I had a dark moment at the beginning of my guilt-stricken Netflix binge of Too Hot To Handle when I thought, was this show scripted by an Oscar-nominated screenwriter? It arrived somewhere between Haley Cureton declaring she “literally [has] no idea” where Australia is and her confession that she doesn’t know what language her tattoo is in. My suspicions persisted until Haley was the first contestant kicked off the reality dating series. No writer would kill off their best comic relief so early in the game.
But really: Just how produced is the drama on Too Hot To Handle? When contestants broke the no-touching rule or referred to each other as “naughty little quesadillas,” was there behind-the-scenes influence, or were these realistic bouts of insanity? Below, an investigation into the role producers played in the show’s wild happenings.
Contestants can’t be “forced,” but they can be “nudged.”
During an interview with Cosmopolitan, contestant Harry Jowsey admitted that production could influence his decisions but never made them for him. “In these situations, if they know that you’ve got a problem or you need to have a chat with someone, they’ll just point you in the right direction to get a result, or to get that conversation happening and get to the end goal,” he told the outlet. “They’re not forcing you to say or do anything you don’t want to. They just kind of help nudge you in the correct direction.”
Obviously, editing impacts how the show plays out.
Nicole O’Brien opened up about her experience to Cosmopolitan U.K. and assrted that everything depicted was real. But she did note that not everything that went down in the villa was shown on the series. “It’s filmed over a whole month, and footage is slimmed down into eight episodes—of course you don’t see everything,” she told the outlet. “But there were some parts of my personal growth that were missed. David and I also had a date that wasn’t shown—we connected, but quickly realized it was more of a friendship. I was close to Bryce, too; we’re still chatting now and seeing where things go, but obviously distance is a factor with that.”
By all accounts, contestants truly didn’t know about the “no sex” rule when signing on.
Since the show premiered on April 17, cast members have confirmed that they truly didn’t know what they were getting into when they committed to the then-untitled dating show. Contestant Francesca Farago told Esquire that after producers reached out to her via Instagram DM, she has a video call with production. The only details they gave regarding the show: She must be single, the show will take place on a tropical location, and other hot singles will be present.
“I wasn’t sure if it was a dating show, or more like Survivor, or more like Love Island, but I was open to an experience,” she explained. “When we landed for filming we found out it was going to be more along the lines of a dating show, and I was super excited for that. But the first few days in the villa, we still had no idea really why we were there. And then when the bomb dropped that it was like a self-discovery growth experience, it was kind of a shock.”
Naturally, elements of Too Hot To Handle were produced.
As with any reality show, aspects of the show needed to be created. What would Love Is Blind be without the pods or The Bachelor without fantasy suites? Producer Louise Peet told People that the producers set sex prices, devised workshops, and plot to introduce new contestants as the cameras rolled.
Some elements evolved more organically than others. This included “Lana’s” decision to give Haley the boot and that twist ending with the money prize. “We realized quite early on that everyone was learning, and if they weren’t learning—for example, Haley—then they would naturally be asked to leave because they weren’t progressing in the retreat,” Peet told People. “So when it got to the final episode, it was an absolute no-brainer for us to share [the money] amongst the group. There’s a variety of ways it could have gone, but this felt really fitting for our series.”
Real relationships have emerged from the show.
Further evidence that not every moment of Too Hot To Handle was scripted? A few couples, like Francesca and Harry, have stayed together after cameras stopped rolling. Sine filming ended on the show nearly a year ago, some contestants could’ve decided never seen each other again. (It seems that was the case for Sharron and Rhonda, who have only interacted over FaceTime since production ended.)
Still, Francesca and Harry have beaten the odds and are talking matching tattoos and marriage plans these days. And Bryce Hirschberg only formed a relationship with O’Brien after filming ended. The couple told OprahMag.com that the cast was allowed to decompress at a hotel in Mexico post-filming—without cameras. During that time, the pair bonded. “We thrived in the real world,” Hirschberg told the outlet. It stands to reason that if their romance was scripted, the cameras would’ve wanted to get that footage.
As for how a potential second season would be produced, we’ll have to wait for Netflix to give it the green light.