Reality TV thrives off of drama and romance, and Too Hot To Handle shakes up that stereotype by subtracting physical intimacy from the love equation. Typically when you put singles on a private island in the hopes of finding love, they end up making love instead, but on Netflix’s new series each single is punished for any signs of affection towards the other singles. Even self-pleasure is off limits!
Upon arrival to the island, every hyperactive single is feeling jubilant for what awaits. Twelve long hours pass, offering just enough time to squeeze in some casual flirting before Lana, a virtual assistant (think Alexa) that assigns each task, rudely interrupts. Lana calls them to the palapa and announces the official rules of their time on the island. In a nutshell, a piece of the $100,000 prize is slivered off for every kiss and hook up that occurs, with Lana acting as the proverbial hall monitor.
The cast members, advertised as “the sexiest people in the world," came prepared for a summer of flings and fun – which is exactly why they were chosen. The producers knew they'd struggle in the show's true venture, and struggle they did. Ultimately, each episode is designed to build deeper connections, but within the first two alone $6,000 was stripped from the jackpot (with each kiss worth $3,000, oral sex worth $6,000, and intercourse worth $20,000).
The series absolutely has a superficial meaning of beauty, unfortunately labeling its own "ideal" body type, but at the same time the show successfully navigates the viewer’s need for drama with a lower dosage of romance. Reality TV shows like Ex on the Beach, Jersey Shore, Love Island and The Bachelor have all captivated audiences with physical attraction, and Too Hot To Handle challenges the norm. One of my favorites, Ex on the Beach, follows a similar plot where singles are placed on an island to mingle with others in the house. Every week one – or sometimes two or three – of their exes arrive, and they have to decide if their “ex is getting in the way of their next.” By the end of the season, most of the singles find themselves in the same situation, broken up with their next and back with their ex.
The difference in Too Hot To Handle is a variety of workshops that are intended to build deeper connections and form romantic dates, encouraging singles to break down their walls. One of the first workshops involves everyone pairing up to practice Shibari, a type of bondage which originated in Japan. Despite what you may immediately conclude, this practice is designed to develop trust with a partner, which can then be introduced to other facets of their lives. As the show progresses, participants are given wristbands which act like a hall pass. When the bracelet turns green, it allows the singles to break the rules, with just one catch. In order for it to turn green, Lana must recognize that they’re building a connection beyond the surface. In other words, the show cleverly creates a sensual loophole only after they’ve made genuine growth in the relationship – no freebies!
I applaud Netflix for employing a show that makes the contestants question the longevity of their relationships off the island, and sacrifice a quick hook up for vulnerability. Netflix pioneers a dating series that places physical and emotional attraction to the test – with a dash of temptation – that might just be too hot to handle.