Forget Love is Blind and Love Island, Too Hot to Handle is the next big TV show for watching a group of attractive and low to moderately intelligent people badly flirt and eventually catch on with each other. The premise follows a group of ten people (which inevitably grows) who initially believe they are in for a more traditional Ex on the Beach dating show. They later learn through the island’s Alexa style device that they must not have any sexual contact throughout their month-long stay, which includes masturbation. Every time they do, money is deducted from their $100,000 prize pot.
Though seemingly billed as another superficial reality dating programme, Too Hot to Handle actually offers deeper and meaningful discussions outside of the main premise of the show. Offering a mix of nationalities, Australian, American, British and Irish contestants often prove to be an entertaining mix both for wrong and right reasons.
The show is voiced by comedian Desiree Burch, who provides an excellent job at emphasising how aware the show is of its own cringey set-up, with spectacular editing that kindly teases the poorer choice of words the contestants opt for in the confessionals. The robot Lana also offers an interesting take on the format, substituting as a human host. Its eight-episode format also lends itself to its refreshing palette, ejecting the long-format commitment that shows such as Love Island provide and instead showcasing a condensed and concise episodic format that is entirely binge-able.
The most endearing part of the show is not the relationships themselves but the ‘workshops’ that the contestants are made to do in order to strengthen their relationships. While some play on the sexual tension generated throughout the series such as practising bondage – which is partly what makes it so watchable – the standout activities emphasise the spiritual and emotional connections between the cast. In the episode “Boys to Men”, contestants Harry and Kelz argue over fellow contestant Francesca. The workshop then asks the boys to write their deepest insecurities on paper and then confess them to the other men, which results in Harry crying and becoming best buds with Kelz. While not entirely ending toxic masculinity, it does offer a good commentary on the negative behaviour that other shows like this enforce.
It’s able to establish more genuine relationships than mere flings the contestants are previously stated as having, even if it does remain doubtful that any of the relationships formed will go beyond the show. The series is still able to explore these monogamous relationships without discrediting alternative ones. Matthew from Colorado (also known for appearing on America’s Next Top Model) insinuates he is polyamorous, and the show simply accepts this with him remaining single up until his departure.
It isn’t without its problems, however. Like many other programmes in the same vein, it can’t escape how highly produced the format is. Many a moment is painfully spent with someone sitting in a room on their own, clearly waiting for Lana the robot or a producer to direct them or tell them something.
The show’s ending is also incredibly unsatisfying in how the prize money is given. Without spoiling anything, the way the money is awarded leaves questions as to whether the show will be renewed. The twist of the singletons not being aware of the show’s gimmick would probably mean they would not have gone on if they were aware of the full set-up. Despite this, Too Hot to Handle absolutely deserves a second series and provides an entertaining if not predictable spin on the summer dating show.