Well, fellow sickos of America, we have gotten what we deserved. We inhaled Love Is Blind. We demanded a second season of Too Hot to Handle. We plummeted through the depths of the 90 Day Fiancé universe. We saw Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton host a Dating Game reboot, and we beseeched our television overlords for more—more unquestionably ill-advised declarations of love, more why-would-you-do-this.
And so, for our sins, we have been furnished with Netflix’s Marriage or Mortgage, in which engaged couples debate whether to plan an elaborate wedding or buy a home. We have been sentenced to Naked and Afraid of Love, an upcoming Discovery+ gambit that places 16 nude strangers with hopes for romance on an island. And this week, Netflix unleashed Sexy Beasts, which outfits a singleton and three prospective suitors with monstrous latex masks and sends them on dates.
You might recall the program’s trailer, which lit up the internet with the twin questions of what? and why? Having watched the show, I do not know the what, and I fear none of us ever will. But the why—well, like I said, for all those times that our televisions asked if we were still watching and, as our living rooms were engulfed by flames, we said, oh god yes.
In the space between game shows and reality television, thar be dragons. Also, on Sexy Beasts, literal dragons, or at any rate people covered in horns and scales. Each episode features a round of speed dating, after which the primary dater eliminates one suitor, who then, after what one presumes to be substantial amounts of vaseline and/or blasts from a hose, reemerges sans horrifying mask, usually to the profound regret of the dater, who sees now that their ex-amor was not a freakish mandrill or troll but a handsome candidate for Sunday brunches with Mother. That candidate then departs; two more dates ensue, after which a final decision is made, and everyone is returned to human form. Occasionally, pre-unmasking, the dater and suitor make out, smearing face paint and two-inch-long artificial buck teeth against one another’s gums. This is unambiguously the show’s highlight.
Far be it from me to call the Sexy Beasts powers that be cowards—they did, after all, coax a not-insignificant number of single 20-somethings into wearing beaks and proboscises. But the point of a show like this—people with ornate bags over their heads dating other people with ornate bags over their heads—is that they might choose wrong. Which is to say: They might choose an ugly person. I know, I know: The horror! A fate worse than chastity! But it is the clear implication of a program in which each episode features four grand de-maskings: The show is interesting only if the person who’s just eliminated them mourns their good looks as they depart. Or else the inverse: That they loathe the sight of the de-proboscis’d mate that they selected for the dreadful reason of liking their personality, their wit, their charm, their shared dreams and interests, or—I suppose—their biceps, which are left more or less alone.
So I ask: Why are they all hot? The most common occupation on Sexy Beasts is model—model!—but even those relegated to not being paid for their DNA are conventionally attractive, usually extraordinarily so. There are no nasty surprises; every beast on Sexy Beasts is, in fact, sexy. It is very nice for all the dashing singletons that they get to discover that their pick of the litter could probably, and might already, juggle a few Instagram sponsors. But it just doesn’t make for very good TV.
You cannot, however, fault them for trying—if the unnerving show were even slightly more unnerving, we might have had a particularly cursed gem on our hands. As it is, though, it’s only the horrifying kisses—the stuff of nightmares, truly—that pass that particular, erm, very specifically low bar.