I loved Netflix’s Single’s Inferno (솔로지옥). I felt like I was one of the singles on the island being enamored by someone I just met a couple of minutes ago. Even though I don’t normally watch reality dating shows, I decided to check the series out on a lazy New Year’s Day as buzz for the series has only kept growing exponentially the last couple of weeks.
And after during episode one, I was immediately hooked. I wasn’t sure at first. But the biggest thing that appealed to me was the overwhelming sense of watching what is essentially a Korean drama.
Indeed, the beautiful visuals (and that’s referring to both the island and the singles themselves) seemed to elevate the series to being something more than just some simple reality show.
Like I mentioned in my First Impression Review, Single’s Inferno had the perfect mix of reality dating show and Korean drama. Taking the best of both worlds and actually blending them together resulted in a thoroughly engaging and captivating viewing experience.
And let’s be clear, they didn’t haphazardly mash the two things together. They took all the appealing qualities of the best romantic dramas or comedies from Korean television and gave it a reality show spin.
It doesn’t even matter if the series is actually scripted or not. But the production and presentation itself at the very least gives the impression that we’re simply watching good looking, successful young people merely trying to find a romantic connection on this beautiful island known as Inferno.
There’s an added bit of charm in the simplicity of the minimal format. Beautiful, sexy singles hoping to find love. No money involved. No public voting. No cutthroat competition. (The guys mud wrestling in Episode 6 would be as intense as it got and even then, they simply brushed it off afterwards.)
Just a group of people in a simple, though beautiful island bubble.
It is less a competition and more the type of social experiment comparable to something like the original, early format of Big Brother. Almost like a voyeuristic and observational reality show rather than a competition. There’s no talk of prize money or jackpot at the end of the show. It’s all about the triumph and the heartbreaks in trying to foster relationships and connections with each other.
The series featured a diverse cast of characters. All with different personalities. All with confidence first arriving on the island, not knowing they’d have many opportunities for that confidence to get shattered. And of course, their hearts broken or torn.
For any reality show (or even any show in general), its cast of characters are vital to its success. And Single’s Inferno certainly came away a winner with that aspect. Each one of the singles could easily fit a familiar reality show archetype. Whether it is for the show’s overall narrative or when it comes to who the audience can root for (and against).
Because of that, it’s easy for a viewer to connect with someone and be invested in their journey on the island. We’re not rooting for someone to win a million won. We’re actually rooting for someone’s happiness.
We’re not looking for women to get into catfights or bros getting into fistfights. For me, I’m actually happy we didn’t get any of that. And yet, I still found myself on the edge of my seat for much of the series. Hanging on every word or every move the singles would say or make.
Calling them out for making decisions you disagree with. Or feeling as heartbroken as them for whatever predicament or situation they find themselves in. Squirming in the awkwardness right alongside them. Or feeling kilig and the same heart-fluttering butterflies as they feel.
It’s almost inexplicable how this show has made any of this possible in such a short amount of time and with such a simple, straightforward premise. Yet they did.
Add in the perfect choice of play-by-play commentators and instant analysis from hosts Lee Da Hee, Super Junior’s Kyuhun, Hong Jin Kyung and Hanhae and you’ve got the winning set of personalities to steer the ship in the right direction.
Single’s Inferno used this specific element of Korean variety programming in the best way possible. Having the four hosts almost like the voice of the people watching at home and offering actual interesting comments about what we were all watching on screen. Usually, Korean variety shows will pair these in-studio commentators with loud (many times annoying) and goofy editing. But not here.
And that brings us to the (non-singles) visuals. Single’s Inferno featured a fully cinematic treatment. You were watching a reality show, yet it gave off the aura of something like a feature film. Or at the very least, a Korean drama series.
There was even a bit of an ethereal aura which helped play up this sort of romantic, fairy tale nature. Not to mention, highlight the stunning scenery of this deserted island with its lush greenery and white sand beaches.
I haven’t watched many reality dating shows. Yet somehow, I was immediately enamored by Single’s Inferno. Some who have enjoyed the show call it a guilty pleasure for them. But for me, there’s nothing guilty about it. I’ve sincerely enjoyed and had so much fun watching this eight episode series. Fun, exciting, romantic, heartbreaking; all of the above and then some. Being able to blend together everything one loves about Korean dramas with everything that one might love about reality dating shows and wrapping it up in a package palatable to a Korean (and really, an Asian) audience; Single’s Inferno is a pleasantly unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable surprise.