite honestly, had a very nice home. Obviously, the very telegenic mom probably had too many clothes but not a totally unmanageable or unreasonable amount, in my opinion. And yes, the kitchen was definitely a bit of a disaster (I mean, who doesn’t throw away leftovers before the TV crew shows up?).

Oh girl. You about to get some.

No, what bothered me about the Friends wasn’t the “mess” but just were how needy they appeared. They kept trying to get Marie Kondo to validate that they weren’t that bad and begging her to confirm that sometimes, she’s disorganized, too, and they were just normal people who have to hire someone to come and fold their laundry for them. Honey, if you weren’t that bad, our little Kondo sprite friend wouldn’t be there.

Also, y’all do know that Ms. Kondo is shilling products, right? She’s got her own line of boxes that she’s selling for $89. For boxes. That she displays/product places all over the show. Listen my little organizers: if you are looking for boxes, I got ’em. I get fresh new boxes almost every damn day from Amazon (catkid items) or Sephora (Poe goods). They may not be as cute and pastel as those Kondo boxes, but I’d be willing to sell them to you for a deeply discounted price of $80 per set.

I set “Tidying Up” aside and went back to it a couple of weeks later. I finally got through the rest of the Friend’s episode (and their embarrassing comment about how tidying up has improved their sex life) and went to the next one, which were these empty nesters, the Akiyamas.

That was it for me. They had so, so much stuff. It was insane. Mrs. Akiyama had clothes stuffed in like, four different bedroom closets and Mr. Akiyama had a whole wall of boxes of baseball cards piled precariously on top of each other in the master bedroom. And the Christmas decorations. I just could not. Watching the teeny tiny Marie Kondo skip over the dangerous piles of crap while giggling gave me hives.

I managed to watch it all the way through and guess what? The Empty Nesters did get rid of a TON of stuff, but they still kept a TON of stuff! The closets were still full and boxes and boxes of stuff still lined the walls all over their house.

Oh, and while clearing out, they found a whole collection of these little Japanese dolls (probably like, 100 of them) and they decided those (THE WHOLE COLLECTION) “sparked joy” and they were going to keep them and display them. In their garage. No doubt, these antique dolls were beautiful, but the whole collection? In the garage? It was too much for me.

While our blessed saint of organization Marie Kondo is totally and completely judgement free in the face of incredible mounds of acquired (and even newly discovered) crap, I find that I am not. I can’t help but judge and I was judging. Harshly.

I had to give up on Netflix’s Tidying Up. I’m turning it off and going back to RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 4, which is messy, messy, messy in all the best ways.

Love/hate me some Valentina!