When Netflix unveiled its latest reality TV experiment, Too Hot to Handle—a show where sexy singles from across the English-speaking world get together to find love with the caveat that they cannot masturbate or kiss or have sex with one another—my first thought was, “that’s going to be a shitshow.” If those contestants caroused as much as, say, the kind of guy who gets kicked out of the mansion night one on The Bachelorette, there was definitely going to boning, and there were definitely going to be some ethical issues. Except on Too Hot to Handle, no one ever appeared incomprehensibly wasted—and that’s because the producers of the show gave each contestant a strict, two-drinks-per-night maximum, Page Six reports. Hear me out: more shows should do the same.
The only way a show with such an absurd concept as “Don’t fuck and you will be awarded $100,000” could work is by ensuring some level of sobriety. If an open bar were made available, reputations could’ve been destroyed. (Love Island, a similarly debaucherous show, also has a two-drink maximum. It works to keep those strong Scouse accents from slurring, and the show sensical.) “They limited us to two drinks a night, and they had to give them to you,” Too Hot to Handle’s Bryce Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw with Dax Holt and Adam Glyn podcast. “So they were very much, believe it or not, looking out for us during this whole thing. They didn’t want us to look bad.” It’s rare to hear a reality TV show star express that kind of gratitude towards producers on set—especially following the success of Love Is Blind, where contestant Jessica Batten was portrayed as the show’s drunk villain, consuming booze in excess to proliferate drama. As she told Entertainment Weekly when gossip tabloids questioned whether or not she was an alcoholic, “There’s a reason that there’s sometimes alcohol around during these reality shows... if I’m nervous, I drink a little bit more.”
Free-flowing alcohol in the reality show space has real, dangerous consequences. In 2017, Bachelor in Paradise was nearly shut down during a sexual misconduct investigation involving contestants Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson, after two producers believed one party was not sober enough to give consent. A few months after the news broke, Olympios appeared in studio with Chris Harrison during an episode of Bachelor in Paradise to say she mixed medicine and alcohol, causing her to black out. She also said that she did not blame Jackson for the incident, backtracking comments made weeks earlier. Of course, the Bachelor in Paradise team went on to exonerate themselves instead of take responsibility for creating an environment where drunken sexual encounters are instigated and health factors (such as medication that cannot be taken with alcohol) ignored. In fact, after Warner Bros. determined that there was no evidence of sexual misconduct, Bachelor in Paradise instituted a two-drink-per-hour maximum for contestants. Those still in Paradise immediately found ways around the limit, drinking two drinks at the end of the hour and two drinks immediately beforehand, chugging four beverages in 15 minutes.
It’s an inadequate “solution” to a horrific issue—first and foremost, producers should be concerned about the security of their cast. Curbing alcohol consumption is a step in the right direction. And in the case of Too Hot to Handle and Love Island, no drama is lost by keeping the talent safe.