When I was growing up, my mom used to tell me that watching television would fry my brain cells. It may have taken me 20 years to believe her but this messy mix of sex (or lack thereof), terrible comedy and brainless contestants proved her correct. After watching Too Hot To Handle I, with confidence, can say I understand her point now.
Firstly, I tried to convince myself to say that the show sucked. I want to say that the show was ruined by the on-the-fly rules or cheesy workshops. Even more so, I wish I could say that Too Hot To Handle was another flopped attempt at a reality TV dating show. Yet, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I loved this show despite the toll it may have taken on my brain.
The premise is straight forward, 10 contestants arrive at a resort in Mexico assuming that they are in for a wild, tropical vacation with other hot singles. To their surprise, their stay is controlled by a cone-shaped robot named Lana. Lana lays down the rules and constantly observes the group’s progress towards self-improvement. The kicker is that no kissing or sex of any kind is permitted during their stay. If the rules are broken, money gets deducted from the one hundred thousand dollar prize fund. As a viewer, it seems pretty easy; simply enjoy your time at a gorgeous resort, catch some sun rays and hang out with the other contestants.
Alas, following the rules would not make for a good reality show. The announcement of celibacy sent a shock wave over the contestants. Two singles in particular, Francesca and Harry, knew they would struggle with the sex-ban. Their struggle, and failure, to remain celibate made for a suspenseful and at times frustrating watch. Every step they took towards breaking the rules made it impossible to stop watching.
No matter how reckless the contestants were regarding the rules, viewers had no choice but to fall in love with the dynamic of the group. Some front runners had a special place in my heart, earning the “next episode” button faithful clicks episode after episode.
Francesca, of course, was a favourite. She didn’t exactly represent Canada well as she broke rule after rule, yet she was still entertaining to watch. Despite her vindictiveness and air of superiority, there was something about seeing a quintessential mean girl in a candid environment that made her compelling to watch. Although she was a perfect ten by most standards, Frankie dealt with the same emotions any girl does when dealing with boys: frustration, vulnerability, the list goes on and on. She threw caution to the wind and stirred the pot most of the time, which added some rebellion and shock-factor to this reality show.
One of the most underrated girls on the show was Nicole. Nicole is from Ireland and was proud of it as she boasted about her drinking abilities from the start. This Irish stunner was the perfect wing woman and friend to all the contestants. Although she never got booed up by one of the male contestants, she was one of my favourites. It would be impossible to mention Nicole without addressing her on-screen best friend Chloe. The two were attached at the hip from the get-go, frolicking throughout the retreat, mingling with everyone and always having a good time.
Chloe is a self-proclaimed and proud air-head. Watching this British bombshell navigate relationships left me laughing and cringing all at once. She genuinely did not know how to interact with guys without flirting or being promiscuous, making for some grade A awkwardness. Chloe took Lana’s mission of self-improvement to heart and she was the most receptive to learning about self-love. No matter how many names or words Chloe mispronounced, she was a favourite to watch throughout the series.
Boy oh boy…onto the boys. Harry was the heart-throb of the season. He was charming (or maybe that was just the Australian accent), funny and got along with everyone. He managed to capture the hearts of viewers with his witty phrases, such as “naughty little possum.” Harry’s signature phrases went viral, receiving enough press that he started a merch line featuring his goofy comments. He left me rolling my eyes most episodes but was still a favourite as he added comedic relief to just about every situation he was in.
David and Sharron were involved in an adorable bromance from the first day. The two were like peas in a pod, their banter was hilarious to watch. These two also took Lana’s mission seriously, both of them demonstrating immense self-improvement.
The cohort of sexless singles spent their month with Lana building friendships and relationships with one another. The cameras were always on, capturing the group’s every move. The producers opted for stationary cameras most of the time, as opposed to a full camera crew, to ensure the participants were not intimidated by a fully-fledged production team. These sneaky cameras caught plenty of conversations the contestants probably wished they hadn’t. As a viewer, this was gold. It really felt like I was just a fly on the wall watching the singles wreck havoc on one another.
After being released, Too Hot To Handle undoubtedly received some backlash. One of the biggest critiques I have seen is that the rules were arbitrary, which I can’t deny was a potential detriment to the fans of the show. Many thought that the loose structure made the show too unorganized to follow.
The introduction of new contestants on a whim, as well as the on-the-fly fate of the prize money, came across as last-minute and random. Although many viewers did not like these seemingly uncalculated twists, I thought it enhanced the hecticness and jaw-drop factor of this reality show.
Yes, I whole-heartedly agree that Lana’s rules were made up during the filming of the show, but this made the rules tailored to the specific contestants that were on this season. The unique group dynamic made Too Hot To Handle worth watching, so why wouldn’t producers purposely enforce rules that would get a reaction out of the contestants? For me, it all came together and resulted in one of the most erratic, eye-brow raising shows I have ever seen.