Too Hot to Handle review – 'chaste' Love Island is disgustingly bingeable | Television & radio

B y now, we’re used to this: rotating shots of crashing waves on sunny beaches, slow-motion poolside workouts, cameras lingering on pecs ...


By now, we’re used to this: rotating shots of crashing waves on sunny beaches, slow-motion poolside workouts, cameras lingering on pecs and bikinis. Too Hot to Handle (Netflix) is the natural culmination of years of reality TV shows. It is Love Island, trimmed to its leanest and meanest, and it is Love Is Blind, with its pseudo-educational streak. These young people, forged in the gym, embellished with ditsiness and shiny hair, get to enjoy a desert-island retreat, with the twist that they must forgo all sexual activity: no kissing, no touching, no masturbation. If they break the rules – as of course they do – the prize fund is reduced from its starting point of $100,000. There is a sliding scale of punishment. The bigger the crime, the bigger the fine. The hope is that, at the end of it, these previously sex-loving, relationship-rejecting men and women will experience some woolly concept of “personal growth”.

Everything about it is horrible. The fact that not having sex on TV now counts as a challenge to be overcome is a far cry from the heady days of Big Brother in its prime, when an under-the-table encounter made front-page news – though we have been inching towards it for years, on various shows, via blurry night-vision fumbles under a wobbling, incriminating duvet.

The all-seeing overlord here is a beefed-up home assistant called Lana, an Alexa-alike surely invented in Gilead, who brazenly informs participants that she is gathering their personal data and who reports on any clandestine fumbles at mock-stern camp summits, doling out the fines accordingly. The conspiracy theorist in me was appalled by how much the show talked about this surveillance, as if trying to get viewers used to it. Lana’s puritanical, cod-psychology declarations about the benefits of abstinence are irritating at surface level, and even worse when you see how much the show nudges the contestants towards having sex at every turn, simply for the spectacle of it. There are so many grim close-ups of eager, digging tongues that this show will do more to promote social distancing than any of the government’s official posters.





Hands off ... Too Hot to Handle.



Romantic getaway … Too Hot to Handle. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix

Series like this are built on the likability of the contestants. With one or two exceptions, this lot make you despair for the future of humanity: Haley from Florida has a tattoo on her back in another language, but she doesn’t know which one. Matthew from Colorado is a monogamy-rejecting Russell Brand-lite who definitely wants to tell you about a Jordan Peterson podcast. Harry from Queensland is so immature that I hope they checked the date of birth on his passport; he says things like “All I wanna do is some naughty sex to her”, then sticks his tongue out and looks confused.

It doesn’t take long for the contestants to go a bit Lord of the Flies. They lie about each other, deliberately deplete the prize fund, and largely resist the show’s attempts to nudge them towards learning more about themselves. As I said, everything about it is horrible.

The participants have all been raised on reality TV and clearly know the tropes well: they’re playing a role rather than being themselves. The voiceover, by comedian Desiree Burch, wants to have its cake and eat it, mocking what’s in front of it while remaining fully invested in the action. But the episodes are short, snack-like and disgustingly bingeable. I did not feel good about gobbling up all eight episodes, nor could I stop myself doing it. It will, inevitably, be massive.

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Newsrust: Too Hot to Handle review – 'chaste' Love Island is disgustingly bingeable | Television & radio
Too Hot to Handle review – 'chaste' Love Island is disgustingly bingeable | Television & radio
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