Reality Shows
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For a month after watching Too Hot To Handle, I was clued in on all news items regarding Harry and Francesca. They were the notorious flip-flop couple from the show, where horny contestants abstained from sex or any form of physical intimacy for money, all cooped up in a summer island off the coast of Reality. 

(Spoiler Paragraph!) In the show, they ended up together, but I knew that this fairytale wasn’t meant to last. He gaslit her, and she is indecisive and petty. I was right! They soon broke up and put up videos on YouTube declaring their side of the story. She hints at cheating, he hints at her being bad for his mental health

Also Read: Too Hot To Handle Netflix Review: Sex Sells, But Sexlessness Might More So

Such are the charms of reality television. It’s exaggerated, messy, and you roll your eyes, but you glue them back to the screen for more. But this doesn’t mean they all work. What The Love, Karan Johar’s dating reality show was boring, and the discomfort about being edgy and raunchy was quite obvious. But however they can also be a profound mirror to our times and thoughts. The Circle on Netflix where contestants only interact via social media makes a great point about cat-fishing and the empty allure of being an influencer. 

What The Love

Another function of such shows, if done well, (Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Queer Eye, Jersey Shore) is their capacity to keep you hooked. After watching Buddha.mov I immediately pounced on Buddhadev Mangaldas’s instagram; the movie followed this former cricketer, a handsome man with a ravenous sexual appetite, and a racy, indulgent life. (He has since deleted his Instagram) What is it about this human instinct for voyeurism?

So here is a list of reality shows, and guilty pleasures that will keep you hooked, with a rabid aftertaste of social media stalking. Because you know you want to know what happens after the cameras stop rolling.

Too Hot To Handle

This show has the most fantastic premise. Sex is often what makes these shows popular. But by taking it off the table, dangling it like an original sin, and putting all the contestants on an island where clothes are optional, and heat is mandatory, the stakes are upped, and the tension is pungent. In between there are some really silly exercises the contestants do to build morale, like stabbing paper and talking to your privates lovingly in a mirror like an Eid ka chand. But such follies, you’ll forgive.

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Too Hot To Handle

Li Ziqi

This is the closest to meditation popular culture will get. Li Ziqi lives with her grandmother and her dog in a rural mountain town in Southwest China. Her videos see her prepare meals and handicraft from scratch including growing cotton and rice and honey. The background music functions like ASMR, the sound of bubbling hot pot and beer, the khach of the knife against the wooden boards- it’s all a simulation of a lifestyle that is more peaceful.

Of course her videos, leaking into a million views with ease, are questioned as Chinese propaganda (YouTube is blocked in China) or for being too ideal, too scripted. Li Ziqi rarely gives interviews and this adds to the mystery. More often than not, the Chinese isn’t subtitled, and this isn’t a food-blog to show you how to make things step by step. It’s just a meditation on a different kind of life- the romantic rural kind. 


Streaming Platform: YouTube (李子柒 Liziqi)

Love Is Blind

The premise of this show is as silly as it is sensational: People fall in love without seeing each other, chatting inside pods with a barrier in between. They are only able to see each other when they agree to get married. So the first time they see each other, rings are hooped across fingers. 

But the beauty of this show is that it takes you from that moment of ‘first love’ to the marriage day. In  between there is a romantic getaway, the couple move in together, and meet the parents. What is also exciting is all this happens within 38 days. 

This is the kind of show where the men bunch up and do push-ups and the women bunch up and drink cocktails.  One where a black woman wonders if her full lips would feel odd kissing the thin lipless white man. (“I was scared the proportions would be…”) 

At one point one of the girls ponders, “Is it the size that matters or is it the motion in the ocean?” A frail white girl looks away squamish, “Oh my gosh” but then looks back and is ready to lap up the next scandalous sentence. That was me. 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

Yes, I too was skeptical about this Japanese concept that sparks joy, thinking it was another Ikigai phase the world will just churn over into extinction. Marie Kondo’s minimalist theory is simple: Just keep the things that spark joy, and meaningfully trash the rest. What I found most charming was that this wasn’t a radical idea that will turn you over into a new person. It is just a bit of a dust up. It’s a kind show with no villains, and will definitely make you think about getting bangs, even if you don’t have the hair for it. Marie Kondo is far from perfect, and she herself notes how she loses patience with her children. What she is, is thoughtful and consistent, editing wardrobes and bookshelves with hope for people to just be their best version. 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

This is an award winning American food and travel show from CNN, hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. But it is also a deep and articulate expression of life across the world, through food. So chai shops in Myanmar are not just spaces for chai, but also a hotbed of sedition against the repressive state. A waffle house is not just about fast food, but consistency and nostalgia. Through food Bourdain relishes the culture. If you like your men screaming at food, try Masterchef. If you like love, then here’s where you need to be. 

Streaming Platform: Voot

Terrace House

This is a Japanese reality show known for its earnestness. With six individuals from different walks of life living together under the same roof, it is unscripted (it really is, the interactions are awkward, and funny, and serendipity looks and feels like serendipity, however this has been cast into question) and uncaring for twists or prize money. The characters aren’t locked in, they go about their daily life as is. The allure of this show is difficult to explain to someone who has no idea because nothing sensational happens, the house they are in isn’t aspirational, neither are they decked up, caked in beauty products. A brief look at the reviews of the show tells you how people have found it boring but simultaneously lapped up the entire content willingly, wanting more. After the high-profile suicide of one of its members though, the future of the show is cast in cloud. 

Streaming Platform: Netflix

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