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Best Netflix reality shows for every mood: Too Hot to Handle, Terrace House, Cheer, etc

Best Netflix reality shows for every mood: Too Hot to Handle, Terrace House, Cheer, etc

Is this the real life?

Text: Emily Heng


Depending on your temperament and general state of well-being, you probably took the news of the circuit breaker extension one of two ways. Either a) with unbridled joy at the prospect of more 'me-time'; or b) pure, utter despair. No matter, it's clear we won't be going anywhere anytime soon, so why not use this time to immerse yourself in the fantastical, addictive, and (at times) downright ridiculous world that is reality TV? After all, 2020 alone has ushered in many a groundbreaking series comparable to Y2K cult picks in the vein of Laguna Beach and The Simple Lifeall of which has spawned unforgettable moments that are relentlessly remixed on TikTok by Gen Z until, well, the Next Big Thing. For those new to the scene, we provide a comprehensive guide — and review courtesy of pop culture fanatic, me, Emily Heng — on every must-watch series, below. Cue the opening credits, folks.

If you're in the mood for mindless, unadulterated fun, try Too Hot to Handle

The premise of the show is deceptively simple: hot, commitment-phobic 20-somethings are sent to a tropical resort for a month. Honestly, that alone puts the potential for drama at a sky-high level seeing how the cast comprises folk who think Ireland shares the same land mass as England, but I digress.

The twist: they can only secure US$100,000 in prize money if they don't touch each other. Essentially, no kissing, petting, and self-gratification (read: masturbation) of any kind. With every slip-up, the prize money goes down. Cameras are installed all-throughout the island with a literal robocop named Lana acting as a helicopter parent. Each episode has them undergoing a series of challenges that are meant to help them form deeper, longer-lasting connections with others. Sure, Jan. While there are some heartwarming moments and genuine attempts at reformation, petty drama still rears its ugly head in the form of catfights, revenge plots, and terrible catchphrases such as "naughty little possums". Seriously, no context — or further encouragement — needed.

If you're in the mood for low key drama interspersed with gorgeous shots of Japanese cuisine, try Terrace House

"Low key," I say, as if I haven't formed a 16-person strong group chat on Telegram with the sole purpose of dissecting all TH-related incidents. In all fairness, though, there's still conflict on the show despite it lacking the formulaic explosiveness of its American counterparts. The series revolves around three men and women who move into a — you guessed it — terrace house, where they live, work, and find love amongst one another. Just about everyone is polite to a fault; is striving to meet their personal goal; and are unnaturally attractive.

The appeal of Terrace House lies in how the controversies that crop up are of a new breed, borne of passive aggression and the kind of normalcy that I can relate to. There are four seasons available on Netflix. In the first, Boys and Girls in Tokyo, a fight breaks out after the house members consume an expensive cut of beef that was gifted to cast mate, Uchihara Tatsuya, without his permission. There was this other time where a spat commenced over ruined laundry. Need I say more?

If you're in the mood for uplifting stories and friendly competition, try Next in Fashion

Think Project Runway, except without the cutting comparisons to burlap sacks and Tim Gunn flitting in-and-out screaming about making it work. Hosted by Alexa Chung and Tan France, this reality fashion competition is a lot more collaborative in nature compared to Heidi Klum's version. Contestants work in teams of two where they compete to produce the best look according to a certain theme — which, thus, allows for more touching moments and candid friendships than you'd expect.

Honestly, the most shocking moment for me was seeing the finalists give each other a hand in the penultimate episode. What on earth? Who in fresh hell? I'd have deemed it unrealistic if I wasn't so swayed by the clear admiration between both contestants. Oh, and the clothes are good too, I suppose. The runway also comes with this holographic screen and a whole host of lights that transforms each challenge into a full-on spectacle. I'd give it 10/10 for the aesthetical value alone.

If you're in the mood for an inspirational tale about overcoming adversity, try Cheer

Never has a show about cheerleading garnered so much traction since Bring It On. The docuseries follows competitive cheer squad, Navarro College, as they train for the National Championships — and it has everything you could possibly want in a sports drama. Gruesome injuries! Troubled teens! A tough-talking coach going against all odds to bring her team to victory! At this point, the only thing that was lacking was a catchy cheer incorporating Netflix in it.

Unfortunately, season 2 has ceased production in light of the COVID-19 situation, but who's to say there won't be a remake in the works? I'd gladly watch 80 hours worth of spins, tumbles, and mat talks.

If you're in the mood to feel better about your subpar baking skills, try Nailed It!

Masterchef — and Masterchef Junior, for that matter — never fails to elicit my inferiority complex as I begrudge my lacklustre skills in the kitchen. Nailed It!, on the other hand, is a soothing balm to my insecurities. It's reassuring to know that there is a reality show out there that rewards participants for trying their best to hit the bar... even if it translates to a literal apple with buttercream slathered on it.

You're reading that right. The cooking show features amateur bakers (emphasis on amateur) with a demonstrated high failure rate in the kitchen attempting to recreate elaborate cakes seen on the Internet. To sum it up: the one who remakes it to the best of their ability wins. Yes, that means you can score US$10,000 for crafting confectionary that only sort of resembles President Donald Trump. A show built on chaos and failure rather than success? Sign me up.

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