When the news broke recently that this summer’s “Love Island” taping was canceled due to COVID-19, it was a such a bummer -- we were looking forward to a mindless celebration of perfect-looking people romping around on a pristine beach. Luckily, Netflix was able to get “Too Hot to Handle” in the can before any type of social distancing needed to happen. And it is a celebration, all right -- a festival of beautiful idiots like no other.
Like many dating shows, professional model-looking, bathing suit-clad singles are led into a luxury villa (in this case, Casa Tau in Punta Mita, Mexico). The contestants think they are there to look for love, which they are, but these people aren’t your ordinary singles -- they are self-professed serial flingers who tend to hook up too quickly and don’t form lasting relationships.
On their first night, the contestants are informed via Lana, an Alexa-type smart device, that they are there to grow and establish emotional intimacy with a partner and therefore must refrain from sexual intimacy of any type, including kissing, sex or even self-pleasure. Hugging and cuddling is OK, going further is not. Every infraction will ding the $100,000 prize bucket. You can see from the look on their faces that this will not be an easy challenge for the extremely thirsty group. Needless to say, they mess up regularly during the series and manage to lose cash every darn episode. These people cannot keep it in their pants. So much for social distancing.
What makes the show funny is that most of these people are so dumb. Like, really dumb. Haley, upon meeting Harry from Australia, remarks, “I don’t know where that is.” Seeing the hamster wheel turn in their hot little brains is part of the charm. To resist physical temptation seems unthinkable for them, even when a kiss will cost them thousands of dollars. It’s both frustrating and hilarious.
Another highlight of the show is narrator Desiree Burch. She’s got a bitingly salty quip for every boneheaded action and reaction of the contestants, and she always seems to know exactly what you’re thinking. She takes to calling long-haired contestant Matthew “Jesus,” which the show then milks for holy laughs.
If the premise of the show sounds familiar, it’s because the producers were inspired by that famous “Seinfeld” episode “The Contest,” where Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine make a bet to see who can go the longest being “The Master of Their Domain.” You have to wonder if their bet would be even shorter if they were on a tropical island with free booze and bikinis.
If you are stuck at home, frustrated by the lack of people physically in your life and missing beachy fun, tune into this show and see people who have it worse -- they have the lay of the land on a tropical beach, hot people right next to them, and they still can’t touch. At the worst, it’s satisfyingly dumb eye candy. At its best, it’s a study at how human connection trumps everything -- even cold, hard cash.