Nearly thirty years ago, Larry David wrote an episode of Seinfeld, The Contest, where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer had to see who could go the longest without pleasuring themselves.
The show, set in Mexico, follows ten young, hot singles from around the world come together in a tropical paradise for what they think will be the most exotic and erotic summer of their lives — but there’s a twist. These commitment-phobes who love a casual hook-up, will have to give up all hanky panky for the entire retreat if they want to win the $100,000 grand prize. No kissing, no heavy petting, and no self-gratification of any kind. With every slip, the prize money goes down.
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Laura Gibson, creative director of Fremantle-owned production company Talkback, which produced the eight-part series, tells Deadline that she’s been working to create a big-scale dating format since joining the UK firm in 2016.
“One of my favourite shows is Seinfeld and my favorite episode is The Contest. I thought there’s a show in this. It was that combined with the fact that one of my friends was on Tinder at the time and she showed me an exchange with a guy and within two messages, he sent her a dxxk pick. This is what dating is today. So, we have to get out there and help people. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to do a reality show where instead of trying to get all of these hot people to get with each, why don’t we try and make them not get with each other’. What’s sexier than not being able to have sex, nothing drives you crazier than that,” she says.
The cast includes sexy singletons from all over the world such as ditsy Essex girl Chloe, Florida sorority girl Haley, Australian hunk Harry and Matthew, a “deep thinker” from Colorado.
Series producer Louise Peet tells Deadline that they cast their net wide for contestants “It’s usually all Brits or all Americans, because it was Netflix and we wanted this global, scaled up, huge other worldly reality show that we just put out a shout for international hot singles who wanted a vacation of their lives. They came flooding in. They didn’t stick to their own as much as we thought we would,” she says.
Talkback is best known for producing panel shows such as Celebrity Juice and Through The Keyhole. But Gibson, who worked on series including CBS’ Hunted as part of her role as VP, Unscripted Development for Endemol Shine North America and a stint at LA-based 44 Blue Productions, wanted to broaden the company’s slate.
“We were trying to crack a reality show,” Gibson says. “We needed to come up with something big and noisy. My top line was love doesn’t have to start with a dxxk pic. When you put young people to the test, does money really matter more than sex. Because Talkback isn’t known for [this genre], we had to go in with something outrageous to attract attention. It needed to be big to work. We needed to expand.”
The show joins Netflix’s growing slate of unscripted originals including Kinetic Content’s Love Is Blind, which was recently picked up for two further seasons. Gibson says that making a reality show for a streamer offered a different challenge. She says where shows such as Big Brother are like daily soap operas, Too Hot To Handle was more of a rom-com given it’s longer editing process. “Traditionally, for the past 20 years, these big reality shows have been shot during the day and fast turnaround in the edit so you get the day before’s show, the next day. What was great about this, was that we were making something that could be crated in the edit and told a story over eight episodes.”
The timing of the launch – the show streams from April 17 – may well be a boon for Netflix and Talkback with viewers craving reality entertainment as they’re in quarantine, having completed Tinder. “It’s a cruel coincidence. Obviously, terrible things are happening in the world at the moment, but on a lighter note, most gorgeous under 25s right now have a serious case of blue balls, so we’ll give them tips with how to cope with that,” adds Gibson.