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Like all great premises, Netflix’s Sexy Beasts is very simple and borderline crazy. It’s a reality dating show where the participants are dressed in elaborate special-effects-makeup-enhanced costumes that turn them into animals and mythical creatures. This is ostensibly so that they can get to know each other for their personalities without their looks being a factor, but really, it’s so we can laugh as we watch people try to drink wine and make out and carve ice sculptures while dressed as dolphins, scarecrows, weirdly realistic beavers, etc.
The show is narrated by stand-up comedian and Catastrophe co-creator/star Rob Delaney, who’s the perfect voice for something this jovially deranged. And you might even know the name Sexy Beasts, because this is a new incarnation of a reality format that started in the UK and previously got an American edition in 2015 on A&E.
In a sea of gimmicky reality dating shows, Sexy Beasts stands out for the purity of its gimmick. It leans into the absurdity inherent in competitive reality dating shows by, for example, sending a wolf on dates with a dinosaur, an owl, and a truly hideous troll. When he’s having a good time, he howls. The show is honest about how silly it is.
Each episode goes like this: a single person, dressed in a getup that makes them an animal or a monster, explains that they’re looking for a relationship based on personality, not just looks. They go on first dates with three animals or monsters of the opposite sex. At the end of that round, he or she picks which two creatures they’d like to get to know better and says goodbye to the loser, whose true face is revealed before they get to see a picture of what their date looks like in real life. Then the remaining two go on bigger dates and continue to see if their pheromones are compatible. At the end, the chooser chooses, and everyone is unmasked. It’s like a psychedelic version of the end of The Dating Game.
The show is very formulaic, but the formula works, because you want to keep watching until the people are revealed. The best part of the show is when you find out whether or not somebody’s face meets your expectations. You’ll go “whaaaat” when you see what some of these people really look like. (Spoiler alert: they’re all very attractive, and the average age is about 21 years old. The “personality over looks” thing is basically a joke, and it feels like a missed opportunity to not put some average-looking people in the mix.)
Sexy Beasts doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it an easy, breezy summertime binge. It does take its costumes very seriously, however. The special effects makeup on display is genuinely impressive. It comes courtesy of Kristyan Mallet, a prosthetic artist who has worked on stuff like Mission Impossible and The Theory of Everything, according to Variety. You’ll marvel at the costumes’ craftsmanship while you wait for them to come off.
More than anything else, Sexy Beasts is fun. It provides some good laughs and some surprising reveals and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s as nourishing as a bag of Cheetos, but it’s as cheesy, light, and consumable in one surprising sitting, too. If you’re looking for something that scratches your itch for The Masked Singer and Love Is Blind at the same time, this should do it. Or just fast forward to the reveals.
Despite the kid-friendly costumes, the conversations can get pretty risque, so this definitely isn’t a show for the whole family. It’s best to watch it with your own sexy beast, or a group of friends with whom you can laugh at the ridiculousness. Or watch it alone, if you’re really into it. You do you, we don’t judge.
Skip the first episode, “Emma the Demon.” The biggest flaw in the show is that some of the contestants lack personality, which is a serious problem on a show where personality is so important. The costumes can only carry an episode for so long, and if there isn’t funny banter or palpable chemistry or characters you enjoy spending time with, the show gets old quickly. And everyone on “Emma the Demon” is an inarticulate snooze. It’s surprising that producers chose this episode as the first one, because it’s the weakest of the season. The rest are all much more entertaining.