Watching Nineteen to Twenty and Too Hot To Handle gave us the idea that these two might be connected to each other. We have previously called this Korean reality show the tamer version of Single’s Inferno, but it is only now that we have realized that its inspiration may have come from the West. Similar to Too Hot To Handle, something is off the table (dating), yet all the situations are centered around connection and attraction. Since this is based on teenagers, there is the excuse of teaching them real-world skills, though we have seen none of that happen. What are these kids being prepared for: the real world or a K-drama?
When the hosts said that avoiding dating would be tough if they were in an amusement park, we had to take a moment to pause and look away due to the eye rolls we could feel coming. Sure, amusement parks are iconic in Korean dramas, be it What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? or the more recent See You In My 19th Life, but unless someone has booked out an entire park for us and our surroundings are full of twinkling lights, we know it is not romantic. They even had the audacity to say that a bus is romantic. They are not teaching the kids anything but further setting them up for more heartbreak with expectations and ideas that make no sense.
Yet, that is not the biggest crime of Nineteen to Twenty. It is that none of the participants have a strong personality to put forward. Can we really tell what makes Ji Min different from Jung Woo? Or why is Ji Woo so much more popular than Ye Rin when all of them are saying the exact same things and behaving in the same manner? It may be an unfair ask of teenagers who are just stepping out into the world, but it is a valid requirement from a reality show.
Se Yeon feeding carrots to Ye Rin was not enough to make us swoon, and watching them all awkwardly dance without chemistry had no effect. We almost applauded when one of the girls had a guy tuck her stray lock of hair behind her ear because if the romance is not happening organically, taking the initiative becomes necessary. But it still wasn’t enough to have an effect because compliments on rough-cut potatoes and helping each other wear the apron is just not interesting. The only standout moment was on the Ferris wheel when the girl directly asked the guy why he did not call her pretty. Frankly, we don’t have an issue with any of the contestants. They are all simply doing what they have been told to. Our gripe is with the show creators, who just did not know what to do with the concept they promised us.
Real-world lessons include taxes, mental health education, time management, and knowledge of soft skills. Teaching these to the kids, along with testing their progress, would have told us a lot about what they were like and helped us better understand why they felt an attraction to one another. We clearly remember in Single’s Inferno when the potential couples had long conversations with one another, and we kind of understood why the matches were made and who we needed to root for. That is the basic requirement for any dating-based show, and when that brief is missed, it is hours of nothing happening. We know that teenagers don’t make the best decisions in love. It would have been so funny to watch them stumble their way through their emotions, especially since Ji Woo has three guys vying for her attention. The possibilities were immense, with there also being lessons on how to interact with the opposite sex without it all being romantic for the ones from non-co-ed schools.
The only thing we can say with certainty is that the brief for this show was simply not clear. Why is ballroom dancing a real-life skill? And if it is, where are the tests? Why is it all about romance, which is not even romantic, because you are dealing with literal teenagers? They spent all that time together, yet when they met in the house on the day they were going to turn 20, the awkwardness was so thick it could be cut with a knife. On that note, Ye Rin’s entry was the best.
This is also making us think of the chatroom where the kids could ask each other questions anonymously if they wished to. It makes us very unhappy that it doesn’t get interesting even here. The diplomatic answers that one of the guys tried to give on being asked who he liked were so blah, and it makes us especially mad because we know that this is a scripted show, so one of the writers told him to do that instead of it being his own idea. Had they been learning some actual real-life skills, they could have used this chatroom to cheat on some tests, and that would have been way more interesting.
Too Hot To Handle is already watered down as it is in its 5th season, but its derivative, Nineteen to Twenty, is simply terrible. We don’t look forward to anything; we don’t even have a strong character to root for, and it’s not like they have funny or interesting tasks to do that grab our attention. They are not even learning good dating practices. What is the point of this show? Why didn’t the creators simply finance season 3 of Single’s Inferno or season 2 of Physical 100? They had substance to them, and we miss Ji Ah and Chu Sung Hoon. Who are we going to miss when Nineteen to Twenty ends? Absolutely no one!
In some ways, we feel sorry for the kids. We hope they made good money out of this because they are getting nothing in return for all their hard work. The girls brought a lot more charm to the table than the guys did, so Netflix knows who to give the raise to. There is a more to this show before it ends, and we have no expectations from it. Let’s see where it goes.