Host: Rob Delaney
Streaming on: Netflix
A cheetah and a beaver walk into a bar. Netflix uses the setup of a classic joke format as the basis of its new reality dating show, Sexy Beasts, which ends up feeling like more of a punchline instead.
Inspired by a BBC Three series from 2014, each of the show’s six episodes features one subject who goes on a speed date with three suitors, eliminates one, then goes on more elaborate dates with the other two before picking a winner. The twist is that their appearances are all obscured under layers of makeup and prosthetics to ensure that looks don’t factor into the equation and connections are made on the basis of personality alone.
The first sign that Sexy Beasts has a misplaced confidence in its contestants’ willingness to get on board with the idea comes when they’re asked what they’re looking for in a partner and they immediately begin listing physical attributes. “I am weak for big boobs, I’m a boobs guy,” says one guy. “Big ole butt,” says another. Other descriptors are vague, like a woman looking for “pizzazz” or another looking for “bad boy Barack Obama.” Even the show undermines its own ‘looks don’t matter’ philosophy by casting uniformly fit, attractive contestants, from a six-foot-tall model from New York, to a lab technician from Los Angeles who pointedly discusses his 20-inch biceps.
The disguises do little to mask (heh) just how shallow and vapid these participants are. In the first episode, the conversations are just as stilted as they would be on a regular blind date and it’s obvious that the contestants miss having the advantage of their good looks to create the spark that their words can’t. While the rest of the episodes feature better conversationalists, they still rely on their physical attributes to an absurd degree. One contestant touts her kissing skills. Another asks his date to feel his bicep and circumvents the ‘no looking’ rule by pulling out his partners’ chairs for them, chivalry becoming a pretext to check out their butts. “What if we started dating and I gained 300 pounds?” one of his dates asks, to which there is a long and uncomfortable silence in response.
Despite the disguises, many of the participants approach their dates with the single-minded horniness that would cause them to lose money on another popular Netflix show Too Hot To Handle. Conversations invariably turn sexual and more than one couple ends a date pressing furry face against furry face in a kiss. The most chemistry a couple in episode 1 displays is when they see each other without their prosthetics, immediately proceed to make out and then ask the cameras for some privacy.
Occasional glimpses of personality filter through the facades, though they’re far from the depth the show was presumably hoping for. For one jilted suitor, the eventual face reveal becomes a vindictive way to show the woman who rejected him just what she’s missing out on. Another contestant weeps copiously when it’s time to say goodbye to one of the two finalists whose face she’s seen, though it reads more as regret at missing out the chance to date a hot man, rather than genuine heartbreak.
While the episodes are around just 22 minutes each, they still feel overstuffed, with recurring filler footage of the contestants modelling their disguises for the camera. The format begins to feel repetitive and the novelty of the more elaborate dates, which include gin distillation, axe throwing and ice sculpting, wears off quickly. What works in Sexy Beasts’ favour is the sarcastic, teasing voiceover by actor Rob Delaney. As he snarks at the contestants’ superficial notions of love, it’s clear that he’s the sole winner in the show’s quest for personality.