Reality dating TV series are typically not my cup of tea. However, I decided to check out Single’s Inferno, the latest hit series on Netflix, on the promise of it being a Korean series and in the hope that it would have slice-of-life vibes akin to my all-time favorite reality TV series, Terrace House. The series did not entirely deliver on either count, but it was compulsive viewing.
The premise of Single’s Inferno is familiar in this genre – five men and four women are brought to a “deserted island” known as Inferno, where they have to live together, participate in various contests, and hopefully find love. One aspect of the premise that differs slightly from other series is that the participants are not permitted to reveal their age or occupation to one another on the island. However, if a couple chooses one another in a daily voting segment, they will have the opportunity to “escape” the island for a date night on a more luxurious island known as Paradise. On Paradise, they can share information about their personal lives more freely.
The first thing that struck me about the series was how fit and healthy all of the participants were. I could even see how watching the series might motivate viewers to improve their own fitness level. On the other hand, the conversations between participants weren’t as engaging as one might have hoped. Being a Korean production, I had hoped that the series would give some insight into the lives of young people in Korea, but the premise of the show limited the participants to having rather generic conversations that are typical of other series in this genre. When the series concluded, I still didn’t have strong feelings about any of the participants.
On a related note, it turns out that there are few similarities between Terrace House and Single’s Inferno. The main reason why the former is my favorite reality TV series of all time is precisely because it was not just a dating program. Some housemates ended up in relationships, but this wasn’t necessarily the motivation for all of them to enter the house in the first place. The interesting aspect of the series was observing young people in Japan experiencing sharehouse life while still going about their daily lives. In contrast, such scenes were few and far between in Single’s Inferno, with the exception of scenes where the participants cooked their own meals together on the island. In those scenes, one did get a sense of the enjoyment of communal living.
Furthermore, I found that many of the same recurring tropes from other reality TV series appeared in Single’s Inferno. The conclusion is that there is a limited range of individuality between series in this genre, regardless of their country of origin. Nevertheless, as I mentioned at the outset, the series did keep me watching. The relative brevity of the series – eight episodes, each of which was an hour in length – was another point in its favor.
not be someone’s cup of tea (idiom) – to not like or consider someone or something interesting
slice-of-life (idiom) – showing what ordinary life is like
compulsive (adjective) – resulting from a strong urge to do something; irresistably interesting
few and far between (idiom) – not happening very often or not existing in many places
trope (noun) – a recurring word, phrase, image or theme used in a new and different way in order to create an artistic effect
brevity (noun) – to only last for a short time