In the summer of 2000, Big Brother—following the lead of The Real World—threw a bunch of pretty men and women into a house where cameras followed their every move. Twice a week, viewers watched tensions mount. We saw every fight, breakdown, or liaison as it happened, and we had a say in ejecting contestants from the house. At once a fascinating sociological study and a voyeuristic exercise, Big Brother was an enormous hit.
This premise has been mimicked by many reality shows, to the point that it is not only salacious, but also boring. Call it Sleaze TV, and we can’t seem to get enough of it.
Paradise Hotel is more of the same. Take the Big Brother house, plunk it down in the middle of Temptation Island by way of Love Cruise, and you’ve pretty much got the idea. Six sexy women and five manly men are put up in a luxury hotel, where the length of their stay will be determined by how well they play the game. In this case, the game consists of bedding as many partners as possible. Each week, viewers vote one the guests out of the hotel, and, in a “twist,” the remaining guests pick a member of the studio audience to join them.
There is no real winner in Paradise Hotel and there is no grand prize. The goal is to remain popular enough with both the other hotel guests and the studio audience to remain in the hotel for as long as possible, or at least for the duration of the show’s scheduled eight-week run.
Stock reality TV through and through, Paradise Hotel wallows in all of the cattiness, backstabbing, and unpleasant behavior that has come to be expected of shows featuring sexy singles in a secluded hideaway being watched by millions. But Paradise Hotel so heartily embraces reality TV clichés that it becomes parody, of itself and the genre.
Unlike most parody, however, it is neither funny nor satirical. Perhaps worse, it makes sex dull. The flirting is of the juvenile variety you might see at a frat party, and when two of the couples do make it to their bedrooms, they actually sleep in separate beds. Still, hedonism abounds, and the promise of sex always seems a tequila shot away. Within the premiere episode’s first 10 minutes, the hotel guests were out of their clothes and into the pool, their bodies tightly wrapped in skimpy bikinis and bathing suits, as they down prodigious amounts of cocktails.
The cast is comprised of reality TV-ready characters. The women are bosomy to the point of being cartoonish and the chiseled men wear enough hair gel to start a small oil slick once they hit the pool. They assume they’re viewed as sex objects and don’t seem to care, reveling in their shallowness. We know nothing about their personal lives, their likes and dislikes, their strengths (other than sexual) and their weaknesses. We don’t even know their last names.
The early ranks include the heavily tattooed Anden, a 26-year-old graphic designer from Denver, who describes his body is a “work of art”; Charla, 21, a waitress from Minnesota who throws a temper tantrum in her hotel room when she discovers that the hotel staff has unpacked her bags; and Zack, a 24-year-old personal trainer from Arizona who secretly does push-ups in the bathroom before venturing out to the pool. He’s fond of flexing his muscles and pouting when he doesn’t get his way.
It’s hard to care what happens to any of them. Still, the show pretends we do. Many scenes are subtitled, to ensure sure that we don’t miss a single pearl of conversational wisdom, as when or when someone comments, “Melanie’s old. She’s, like, 30,” or, Anden says to Charla, “So, you’re from Minnesota? That’s so cool.”
Lest you jump to conclusions, Anden and Charla are not a match made in heaven When she throws up on the beach after snorkeling, he laughs at her. When she asks why he is laughing, he replies, “Because it’s funny,” making absolutely no effort to help her. Zack is equally impolite. When chosen by the pretty but slightly overweight Amy to be her roommate for the week, he is openly disappointed, but consoles himself by telling her, “Well, I guess looks aren’t everything.”
In other words, Paradise Hotel makes no attempt to break out of the banality of reality tv. Cheesy production values give it the shoddy look of softcore porn and the bedroom scenes are so grainy I could barely tell if I was watching a hook-up in a hotel room or a stick-up at the local 7-11.
In other words, for all its voyeuristic overload, Paradise Hotel is not news. This even though the introduction of a new guest each week is weirdly compelling, as the arrival of fresh meat gives an unexpected shot of energy. In a summer that will see no fewer than 11 new reality shows premiere between June and August, a show this derivative and predictable will need all the help it can get.