Over the past few years, the dating show genre has expanded with a plethora of hilarious, sexy, and frankly bizarre offerings from streaming platforms all seemingly trying to emulate the success of the Bachelor franchise. Few have been more utterly stupid, though, than a new show on Hulu that tests couples’ compatibility while they choke and vomit from eating spicy pickles.
Hotties (a Bright Spot Content program airing on Hulu, not to be confused with a Hulu original) is maybe one of the most fun, mindless viewings I’ve had in a while—and I say this as someone whose television diet throughout the pandemic has mostly consisted of frivolous reality shows.
Still, consuming a dating show can often be a taxing activity. Programs like Love Island, Are You The One?, and Love Is Blind can force you to confront and psychoanalyze the worst parts of humanity and maybe yourself, filling you with a sense of dread about the state of modern dating. Likewise, for every dating competition reminding you how shallow, toxic, and dishonest human beings (mostly straight men) can be, you need a show like Hotties to make you laugh the entire time and wonder if you’ve ingested some sort of hallucinatory drug.
Host Jade Catta-Preta, who you may recognize from E!’s The Soup, describes the series as “a kick-ass dating experiment where two sexy couples compete to cook up date night-worthy dishes.” The couples, who are meeting for the first time, show up at an undisclosed desert location—which could honestly be a set of cardboard mountains in front of a green screen, based on its alarmingly vibrant, animated look—with a food truck, a kiddie pool, and other props to assist them once they start sweating their asses off.
The pairs are each assigned a spicy dish to cook in their food trucks while being given “heat challenges,” aka scorching-hot foods to digest throughout their date. The competition is not only a test of who can survive the heat, but who cooks the best dish and has the most charming date, which Catta-Preta determines rather arbitrarily at the end of each episode. The winning couple then has the choice to either accept a cash prize of $25,000 and go on a second date, or take the money and “promise to never see each other again.”
If you’re wondering how cooking a meal with someone in a stuffy food truck while digesting dangerously hot peppers helps you discover your romantic compatibility, Hotties doesn’t really connect those dots—aside from maybe offering its contestants a trauma-bonding experience. Rather than something thoughtfully designed by human beings, the premise feels like it’s based on an algorithm, with the popularity of First We Feast’s “Hot Ones” series and other viral spicy food challenges as obvious references. Likewise, the tasks and challenges feel a bit disjointed from the “finding love” component, given that there’s little time for the contestants to get to know each other. For the most part, the pairs are just giggling at the absurdity of the situation while making food-inspired sexual innuendos.
Moreover, the tone of Hotties is so goofy and ridiculous that its chaos and incohesiveness actually feel like the entire point. I would compare the show’s comedic flair to popular Netflix competition series like The Floor Is Lava, Nailed It!, and Is It Cake?, all of which seem aware of how wacky they are and are thus primed for instant virality. Catta-Preta’s hosting is also a key part of the show’s humor, as she pokes fun at the frenzied contestants from her air-conditioned trailer and says things like, “And the Hottie-iest Hotties are…” while clearly trying to keep a straight face.
Beneath all of the slapstick shenanigans, there is something refreshing and slightly radical about walking into a first date—an environment where you’re often presenting the best physical version of yourself—and having that facade immediately shredded thanks to fruit roll-ups sprinkled with pepper powder. It’s part of the reason why “Hot Ones” is so successful, in that we get to watch celebrities, who are often obsessed with appearing cool and composed, lose control of their bodily functions in front of a camera while a chicken wing covered in cayenne sauce burns their insides.
Aside from providing viewers a good laugh, maybe Hotties will encourage more of us to put ourselves in more vulnerable scenarios in our searches to find love and be more of our authentic selves from the jump—a potent message presented in delightfully dumb wrapping.