‘FBoy Island’ Is the Hot Vax Summer of Your Nightmares
The new HBO Max show has three women trying to scope out who is a player and who is a nice guy. The issue? Just about everything aside from the concept.
In the realm of reality dating shows, it’s a hard job to keep things fresh and interesting.
Bachelor in Paradise thrives mainly because its ever-loyal Bachelor fanbase is hooked on watching rejected fan-favorites meet up in Mexico, all the while pretending they haven’t already dated one another, despite the near constant reunions in L.A., New York City, or the infamous Stagecoach festival. The novelty of Too Hot to Handle wore off after its first season, where overly horny cast members were stunned to learn they couldn’t freely hook up with each other.
The pre-quarantine must-watch Love Is Blind managed to take things to the next level, leaving viewers in pure disbelief as couples got engaged despite never laying eyes on each other. Still, for all its hype, Netflix hasn’t announced when to expect the second season. Currently falling flat is CBS’ Love Island, which hoped to have the same success as its addictive U.K. counterpart. And let’s not get into Netflix’s bizarre Sexy Beasts, where contestants try to determine if they can make a connection with someone despite being dressed up as demonic furries.
On its surface the concept, created by former Bachelor producer Elan Gale, is relatively ingenious. Three stunning, poised, bullshit-proof women—CJ Franco, Nakia Renee, and Sarah Emig—are given the chance to find a potential soulmate out of two dozen wildly attractive men.
The catch? Twelve are self-declared “fuck boys” (whittled down to the PG version of “fboy” in the show) and are only there to secure a $100,000 payday, willing to lie through their perfect teeth to convince one woman he’s solely there for her. The other men are “nice guys” who came on the show ready for a relationship.
It’s up to the women to spot the red flags and figure out who is secretly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Hinging an entire show on the idea that some men are diabolical players is smart, and allows viewers to guess alongside the women. It also helps eliminate the fake outrage when the leading ladies learn someone is there for the wrong reasons, considering that practically anyone willing to go through tedious rounds of casting interviews and an extended hiatus from work is surely not in it for love, but rather some form of clout.
FBoy Island does well to not take itself too seriously, prompting some genuine laugh-worthy moments. It sends rejected fboys to “limbro,” a sandy shack where they have cots for beds, and hay stuffed inside a sack for pillows. Meanwhile, the nice guys get escorted away in a limo to a mansion, where they sip piña coladas as they watch the fboys slum it. Host Nikki Glaser is fantastic, serving as a confidant to the women, cracking jokes throughout challenges and elimination ceremonies, and acting out skit-like scenarios while trying to teach the fboys the error of their ways.
But still, for a fresh approach to the step-and-repeat one that plagues many reality dating shows, FBoy Island somehow manages to teeter between an exciting, funny concept and a half-baked idea that needs to work out its kinks.
Bafflingly, it ditches its premise halfway through and has all the men reveal whether they are an fboy or nice guy, and for some reason, the women continue to entertain relationships with some of the most appalling men as they keep waving their red flags in their faces.
The episodes seem brutally long, apart from the first two, hovering near an hour with the lone whiff of excitement coming at the end of the episode when the eliminated men reveal whether they are an fboy. And despite the lengthy episodes, the audience barely gets to know the leading women, and even less of the contestants, apart from whether they happen to be jerks.
It can be overly corny at times, evident when Glaser sends home the lotharios with the cringeworthy line, ‘Fboy? F-bye.” (Gentlemen are sent packing with the equally lame quip, “Nice guy? Nice try.”) Plus, the show is chock full of soundbites of the men boasting about the women they’ve pulled and celebrating their deceiving ways—a sure way to put off viewers who don’t enjoy watching toxic masculinity on full display in their free time.
And while the $100,000 prize is often mentioned, it’s not clear until the final episode how the money comes into play. (If the contestant manages to win over one of the women and make it to the end, they have the choice to keep the cash to themselves or split it with their new girlfriend.)
The show can also be frustratingly contradictory, with CJ Franco sometimes acting along the lines of an fgirl herself. While she has a strong personality, sticking up for herself and refusing to be sweet-talked, she often crosses the line. Whenever she gets slightly irked, she bluntly shuts down the conversation and storms away, smirking to herself when she manages to get a rise out of her suitor.
During an elimination ceremony, she dramatically dons a veil fascinator and a black gown to declare that she’s in mourning because she’s “lost hope” after one of her dates went askew. She tries to prove a point, hoping to scare her favorite suitor into shape, only for her plan to spectacularly backfire and leave her in tears.
It’s hard to say whether there’s promise for FBoy Island if it continues on the same path. It needs to be given room to breathe, perhaps with more episodes or even less men, to allow the viewer to really connect and root for its various players.
While it has elements of what helped make its various competitors great, such as leaning into its absurdity, a zingy host, surprise twists, and a ridiculously good-looking cast, FBoy Island needs to identify what makes its show uniquely special, apart from its titular gimmick.