It's not everyday you find out a dating competition show about hot people in paradise was actually inspired by a famous sitcom. And yet, it turns out that Netflix's bizarre dating competition Too Hot To Handle was actually inspired by Seinfeld. According to show developer Laura Gibson, the reality series about hot singletons who can only win a cash prize if they don't hook up was actually inspired by the Seinfeld episode "The Contest."
The famed episode found Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer competing to see who can outlast the others sexually to be the "master of their domain." It was already groundbreaking when it aired on NBC in 1992, and now the episode is helping break new reality TV show ground. "They all had to not masturbate for money, and they all cave. I said, there's gotta be a show in there," Gibson told Entertainment Weekly. That show ended up being Too Hot to Handle, a competition series that brings together 10 hot twenty-something contests who believe they're being invited to a beautiful island for a Bachelor in Paradise-type show.
Upon arriving, however, they're told the only way they can win the $100K grand prize is if they keep their hands off each other — and themselves. The more they give in to temptation, the lower the prize total goes. To make things even more interesting, every sexy misstep comes with its own price tag. "We talked about it being like the minibar in a hotel. This is what the peanuts will cost, like that," showrunner Viki Kolar said. "$3000 was set for a kiss, and even that took a lot of debate."
The Too Hot to Handle contestants shouldn't feel too bad when their prize money starts dwindling. It's not like the Seinfeld characters did much better. Kramer was the first to give up when he spotted a naked woman through Jerry's apartment window. That wasn't surprising, but having Elaine be the second member of the group to cave was quite possibly the episode's boldest move, since it occurred in an era when women masturbating wasn't openly discussed (and especially not at 9 p.m. on network TV).
In a 2017 oral history of "The Contest" for Vulture, Seinfeldia author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong praised Elaine's storyline, which found her losing the bet after joining the same aerobics class as John F. Kennedy, Jr. "One of the breakthrough moments for [Elaine] is "The Contest" because she's in the contest, and she honestly has the best story line of the four. The John F. Kennedy Jr. thing is hilarious."
Thankfully, in 2020 the topic of female sexuality isn't as taboo as it was in '93. Too Hot to Handle viewers can see that play out in a variety of ways over the course of the show, but nowhere is that more evident than in Francesca's arc. After being tempted by another contestant, Harry, early on, she later tries to convince another guy, Kelz, to hop in the shower with her. But like Seinfeld's Jerry and George, Kelz manages to resist temptation. "No one could believe his level of ability to say no to Francesca, it was beyond," Gibson told EW.
Viewers will have to tune in to the reality series to see if any of the characters end up being masters of their domain, but the show's very existence will always stand as a reminder of the enduring nature of Seinfeld.