Netflix viewers have been baffled by the streaming giant’s latest dating show, The Ultimatumwhich launched on 6 April and has already been renewed for a second, all-queer season.
The first series follows six couples who are deciding whether to marry or break up. They then split and proceed to date other people on the show – called a “trial spouse” – for three weeks, before finally deciding whether to get engaged to their original partner or split up for good.
In the first episode, co-presenter Nick Lachey tells the contestants: “Psychologists agree that an ultimatum is not a good way to get somebody else to do what you want.”
Despite this advice, the show carries on regardless as each couple is faced with their own ultimatum.
The reality TV market is a lucrative one, because its shows are cheap and relatively easy to produce. Netflix is certainly tapping in, emerging in 2021 as the biggest buyer of unscripted television, with countless reality shows released on the platform. There are also plenty more in the works, including a yet unnamed “all-stars” style dating show, starring alum from Love is Blind, The Circle, Too Hot to Handle, and Selling Sunset.
Netflix’s first foray into dating shows was tentative. Dating Around, which debuted on the site on Valentine’s Day 2019, followed by a different person each episode. They were asked to go on a series of five blind dates before choosing a favorite to go on a second date with. It was earnest and sweet – and successful enough to warrant a Brazilian spin-off – but nothing fans hadn’t seen before. Ever since, Netflix has doubled down on dating shows, releasing a number of titles with increasingly ridiculous concepts.
If you’ve already finished The Ultimatum – or you couldn’t quite bear to watch it – here are seven more ridiculous shows to satisfy your cravings.
love is blind
Produced by the company behind the internationally successful Married at First Sight, love is blind is a trailblazing dating show for Netflix, with 30 million households watching season one within two months of its release.
If you weren’t one of those households, here’s the gist: dozens of singletons enter the pods, detached from their phones and the outside world for 10 days, tasked to find love through conversation alone (or ‘sight unseen’, as the presenters repeat). Several couples emerge victorious, falling in love and pleading to marry someone before meeting in the flesh.
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If you’re hesitant to tune-in with the notoriously chaotic American version – or if you’re looking for more love is blind content – there is also a Brazilian version and a Japanese version available to stream, the latter somewhat of a coy antidote to the messy American original.
The basic plot of Sexy Beasts is pretty standard: one single person goes on three first dates and then chooses their favorite to go on a second date with, much like ITV’s dinner date or Netflix’s own Dating Around.
However, before the dates begin, the singletons receive a prosthetic makeover, transforming them into a “beast’”. Originally aired on BBC Three but revived by Netflix in 2021, Sexy Beasts is a light-hearted love is blindwith digestible 20-minute episodes.
Marriage or Mortgage
Like The Ultimatum, Marriage or Mortgage involves established couples. These couples, however, are more secure in their decision to tie the knot.
Over the course of each 30 to 40-minute episode, engaged couples with their own limited budget struggle to choose between a wedding and a house. (The answer, apparently, isn’t always as obvious as it seems.)
The couples are presented with dream wedding scenarios with dramatic discounts wrangled by wedding planner Sarah Miller, while realtor Nichole Holmes presents property options, again with dramatic discounts. At the end of each episode, the couple has to decide which once-in-a-lifetime discounts they’ll engage with, choosing a wedding or a property.
Ainori Love Wagon
Seven Japanese strangers board a pink bus and go traveling through Asia, with the added goal of finding love with one another along the way. Living in such close quarters with few options available and a purposeful odd number, it’s not all smooth sailing in this travelogue turned dating show.
Airing in Japan since 1999, Ainori (which translates to ‘car pool’ or ‘ride together’) received the Netflix revival treatment in 2017, with three news seasons available to stream – two filmed in Asia, and one filmed in Africa. Each series contains 22 30-minute episodes, meaning there is plenty of content to sink your teeth into.
Too Hot to Handle
Too Hot to Handle trailer
Originally pegged as the next Love Island, Too Hot to Handle is perhaps the most frustrating of Netflix’s dating shows – for viewers and for the contestants.
Plucking influencer-style singletons from across the globe and sending them to live in a gorgeous villa for four weeks, Too Hot to Handle encourages contestants to get to know each other, with one caveat: they are forbidden from kissing, any sexual contact, and any self-gratification. If they break the rules, money is deducted from the grand prize, which starts at $100,000.
The contestants are guided by virtual assistant Lana, who also puts them through various workshops to improve their relationships with their partners and themselves, with the idea of fostering genuine connections with one another.
Love Never Lies
Launching in 2021, Spanish reality series Love Never Lies is like Too Hot to Handle if the contestants were already in relationships. Six couples arrive in a villa, with a 40,000 euro prize up for grabs – instead of temptation, however, the contestants’ honesty is being tested.
Using what is claimed to be a 90 per cent-accurate lie detector that analyzes the participants’ eye movement, the cash prize is whittled away with every lie the contestants tell. If they tell the truth, however, 1000 euros is added to the pot.
By day, the couples live alongside one another, keeping the drama moving with occasional “tests” on their loyalty, including new entrants and a Love Island-style second villa to split the couples apart.
A Korean dating show that takes its cue from beach classics like survivor and Love Island, Inferno Singles sees nine contestants ‘stranded’ on a desert island, their time punctuated with competitions to win lucrative prizes – like brunch.
Though they are not allowed to share their age or occupation with one another, contestants are given the chance at the end of each episode to ‘escape’ the island by casting votes for who they would like to go on a date with. If two people choose each other, they win a night away at a luxury hotel.