“It’s all about getting to the top, but in this game, to get to the top, you have to start with nothing,” the host of Netflix’s Surviving Paradise tells its cast of hot dum-dums.
Nothing is pretty much what Surviving Paradise offers.
In the twist the audience knows about before the players do, the cast will not spend their first night in the fancy villa where they’re all standing, but “will be staying deep in that forest,” host Jessimae Peluso continues. “The conditions are tough.”
By the standard of reality TV survival shows, the conditions are not even measurable. They’re just laughable.
In the shallow woods located immediately behind a fancy villa, the cast has electric lanterns that illuminate their campsite; cots, hammocks, and sleeping bags positioned over a wood platform; and an ever-burning fire. There’s an outhouse stocked with toilet paper.
This isn’t even Survivor: Lite; it’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here: Influencer Edition.
The most-obvious comparison, though, is Love Island. I understand why this exists, because the pitch is right there: Love Island plus Survivor. Or maybe Love Island, but the hot dummies vote each other into the woods.
Love Island still exists on ITV in the U.K. and Peacock in the U.S., where it’s about to launch a new spin-off, Love Island Games.
Netflix doesn’t have enough of its own hot dummies in paradise shows, so it has partnered with Studio Lambert (creators of The Circle and the US and UK versions of The Traitors) and Raw TV (producers of Gold Rush) for this new competition.
I wish they hadn’t. It’s not bad, it’s just empty. There’s nothing here. The cast is as beautiful and inert as the coastline of Greece.
There is a game. It begins as each player casts one vote for one other person to return to the villa. The person with the most votes chooses three others to join them.
Surviving Paradise felt to me like one of those unfortunate parodies of reality TV shows, where someone tries to script and fictionalize the absurdity of reality TV, and just falls flat.
I’m not accusing the cast of being actors—that lazy response to reality TV actually annoys me—but the way their interactions and reactions are edited, they come across like speaking extras on SNL.
The production, though, actively makes everything seem phony. The woods are lit with studio lights that make the cast stand out against the backdrop, like they’re being filmed in front of a green screen.
The editing tries too hard. The music accompanying the slow motion walk to the first vote, for example, is unnecessarily dramatic.
Meanwhile, the soundbites from the cast and host are so thin they crumble if you think about them:
- “The game is really tough,” someone says, before anything has happened.
- “I don’t know how the game is going to go just yet, but best believe, this is where it changes,” Lellies says.
- “The friendships and alliances you’ve made matter,” the host says. “But can you trust the bonds that you’ve formed? Or is everyone around you playing a game?”
We’ve been told repeatedly this is a game for which they need to form alliances, but now they have to watch out for people playing the game? Huh?
Even more painfully, at one point, the show tries to pretend there’s some kind of moral lesson here.
The producers have Jessimae say: “How will you treat people on the way up, and how will you treat them on the way down? It matters in life, and it matters here.”
Does it though? Are there really consequences for those who stomp all over people to get to their multimillion dollar villas?
I found myself wishing Surviving Paradise was not just better, but actually worse—over-the-top dumb, or funny, or something. Anything. Other similar Netflix shows have personalities, like the fake AI manipulating the horny hotties on Too Hot to Handle.
This, however, is a show in search of a reason for existing—and in search of a coherent format.
The preview for Surviving Paradise’s season, and the episode descriptions, tease elimination challenges, new cast members, and just random twists like the villa people voting to send someone back to camp, or voting to eliminate an outside or an insider.
There’s clearly no plan here, no larger design that pulls the threads together. Surviving Paradise is just random chunks of other reality TV shows thrown against a wall and hoping it’ll keep our attention for long enough to please Netflix’s algorithm.
A pointless mash-up of Love Island and survival shows that has nothing to offer. F
What works for me:
- Some really beautiful cinematography of Greece
What could be better:
- A coherent format
- The incorporation of something original
- More challenging survival conditions
- A personality
Correction: This review initially said Netflix does not have any hot dummies in paradise shows; they have quite a few. That sentence has been updated.