I’ll say this for quarantine, it’s encouraging many of us to go beyond our usual media preferences just so that we can feel something. Netflix has stepped up to the plate with #StayHome staples like Tiger King, when it comes to feeding our craving for engaging, unique, but light streaming fare. The platform understands that we’re all isolated and sexually frustrated and has sent Too Hot To Handle to scratch that itch. In Netflix’s third original reality show, following The Circle and Love is Blind, Too Hot To Handle unleashes a pack of sexy singles onto a remote island paradise.
The catch? No canoodling or the singles risk losing their cash prize. What could go wrong in a show full of bikini babes and buff bros? Apparently, a lot.
To be fair, this critic can appreciate what Netflix was going for. We’re all human. Sexy people are a big draw, especially now when some of us have not seen a sexy stranger in weeks…months. Reality television has catered to our voyeuristic need to look at beautiful people, living beautiful lives for years. Where Netflix went wrong was in an attempt to flip the script.
Too Hot To Handle purports to focus on the mission of helping singles deeply entrenched in casual hookup culture establish practices that will help them form meaningful connections. The object is to go for attraction that is more than just skin-deep. The show straddles the line between a spicy reality show and self-help workshop. Which is a nice idea but, let’s be frank, no one is here for that. Netflix deftly baits the trap with sexy people and then proceeds to dump cold water on an arresting concept and offer a lecture not unlike what I received in my abstinence-only high school “sex-ed” talks.
In what should be widely considered the death knell for a reality show, Too Hot To Handle’s biggest problems is its characters. It did not take long for this critic to wish more than anything that I had not been asked to get to know some of these people. I liked them so much better when they were just a pretty face. You’ve got the stupid, the bitchy, the immature, and the insufferable. Issues with the cast are so prevalent that some characters are even dishonorably discharged from the competition, which is supposed to be played for drama but reads as a weaksauce acknowledgment that mistakes were made.
An unfortunate symptom of the lackluster cast is that it makes chemistry, both between the cast and with the audience, damn near impossible. The draw of these singles fizzles out almost instantly and very few of the cast interactions lead to anything remotely warm or interesting. Not a good sign for a reality show that hinges on deeper connections.
The self-habilitating, human connection aspect just feels shallow and a viewer can’t buy into it. Seeing these jokers tear it up between the sheets? Makes sense. Seeing these utterly incompatible people make a real go of things? Absolutely not and I’m bored that we’ve spent a whole season trying to pull it off.
Of particular concern is the show’s lackadaisical approach to the various cultural wellness practices that are utilized. In workshop challenges the singles Asian techniques like Shibari, an ancient Japanese art of bondage, and Yoni Puja, a sacred tantric practice of examining and worshipping the female genitals, under the guise of growth and connection. These practices are under-explained and played for a promiscuous shock factor with little regard the culture and deeper purpose that they’re based in. It’s uncomfortable and feels as shallow as every other attempt at deepening the concept of the show.
Too Hot To Handle hits like a cold shower. It has all the essential foreplay to titillate but leaves the viewer unsatisfied. Any addicting qualities this show has worn off like a honeymoon phase and making it to the end of the show feels just a little too hollow.
Too Hot To Handle is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Too Hot To Handle
Too Hot To Handle hits like a cold shower. It has all the essential foreplay to titillate but leaves the viewer unsatisfied. Any addicting qualities this show has wear off like a honeymoon phase, and making it to the end of the show feels just a little too hollow.
Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Nightmarish Conjurings, and many others.