Anyone who knows me knows I’ve got a weakness for cringeworthy and binge-worthy reality shows. Singles Inferno is everything reality television needs right now.
Singles Inferno is a Netflix original reality dating program based in South Korea. The program features a group of singles left on a “deserted” island to find love and fend for themselves. While I’m not one to shy away from reality drama, the polite conversation, respect for personal space and lack of over-sexualization in this show is a breath of fresh air.
How does Singles Inferno set itself apart?
Unlike the swanky upscale mansions featured in programs like The Bachelor, Love Island, and Too Hot to Handle, Singles Inferno offers a hint of Survivor vibes. The contestants are separated into two large tents, one for gals and one for guys. This offers feelings of a cute camp away, vs. the sexual tension of choosing a “partner” to bunk with like Love Island’s first episode routine.
As the show commences, we watch the cast chat about their ideal mates. Nobody is allowed to spill the beans on jobs, income, or age. This adds just a dash of Love is Blind to the mix, without physical walls separating contestants.
Contestants get to know each other by cooking together with an assortment of ingredients left for them to eat. Again, no overflowing champagne flutes, fancy hors d’oeuvres or strategically placed steak dinners nobody will eat lying around. Instead, there’s a beautiful simplicity in teamwork and adaptability.
To get water, they are forced to walk quite a distance from the main camp and carry a barrel of water back with an over-the-shoulder contraption. Nothing is taken for granted.
Finally, matches begin to be made with girls slipping a note into the locker of the male player they most want to get to know. Males eventually do the same. Matches are made based on mutual note swapping and those paired up get to travel to “paradise.” This is consent at its finest.
It’s not totally innocent
Singles Inferno is way less sexualized than American and British romance reality shows, but it isn’t completely innocent. There are plenty of shiny abs, crop tops, and bikini bodies to ogle.
There are also a few moments where I was concerned some cast members were pushing pursuit into harassment mode. Instances between Moon Se-Hoon and Shin Ji-Yeon, seemed particularly icky.
To be clear, Moon never got forceful with his intent to date Shin. However, her continuous topic changing and never choosing Moon for dates spoke volumes about her early feelings toward him. Still, he pursued her. This was the one time my “no means no” heckles rose, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about Moon or the process.
Without spoiling the plot too much for anyone who has yet to watch, I did end up loving Moon in the end, but we almost had to break up there for a minute.
Getting to paradise
Continuing the theme of innocent young love, Singles Inferno takes cast members to paradise for their paired dates. Paradise is a luxury hotel with gourmet meals, hot tubs, swimming pools and spa massages.
Here, those players who chose each other get to ask the questions they can’t ask on the island, like, “How old are you and what do you do for work?”
Despite the romantic setting, cast members still get separate beds. This is quite the contrast compared to shows like Love Island where not only do participants share beds, but there is a “hideaway” room with the specific designation of private intimacy.
Singles Inferno never sees night vision under the blanket action. Instead, the one time a cast member is invited to join a lady’s bed, he literally asks her three times if she’s sure. Finally, she says, “Up to you”, to which he replies, “Up to you.” Perfect. This happens in the second last episode of the show, and it’s so adorable you can’t help but smile through the whole awkward thing.
The simple things
Singles Inferno is still that kind of guilty pleasure television you don’t want your boss to know you watch. It’s certainly not going to win an Emmy, but it’s different from the usual smut I’m drawn to.
It’s simple and it’s sweet, with just the right amount of sassiness and drama to keep it interesting. If you’re a fan of reality television and don’t mind subtitles, I highly recommend it.