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According to Netflix, Too Hot to Handle is currently the most-watched show on its service in Canada.

Courtesy of Netflix

As I write this, my cat Rita is within arm’s reach, as usual. She dozes, purrs, sometimes on my lap. Boy, am I lucky.

The other day I told Rita that Premier Doug Ford had said, “People are just getting restless, they’re getting squirrelly staying inside.” At the mention of “squirrelly” she glared out the window, alert for any indication those irrational hoodlum critters had breached the perimeter.

That’s nothing new, but it’s news that Ford said something so pithily accurate. Squirrelly is darn right. Newspapers and websites around the world are answering an urgent question hissed by readers: “Can you have sex during a pandemic?” Well, no is the answer, unless you’re shacked up this long while with your partner. Otherwise, no kissing, no touching, no you-know-what. People are agitated. They see or read stuff about “the curve” and they’re thinking other types of curves and you-know-what. Like soccer players pining to kick the ball around (don’t get me started), some seriously inflamed people want action.

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Hence the stunning popularity of Too Hot to Handle (Netflix), which is the most-watched Netflix thing in Canada, according to the streaming service. I believe it. The reality show is both disgusting trash and uncannily prescient.

This gist is this: Like many icky reality series, this one puts allegedly beautiful people in a sun-and-sand resort and they do stuff. Here, however, they win the prize if they don’t do stuff, that stuff being sex. They think they’re there to hook up and it is then explained to them that there will be no kissing, fondling, masturbation or sexual activity of any kind. In fact, the prize money of $100,000 diminishes for every infraction. Like, you’re fined $1,000 for kissing, or something.

Instead of dating and sex, this drama, such as it is, will be about respecting boundaries and doing personal growth. Yes, personal growth. The contestants are obliged to reveal their true selves and get to know each other on a more meaningful level than lust. Good luck with that, they’re told, and you, the viewer, emit a cackle.

In normal times, this series would considered icky to the point of being repulsive. The contestants come from some nether world of macabre narcissism. They’ve been told they’re hot and they take it so seriously they’ve become featherbrained dolts.

By penalizing contestants for any sexual activity, the show flips expectations of dating reality shows.

Courtesy of Netflix

There’s a chap – and I use the term advisedly – who says, “What I’m most proud of is my penis.” There’s a woman who cheerfully acknowledges that she’s “ditzy” and, just in case we missed that, says, “I’m not the brightest spark in the book.” Then there’s a fella who declares loftily, “I’ve often joked about spreading my seed and just kind of rolling the dice of my genetic build with different women and races around the world.” They all claim to have so many conquests you imagine intimacy with any of them would require the wearing of gloves and a mask and the presence of medical staff.

The Canadian among them is Francesca from Vancouver. This is the sort of bonkers reality TV that presents the Canadian as the villain. Francesca is so hot, you see, that she can do anything with anybody and the flames of her hotness burn off the regrets and recriminations. Seriously. There is also an American woman who is unsure what or where Australia is. But that’s to be expected.

Anyway, instead of doing the type of creepy leering and touching activity you find in this genre, these contestants engage in “workshops” to, ah, build character and stuff. You know, be authentic instead of superficial. Most of these “workshops” have an erotic undertow. All activity is overseen by a phallic, Alexa-like “home-assistant” gadget called Lana, who spies on everyone.

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The series is the work of Satan. We live in satanic times, you see, and in the time before this, Too Hot to Handle would make you run screaming from the room. Now so many people are squirrelly and enslaved to their squirrelly-ness. That explains it. And all I want is to kick my soccer ball around.

Finally, this column continues with a “Stay-at-home-period daily-streaming pick.” Today’s pick is Ten Days in the Valley (Crave). Created by Canadian Tassie Cameron, the 10-episode series has Kyra Sedgwick as Jane Sadler, an overworked television producer/single mom in the middle of a fraught separation. Her personal life is shattered, and her already controversial police series is torpedoed, when her young daughter disappears. At first, the series has the air of a conventional mystery but then it gets tangled, truly chilling and, indeed, thoughtful, as the two worlds – cop-show entertainment and motherhood – become horribly entangled.

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