Review: Naked and Afraid of Love is fascinating, trashy, primal entertainment

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a potential love interest for the first time in the bush while completely nude?

Of course you have. We all have.

Whether it's pondering Adam and Eve or imagining cavemen, thinking about humans in their most primal state is, I guess, a primal thought.

Naked and Afraid of Love is a show all about this animalistic concept - at least in the first episode. It does transition into a more conventional dating show (sans clothing) after the initial meet-ups, but those meet-ups are definitely the unique selling point to begin with.

I should say up-front: The nudity is blurred. Viewers of this show will get a constant onslaught of bare bottoms, impressive abs and so on; but genitals and female breasts are censored.

I should also disclose that the show was made by Discovery - the same company that owns Newshub along with Three, the New Zealand channel broadcasting the series starting this week.

So yeah, as the name suggests, this is a spinoff of Naked and Afraid that throws in a bunch of people instead of just one man and one woman, and moves the focus from survival to competitive match-making.

We start with eight women and eight men, matched one apiece, although things don't stay strictly hetero for the whole series.

The 16 contestants of Naked and Afraid of Love season one.
Photo credit: Discovery NZ

That's eight couples we get to see meet in the bush, fully nude, with the intention of finding a lover. Some go for a hug while others just a handshake; of the huggers, some give an enthusiastic full-frontal embrace, others are more demure.

Some can't help but look down, others are able to maintain eye contact.

One chap gets visibly excited, immediately, straight off the bat, boom! The lady he meets isn't super impressed by that, but she definitely doesn't hate it.

The show's pitch mentions "today's complex dating world" being so "filtered" due to stuff like... "clothes". So these lovelorn singles have said filters stripped away for this "ultimate challenge". But obviously the idea is nude people meet on a desert island, hook up and fight over each other, all for our viewing pleasure.

As a nature documentary it is pretty fascinating, sort of like observing primates at a zoo or something.

Naked and Afraid of Love screenshot.
Photo credit: Discovery NZ

On The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, one of the early highlights every season is how the bolder competitors interrupt a private chat with the prized mate in order to get a rival out of the way.

In Naked and Afraid of Love there's a bit of that, but it's nude on the beach instead of in fancy clothes at a mansion cocktail party. Good, trashy fun for all. 

We first get one man matched with one woman for a day and night, then that couple joins another couple, then that group of four joins another to make an eightsome. Presumably the whole lot will meet up by season's end.

Everybody is constantly starkers and looking for love, sometimes with the same person, so things quickly get emotional and dramatic, and hence entertaining.

But a warning: Some of the characters are aggressively annoying.

Worst of all is David, a surfer dude with one of the most exaggerated Californian accents you'll hear outside of a Saturday Night Live skit. He's got wildly obnoxious hair and a personality based on Bill & Ted and Malibu from American Gladiators, but with none of the endearing elements of either.

Every time David speaks you might want to hit the mute button. I did. But he's not the only one who'd be more tolerable if he remained silent.

Here's how a conversation goes between a different bloke and gal.

"I feel like yo our bond is dope because you're just like, 'Eh, what up', hella just down to earth, y'know? You're creative," he says.

"Absolutely," she excitedly replies. "But like, full disclosure? Like, I like our vibe. Like I have a lot of fun with you. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested."

"For real? That's awesome!" he says back.

Trust me, they're of age, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that dialogue was between two dopey teens. 

Naked and Afraid of Love screenshot.
Photo credit: Discovery NZ

In another scene, one guy asks one of the women what type of person she is in a relationship. Her reply is quite something.

"Man, I think I'm an all-encompassing kind of, like, love. Like I think I'm a pretty even keel, and like a level-headed person, a good communicator. I love being hugged, I love being kissed, I love being like my hand held, just like anything, just even, like, when someone passes by me and like y'know just like putting their arm around me or something. It means a lot."


But there are some lovely characters too. Bennett and Cassalei are my favs, both really nice people who also happen to be super easy on the eye.

Will they end up together? Gosh, I hope so. Will David cut his hair, learn to speak properly and develop a better personality? No chance.

I'm not very proud of it, but I will definitely keep watching to find out.

* Naked and Afraid of Love airs on Three on Tuesdays at 9pm, starting October 12. It'll also be streaming on ThreeNow.