‘Too Hot to Handle’ is strangely welltimed in an era of social distancing and involuntary celibacy for millions
In ‘Too Hot to Handle,’ the latest reality show at Netflix, a group of attentionhungry youth gather together at a beachfront Mexican villa and attempt to forgo sexual contact of any kind in a bid for a $100,000 prize. Each violation of the rules, which, by the way, also bar self-gratification, brings a fine, starting at $3,000 for a kiss.
Like ‘Love Is Blind,’ which followed couples as they dated in “isolation pods” and got engaged before meeting face to face, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ is strangely well-timed in an era of social distancing and involuntary celibacy for millions. But while ‘Love Is Blind’ became a pop culture sensation, couples talked about the magic of “being back in the pods” as if they’d just returned from a honeymoon in Tahiti, not a windowless room on a soundstage in Atlanta, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ puts a knowing twist on the guilty pleasure of dating shows.
There’s no host, just a narration by comedian Desiree Burch targeting the contestant, an international crew of inked-up, musclebound bros, and Kardashian clones wearing bikinis that look like fetishwear Spanx, for being vapid, manipulative, excessively libidinous or all of the above. Along with the usual day drinking and poolside lounging, there are group challenges designed to encourage personal growth and/or torment the randy singles, such as a session in Shibari, Japanese rope bondage.
There’s also an Alexa-like talking “robot” named Lana that plays the role of referee, announcing every time someone has breached the rules, taking what is the subtext in most other reality dating shows, slut-shaming, and making it explicit. And no one got in more trouble with Lana than Francesca Farago, a 27-year-old Canadian who captured the heart, or at least hormonal longings, of babyfaced Australian Harry Jowsey. The Instagram model managed to rack up $32,000 in fines over the course of the production, including $20,000 in a single night with Jowsey.
When she signed up to do the show last year, she was “very single” and had little idea of what she was in for; contestants only learned the rules once they’d arrived at the “retreat,” as they call it, but she left in a relationship. She and Jowsey briefly broke up after leaving Mexico but have reunited and are still very much together, though currently isolating in different countries. Farago spoke by phone from Vancouver about her unlikely journey to enlightenment.
On asking if she didn’t know the rules of the competition before she signed on, Francesca said, “I was reached out to via Instagram DM by someone in production. ‘Hey we have this new reality show on Netflix, we thought you’d be perfect for it.’ She was asking me about my sex life, about my previous relationships. It was very sexually oriented. I was telling my friends about it and they’re like, ‘You’re not allowed, you’re going to get kidnapped.’ It was very sketchy at the beginning.”
Source: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-04-30/too-hot-to-handle-netfl ix-harry-francesca-update