I have no idea whether Too Hot to Handle (Netflix) was filmed before or during the pandemic and it seems unnecessary to ask. It would just have been a case of adding one more test to what I imagine is already quite an exhaustive list before the contestants are let loose on a poor unsuspecting island as part of an apparent reality dating show and quest to find and rate each other’s genitals as quickly as possible. A lateral flow swab would be a mere bagatelle compared to everything they must go through not to turn each season of this into an STI fest. How they get any of the pathologically energetic contestants to stay still for a medical procedure would be a programme in itself. I suspect the use of tranquilising blowdarts.
Maybe season three will take us behind the scenes, but for now we must face – with strength, determination and at least 5mg of Valium – season two of Too Hot to Handle, AKA Horn 4 U, AKA Blind Date Goes Rogue, AKA Am I 108 Years Old?, AKA Are These People Real?, AKA Just Make It Stop.
As with series one, the twist is that, though our contestants – confections of perfect musculature, tans, hair and hair products, boobs, makeup and endless vocalisations signalling round-the-clock sexual invitation (“I own me! I’m a firecracker!”) – believe they are signing up to a shagfest, they are not. Because 12 hours after they meet and everything has become fully engorged, they are slapped with a sex ban! For FOUR WEEKS!
(For the avoidance of doubt among readers of my age and inclination: this is considered both a long time and a bad thing. OK, onwards).
There is to be no kissing, no heavy petting, no self-gratification and no placing of any organ of generation into any orifice. The rules, delivered by a virtual assistant called Lana (presumably because a human presenter would risk being savaged to death by the nearest nymphomaniac) are clear. Should anyone breach them, they will be fined a sum in accordance with the seriousness of the infraction and that sum will be deducted from the prize fund. This stands at $100,000. Whatever remains at the end of the four-week sex ban will be split among whichever participants have not had to be flown off the island and hospitalised with blue balls or the vulval equivalent.
There are, technically, 10 contestants, but it is really only two factory models – one male, one female – in five slightly different iterations each. Some are actually models. Some are blondes, some brunette, some white, some of colour, some American-accented, some British and one French. His name is Marvin, but that is about all I can tell you. I will be referring to them as Vulvas 1-through-5 and Peens 1-4 plus Marvin (“No sex!” he tells the camera after Lana has broken the news. “No kiss! No nothing!” Oh, Marvin.)
Vulva 3 and Peen 4 quickly establish a mutual attraction. Marvin takes a shine to Vulva 2. But she kisses Peen 2 (not on the peen) to make him jealous. Peen 2 also kisses Vulva 1, but that was mostly on a dare. Or was it? Vulva 1 also likes Peen 1 and they snog, not on a dare.
Most of this, it should be noted, takes place after the sex ban has been imposed. So does Peen 4’s declaration that he is ready for a handjob. Vulva 3 is delighted by the audacity and the notion, but reminds him of the financial penalty to be paid in the event of breaching the ban. There is no blood left in Peen 4’s brain at this point, so it takes a while for him to understand and he is not best pleased when he does. How he is going to get through the remaining three weeks, six days and 23 hours of abstinence, it is – literally – hard to know.
In season one, the contestants eventually split $75,000. By the end of the current crop’s first night the prize fund has already dropped to $79,000 and it is quite possible that by the time they reach the finale, they will be required to pay the makers.
Obviously – obviously – it is terrible. But, as ever, it’s brilliant to watch. Money and sex working in diametric opposition creates a unique layer of horror that no other reality show can provide, atop the jealousy, treachery, stupidity and heartbreak that customarily abounds. You would need a heart of stone not to laugh.