Netflix did it again: Too Hot to Handle (opens in new tab) is the latest binge-worthy reality TV show everyone is talking about. The series follows a cast of bikini-clad 20-somethings in a luxurious beachside villa with the prospect of finding true love. But there's (of course) a twist: No sexual contact of any kind is allowed. If you, like us, already binged all eight episodes and are eager for more, we gathered all of the behind-the-scenes information we could find about the show. Ahead, the most surprising facts about Too Hot to Handle (opens in new tab).
Contestants had no idea about the rules beforehand.
According to producer Laura Gibson (opens in new tab), the cast members were none the wiser about the sex ban before Lana, the show's virtual assistant host, broke the news to them. All the producers told the cast (opens in new tab) was that they would be in a tropical location for one month, they could win a prize, and dating was involved.
The sex ban wasn't instituted right away.
The bad news wasn't dropped on the cast until 12 hours after they arrived, giving ample time for the singles to get to know each other. Within two hours, the cast was already discussing who they fancied in the group.
A prize of $100,000 was up for grabs.
If the cast can withstand a month abstaining from any sexual practices of any kind (including kissing, sex, and even "self-gratification," as Lana put it), they'll receive a $100,000 prize. For every rule break, money gets taken out of the pot.
The show was inspired by a 'Seinfeld' episode.
In an interview with People (opens in new tab), producer Charlie Bennet explained how he and his colleague, Laura Gibson, came up with the idea for the show after watching the Seinfeld episode "The Contest," (opens in new tab) in which the characters make a bet with one another about how long they can abstain from self-pleasure.
The format is similar to 'Love Island.'
The producers then took their sex ban idea and formatted it like the hit reality series Love Island (opens in new tab), which has aired in the U.K. since 2015 and now has a spinoff in the U.S.
Producers cast people from all over the world.
The idea of a global cast was enticing for Netflix because it suits a broader audience. Producer Louise Peet (opens in new tab)says the international cast was perfect because "hookup lifestyles are very common globally. This isn't just a problem that's in the U.K., it's not just a problem in L.A., it's not just a problem in New York, it's worldwide."
The show was filmed in Mexico.
Netflix's production team set up south of the border in Mexico. Specifically, in a beachside villa in Punta Mita, Mexico. The crew spent up to 29 days filming the first season in April 2019 (opens in new tab).
The villa was brand new when the cast arrived.
The Too Hot to Handle singles were the first to stay (opens in new tab) at the Casa Tau villa, a luxury villa on the grounds of the private community in Los Rancheros (opens in new tab).
The villa is now open to the public...
...But it's pricy! According to Trip Advisor (opens in new tab), it costs approximately up to $15,600 a night to stay at the seaside villa. "Netflix executives were like, 'Find the most beautiful place in the world…Show us the place where the A-list of the world could only afford to go,'" Gibson told OprahMag.com (opens in new tab) about how they picked the house.
The show doesn't have a host...
Instead, there was an AI device called Lana, inspired by Amazon's Alexa (opens in new tab), that would communicate with the cast—and listen in on them to gather personal data. You know, the usual.
...But there is a narrator.
Actress and comedian Desiree Burch is the Too Hot to Handle narrator. "You wanted the [narrator] to almost feel as if she was watching at home and commenting on it and sort of taking the mickey out of people a little,” producer Jonno Richards told People (opens in new tab).
Lana's voice was carefully chosen.
There's a reason why she has a posh British accent. "We definitely chose a Mary Poppins-esque, non-judgmental British female voice. Just for the authority and lack of judgment that we hoped would come across," Peet told People (opens in new tab).
Over 3,000 people auditioned for the show.
The show's producers received thousands of applications for the dating show. Of their final picks, Peet told Oprah magazine (opens in new tab), "They fit the bill in terms of their habits, in terms of their love lives, and their commitment phobia."
Producers were looking for a specific kind of personality.
"Sexy, sexed up, and charismatic" is what producers were looking for when they were casting the show, according to Netflix (opens in new tab).
Some cast members were found on Instagram.
In fact, many of the people who ended up being cast didn't even apply to be on the show (opens in new tab). We can thank their thousands of followers for them making their way onto our TV screens.
There was an age limit.
The singles were all 20-somethings for a reason. "As an older person, I knew that I would always go for the cash, but I know that my 19-year-old self would have gone for the sex," Gibson told Oprah magazine (opens in new tab).
Production made sure the cast didn't meet before filming.
The cast traveled to Mexico from all over the world, which meant a lot of flights had to be organized to prevent accidental meetings. Each single had a handler with them during their travel (opens in new tab) and were put in isolation for three days (opens in new tab) beforehand to prevent any funny business.
Alcohol consumption was monitored.
Unlike some reality shows, where the liquor is flowing, producers on THTH made sure the contestants were drinking in moderation. "They limited us to two drinks a night, and they had to give them to you," cast member Bryce Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw Podcast (opens in new tab).
The food was prepared by a five-star chef.
Aside from alcohol, everything else was available to the contestants. "The cast had access to food and soft drinks all day," Peet told People (opens in new tab). "I never ate that good in my life…or since! They looked after us," Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw Podcast (opens in new tab).
No cell phones were allowed.
To get the cast to focus on their relationships—and keep them from spilling any drama!—they weren't allowed to communicate with the outside world. Producers took away their phones before filming started and there was no internet at the retreat. (Sounds a bit like Love Is Blind (opens in new tab).)
Producers had a hard time pricing rule breakers.
