Is 'Too Hot to Handle' scripted, or is the dating reality show actually real?

If you've ever wondered, 'is Too Hot to Handle scripted?' you're not alone—this isn't the first time a 'reality' dating show has been questioned

Is Too Hot to Handle scripted? Pictured: cast members from Too Hot to Handle season 5
(Image credit: Netflix)

Is Too Hot To Handle scripted, or did those wonderfully juicy, disastrous, and hilarious moments actually happen in real life?

When the fourth season of the show premiered in December 2022—Too Hot to Handle season 5 dropped on Netflix on Friday, July 14, BTW—the Too Hot To Handle season 4 cast shocked and amazed viewers in the ways other casts had done before, with plenty of saucy hookups and emotional heartbreaks. But as a constructed reality show, viewers were evidently becoming a tad skeptical of the Netflix series, and the perpetual drama it involved. 

However, this certainly isn't the first time an odd reality dating show came under fire—fans wondered if the Dated & Related couples were more money-hungry than driven by love. And the recent Life After Love Island documentary alleges that finding a partner is entirely beside the point of the famous show.

So, where does Too Hot To Handle stack up compared to its counterparts? Is Too Hot to Handle scripted entirely, or are there lots of elements of truth to it? We dive into the realities (get it?) of filming the popular show.

Is 'Too Hot To Handle' scripted or is it the real deal?

Too Hot To Handle is not scripted. According to narrator Desiree Burch, who sat down for a tell-all with Express, the contestants aren't given a script, though she, of course, receives one as the narrator. But if you're wondering, "is Too Hot to Handle staged, rather than scripted?" it seems the answer is "no" there, too.

"What I understand of the process, they’re never like, 'Go over to that person and go do that thing,'" Burch told the outlet. "It’s more like, 'This is what’s happening, so we’re going to focus in on that.' Then there’s the story of what actually emerges."

While there might not be lines, there's certainly going to be some clever editing. And this is understandable—without clever editing, the creation of storylines, and some hilarious narration, it would be a pretty boring show to watch.

For the uninitiated (and the hopeless romantics), here's how it all unfolds: the contestants are gathered on a remote tropical island—like many of the show's predecessors—and they're led to believe they're headed on a fun quest for love. That's when the ball drops: they're on Too Hot To Handle, and they can't engage in any intimacy. If they do, it'll cost 'em a serious chunk of change. 

Even when My Imperfect Life sat down to chat with season 4 contestants (check out our conversation with Ethan, Sophie and Creed) about breakups, early departures and so on, they were quick to say they were totally fooled upon arriving on the show. 

Creed from Too Hot to Handle

(Image credit: TOM DYMOND/NETFLIX)

"I think a lot of members of the public speculate that we know what we're going into, and I think that's really why Netflix made such an effort this season to kind of trick us into thinking it wasn't. And I can honestly say that I had no idea," Sophie Stonehouse told us. 

Ethan Smith claimed he was equally as blindsided: "I thought I was going on Wild Love in the first place, so to then be told out to keep the rules, I wasn't too excited about that. But I was up for the challenge."

Is 'Too Hot to Handle' staged?

So while it isn't scripted, is there any truth to the idea that some of the events in the show are constructed? 

Former contestant and one of the show's most famous exports, Harry Jowsey, revealed to Cosmopolitan in 2020, that while the goings-on isn't fake or artificial, contestants may be "encouraged" in a certain direction.

He said: "In these situations, if they know that you've got a problem or you need to have a chat with someone, they'll just point you in the right direction to get a result, or to get that conversation happening and get to the end goal."

"They're not forcing you to say or do anything you don't want to. They just kind of help nudge you in the correct direction."

Harry Jowsey and Francesca Farago, Too Hot To Handle season 1

(Image credit: Courtesy Netflix)

Well, scripted or not, we're still tuning in for all that unravels on the island of abstinence (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask)! 

The fifth season of Too Hot To Handle debuted on Netflix on Friday, July 14. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.