Netflix has now debuted dating shows where contestants can’t see each other (Love Is Blind) or be intimate (Too Hot to Handle). Despite teasing something confounding and borderline frightening last month, the dating series Sexy Beasts doesn’t do anything new with these concepts.
Creator: Simon Welton
Netflix tries to mask a lack of new ideas in this dating show reboot.
The basic concept of Sexy Beasts is not new; dating shows have long used the premise of hiding contestants from each other, in hopes personality trumps basic instinct. This series adds in professional prosthetics, turning contestants into dolphins, frogs, and aliens. The six episodes that debut this week fail to reflect the weirdness or potential of that premise.
Sexy Beasts certainly stretches the definition of personality. The contestants—one man or woman and three potential suitors—typically have a drink at a “bar” and then engage in time-filling activities. In the first episode, “Emma the Demon,” a model who typically goes for “bad boys,” asks her suitors to “step up” their game and essentially have better personalities. This ends up applying to the whole series.
Sexy Beasts originally aired one season on the BBC in 2014, but the “unmasking” concept is more in the zeitgeist now: Fox’s The Masked Singer just ended its fifth season, and the channel debuts a new singing competition series in the fall, in which contestants perform as avatars. That similarity might help draw in viewers, but the episodes are all under 30 minutes each, which basically allows for the mechanics of the competition, and not much else.
Comedian Rob Delaney narrates the proceedings, pointing out the absurdity of what’s happening, but Sexy Beasts is missing a more revelatory element. The contestants rarely get into their personal or professional lives, let alone the folly of dating in prosthetics. For a show based on “vibes,” we only get surface-level personalities. Mick, a “holistic health practitioner from L.A.”—already a red flag—is into “sex kung fu,” a term he repeats (and clumsily defines). “James the Beaver” claims he’s never been on a “formal date” before while making several comments about women’s butts, which seems to be the extent of his personality.
All the contestants are eventually revealed to be conventionally attractive and, apparently, heterosexual. You can still see the contestants’ bodies so they aren’t that disguised—or varied in body type. When James’ suitor Amber asks how he would feel if they were dating and she gained 300 pounds, his response is predictable. What is this show about again?
The prosthetics are impressive, and the production and special effects teams deserve credit for Sexy Beasts even working at all. Kristyan Mallett, whose company KM Effects created the looks, told the New York Times that it came up with 148 unique masks for the series and that a “heartbreaking” number of pieces weren’t used at all. It seems like all that talent and labor could have been put to better use. But, ultimately, you’ll probably only remember the contestants for the masks they wore.