Every time the singles engaged in behavior that broke the sex ban, the prize money decreased. "We felt that $20,000 for sex was big enough, but it was those middle ground things that were a big debate. We eventually settled on $6,000 [for oral sex], but I think that was a bit cheap, as well," producer Vikki Kolar told The Wrap (opens in new tab).
The cast was monitored at all times.
Yes, it was someone's job to make sure that even in the middle of the night people weren't breaking the rules. “We had to keep an eye on them, didn't we? So there was no self-gratification in the middle of the night! That was someone's job as well," Peet told People (opens in new tab).
"We had, honestly, the best spying, pervy producers we could possibly find. Just kidding! So we just got them to listen—if there was anything suspicious going on in the middle of the night, they would have to be listened to by our transcribers, or our producers, who, unfortunately for them, had to start deciphering what different levels of breathing meant. I.e., was it an innocent trip to the bathroom, or something else?"
They wore mics basically all the time...
Those black straps around cast members necks or waists? That's a mic pack. The cast wore mics at most times during the retreat. "Obviously, we weren't filming in the bathrooms, but we were listening all the time," Richards told People (opens in new tab).
...But they were mic-free at group dinners.
One exception? The cast was given some time off from the camera for group dinners each evening and they were allowed to turn off their mics, too. "We'd take our mics off, but we'd all be together. You can't talk about all the drama,” Harry Jowsey told Oprah (opens in new tab).
The cast wasn't paid to appear on the show.
According to Hirschberg, there was no fee to appear on the show. "The way they pitched it was, 'Oh Bryce, you're going to make a ton of money after this anyway. You're going to get a ton of exposure,'" Hirschberg said on the Hollywood Raw podcast (opens in new tab).
Some cast members slept on the floor.
One of the ways the cast members bonded with one another was by sleeping in one co-ed bedroom, which meant sharing beds with your castmates. The reason behind this? "They've got to see each other in the raw,” Gibson told Oprah magazine (opens in new tab). David Birtwistle said, as a result, he slept on the floor a few nights.
Cuddling and snuggling was allowed.
The show allowed contestants to touch one another—they just weren't allowed to let it turn into "heavy petting," which was forbidden.
The workshops played an important role in the show.
"The workshops actually are rooted in something. They are about trying to break down barriers and help people grow," Richards told People (opens in new tab). Contestant Chloe Veitch says that the yoni puja workshop helped her most of all: "Doing the challenge, like, really empowered me into thinking, 'I'm not going to feel like that anymore. I need to respect my yoni, I need to respect myself,'" she told Elite Daily (opens in new tab).
The couples were rewarded for good behavior.
In episode four, the contestants were given watches that lit up green when they were allowed a break from the no sex ban, as a reward for establishing a deeper connection. "It couldn't all be the stick. It couldn't all be punishment—there had to be a little bit of carrot, a little reward," Richards told People (opens in new tab).
The retreat didn't have a countdown on purpose.
The show is set up intentionally to make sure the audience is unaware of how many days have passed by. "The process was the most important thing—that's why they were there, not to make it to day three and then get evicted or not get evicted,” producer Charlie Bennett told People (opens in new tab).
Eliminations can happen out of nowhere.
The cast members weren't given a rule book before they signed up for the show, so what Lana says goes. In episode six, the cast was shocked to learn that their time at the villa could be cut short when Lana eliminated Haley (opens in new tab) for not taking the process seriously.
New cast members were brought in without warning.
Throughout the season, new singles entered the house (opens in new tab) in the hopes of as many singles making a connection as possible. "Depending on the group dynamic, and depending on the story that was happening at the time, we would bring people in as a way to bring a bit more energy to the retreat," Peet told People (opens in new tab).
Contestants could leave whenever they wanted.
Matthew is the only contestant that willingly walked away from the show (opens in new tab)—and the prize money. He left because he knew he wasn't going to make a connection with anyone in the house. Francesca Farago and Sharron Townsend almost left after learning about the rules (opens in new tab).
The rules still apply in the private suite.
In episode five, the couples learn that private suites are available away from the house. But Lana is everywhere, and the rules still apply out of the villa, which Sharron Townsend and Rhonda Paul learned the hard way (opens in new tab).
The sex ban was lifted in the final episode.
In the finale, the couples were finally allowed to kiss after the prize money was dolled out and the ban was lifted (opens in new tab).
You didn't have to be in a relationship to win.
Chloe Veitch was one of the biggest stars on the show, and even though she didn’t walk away with a romantic partner, she still earned money in the finale.
The cast split up the prize money evenly.
The cast collectively lost $50,000 throughout the season (thanks, Harry and Francesca). But after winning back some of their losses, the group split $75,000 (opens in new tab) and everyone got $7,500 before taxes.
Some of the couples are still together.
It's been a year since the THTH couples developed their relationships and some of them are still going strong (opens in new tab). The show’s most rebellious couple, Francesca Farago and Harry Jowsey (opens in new tab), are still together after a brief break. Sharron Townsend and Rhonda Paul parted ways, and Lydia Clyma and David Birtwistle decided to end things amicably.
Nicole O'Brien and Bryce Hirschberg date IRL now.
Even though they didn't hit it off on the show, O'Brien and Hirschberg bonded off-camera and are now in a committed long-term relationship (opens in new tab).
Netflix might be casting for season two already.
A second season hasn't been confirmed yet, but the popularity of the show means there's a good chance Lana will be looking for a new cast. Details are still being kept top secret by production (opens in new tab).
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