The first season of Netflix’s hot new dating show: Too Hot to Handle, has just launched and it is seriously binge-worthy. But this is a dating show with a twist…
The tragic death earlier this year of former Love Island host, Caroline Flack, is the third suicide to be connected to the hit reality show Love Island. And while demand for Instagram-influencer reality TV does not seem to be slowing down, it has become clear that something just isn't quite right.
Netflix has identified this and taken action, releasing two new dating shows with unique approaches to finding love: Love is Blind and more recently Too Hot to Handle.
“Love is Blind” (forgive me, I am on episode 1), takes the social experiment approach to reality TV where love is literally blind. Unlike “Married at First Sight” where one's perfect match is dictated by 'scientific algorithms' (most often unsuccessfully), Love is Blind puts the fate of contestants in their own hands as they get to know potential spouses through a thin wall. All the while, they live with others of the same sex who are trying to do the same (no competition there then!) and they don't get to see who they are talking to until they decided to get married...
For the younger crowd, too young to think about marriage and still following all the Love Island contestants from series 1, Too Hot to Handle is the binge-worthy series for you.
The show combines AI (the host is an intelligent air freshener called Lana) with the semi-spiritual qualities of personal growth.
Forget about an Island, this is a retreat.
And the vehicle for growth on this retreat?
Chastity. That is, growing relationships before initiating any sexual encounters.
After the first 24 hours of getting to know each other, the contestants have already managed to squeeze in a few cheeky kisses before Lana reveals to them the true purpose of the show.
They have been chosen because they are serial-fling sex addicts who just don’t take the time to get to know anyone before going all the way. The result: they are unhappy and uncommitted in love. But as the show develops, we come to realise the deep truth that relationships are just as much about our relationship with ourselves than with our partners. How the hell you gunna love somebody else when you can't love yoself!
The main challenge of the show is to go a month of full on celibacy. That means no sex, no kisses and no masturbation, while at the same time getting to know sexy potential partners.
Lana is watching them 24/7 and for every rule that is broken, money will be taken off the $100,000 cash prize pot.
Without revealing too much about the show, let’s just say they do loose quite a lot of money.
But they also grow and we see compromises made between the value of the prize money and the value of intimacy in forming human connection.
The show also has some really great characters in it. We have an international crowd as well which is something I think viewers will enjoy.
A clear favourite is Matthew Smith, the guiding figure of wisdom on the retreat referred to as “Jesus.”
Another is Francesca Farago, the beautiful yet manipulative asf Canadian Insta-model.
And then there is young Australian Harry Jowsey who everyone seems to love, including Francesca.
Like Love Island, Too Hot to Handle has dates, but instead of tasks it has workshops. I particularly enjoyed these: from Shibari (the ancient form of rope bondage which is more about surrender than SNM), to female Yoni empowerment and all-male heart warrior workshops.
For those engaged with yogic or spiritual paths, the content of these workshops may be familiar. But for the typical reality show contestant (and viewer), minus “Jesus” aka Matthew, this is a completely new and quite scary experience. I mean, looking at your own yoni?! Showing emotion as a man?! Who would have thought that this would be the kind of reality TV we would be watching during #lockdown.
These kinds of workshop are all about confronting one’s deeper self. Through coming face to face with our light and our shadows, our strengths and conflictions, old emotions, trauma and fears are bound to resurface. But it is exactly these processes which are essential for the contestants in breaking down toxic identities they may hold about themselves and their sexuality.
Through going deeper in to themselves, the contestants also break down the boundaries and walls that seperate them from each other. As they become closer, it really is quite beautiful to watch.
We may be used to seeing competition within the sexes for a mate, both on dating shows and in our day to day lives, but through the retreat we come to witness a sense of togetherness: the emergence of the sister and brother- hood.
Representations of positive 'tribal' relationships within and between the sexes is something that is normally missing from reality TV. But it is exactly these kinds of relationships which allow us to show and develop a deeper acceptance of ourselves, and others, reminding us to act with more compassion and kindness.
The fact Lana, the host of the show, is an emotionless AI air freshener might be conspiracy-worthy proof enough for some of the technological future we are heading for. But in other ways, she allows for the personal growth of the contestants as they discover things for themselves, including how far they have come.
Its not all serious though and there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments in the show. My particular favourites are David sleep talking about personal growth (what else!) and “Jesus” aka Matthew trying to flirt with Madison about spirituality and just failing completely.
While some people may laugh at or disregard the idea of “yoni empowerment” or “male spirit warriors of the heart” workshops, the proof is in the pudding. If these Instagram-influencing hotties are preaching about the results first-hand, it would seem these more open approaches to wellbeing, self-knowledge and ultimately love could have a further reach beyond the show.
I suppose only time will tell if the values and methods embodied in Too Hot to Handle will gain popularity more broadly as a result of the show. Will the contestants of series 1 continue to preach personal growth? And will future series continue to uphold these values, or will they too become self-consumed in some kind of fake reality nonsense.
Until next time! Watch the show and let me know your thoughts.
All the best,
Too Hot to Handle was released on Netflix on Friday the 17th April 2020.