Review of Hot Mess Summer – Rylan’s latest reality dating show is a complete disaster.
To be just, Hot Mess Summer does make an effort to caution us. The title itself guarantees a nauseating parade of filthy foolishness, arrogant entitlement, and sticky poolside shots – and that is exactly what this new reality show offers. Follow along with our visibly skeptical host, Rylan Clark, as he gathers eight twenty-somethings whose friends have grown weary of their foolish behaviors on nights out (such as making moves on someone else’s significant other) and tries to teach them the not-so-sophisticated skill of managing a bar in Zante – a Greek island known for its teenage vacation hot spot and “home to the most mind-blowing parties on the planet,” supposedly. Let’s just say the word “mind-blowing” is doing more work there than any of our contestants ever accomplish.
However, there is a catch: our group of irresponsible individuals were deceived into going to Zante. They believed they were participating in a show honoring their wild partying, but in reality, their friends have enrolled them in a program to educate them on accountability and collaboration.
This early revelation is hilarious, largely because none of them see the funny side: everyone from “Princess Dani” to Amin – “one of the biggest players in Sussex” (it goes without saying that these epithets are self-imposed) – is furious. Jay, the jobless “VIP” of the group, feels so betrayed that he doesn’t even know if he wants to continue. He does, of course, because what do fun-loving attention seekers want more than anything else? To be on reality TV, of course!
Unfortunately, the sheer tediousness of Hot Mess Summer means it won’t catapult any of them to Molly-Mae status any time soon. The big reveal, which comes 15 minutes in, is the show’s high point by a long shot. What follows is a bleakly unappealing fusion of Love Island (two couples quickly materialise) and Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum.
The show appears to be haphazardly creating the gameplay as it progresses. Punishments for breaking rules are sporadic and not severe (no one is actually fired from the bar). There is only one eviction voted on by peers and one surprise new arrival. The money-earning challenges have no clear measures of success or failure. The end credits reveal that the show is based on a 2000 Swedish series called The Bar, which has been successful in Europe. However, in reality, it is a mishmash of a format, lacking tension and emotional investment. Other than brief interviews with the friends who nominated them, we are given minimal insight into the personal lives of the chaotic individuals.
Instead, we see them participating in rebellious behavior and using profanity towards the bar manager, Lee. Lee is described by the resident loudmouth, Liv, as “if you got Wayne Lineker from Aldi”, which could have been a joke if it were remotely true. Lee prohibits his staff from drinking while on the job, something that this group refuses to accept. In some cases, this may be due to their tendency towards childlike disobedience, but for others, the urge to drink is overpowering and concerning.
However, constantly taking cheeky shots can become dull quickly. Thankfully, there are other boundaries they push besides this, which may save one’s sanity. Unfortunately, the other limit may cause one to feel nauseous.
The team has been instructed to refrain from flirting or exchanging contact information with guests. However, on the first day, Amin chooses to spit in a guest’s mouth. Surprisingly, the guest consents to this act. For those who are sensitive, be aware that the incident, known as “spitgate,” is constantly brought up afterwards. This is mostly due to Amin and Dani being in a romantic relationship at the time of the incident. In a second surprising turn of events, she forgives him. However, the whole situation feels less like dramatic chaos and more like a toxic display of romance.
Rephrasing: Clark adds a touch of credibility to the chaotic situation, using his signature charm to liven things up (though the narration could use some improvement; it’s not quite on par with Dave Lamb’s witty comments on Come Dine With Me). However, even his efforts are not enough to salvage the show as the contestants are unappealing and their lessons lack depth, making his playful banter seem forced and insincere.
In the end, there is hardly any justification for sticking with Hot Mess Summer. If you are seeking satisfaction from others’ misfortunes, the forgiving conclusion may leave you annoyed. And if you desire a story of redemption with a complex character development, you won’t find it here – these characters are not your typical HBO anti-heroes. Even if you lower your expectations for some light-hearted entertainment, you will still be disappointed by the fragmented structure and lack of compelling drama. This show may be a chaotic mess, but it is far from being appealing.