- The Magazine
Summer’s heat stirs a thirst for cool waves and guilty pleasures that reality TV producers have learned to exploit with series featuring scantily clad singles in steamy locales. Finding love, or “love,” is always the goal, and often there’s money on the line, as nubile daters do or don’t do whatever it is that might get them booted out of paradise.
Joining the party already raging on Love Island, Too Hot to Handle, and Bachelor in Paradise, HBO Max’s FBoy Island (★★☆☆☆) steps into the game flaunting a fresh spin on the genre. On this sunny, tropical isle, three lovely ladies — sexy-sweet social media manager Sarah, sexy-funny stylist Nakia, and sexy-smooth content creator CJ — are handed a diverse harem of 24 hunks from whom to choose their respective One. The catch is that while half of the guys consider themselves a proverbial Nice Guy, the other half are self-proclaimed FBoys, or fuck boys, womanizers who will gladly lie, manipulate, and sweet-talk their way to successfully bagging their conquest.
Dating reality shows have long been about love-seeking bachelors and bachelorettes weeding out which contestants really are in the hunt for romance, versus those in it just for the money, screen-time, or branding opportunities. FBoy Island, created by Sam Dean and Elan Gale, merely elevates the dilemma to new dimensions by explicitly distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys, and leaving it to Sarah, Nakia, and CJ, the show’s queen of underboob, to figure out the men from the dogs.
The audience is left in the dark, too, with each guy’s true self-proclaimed nature only revealed by host Nikki Glaser after they’ve been shown the door by one of the three women choosing. In one of the show’s more amusing conceits, the ejected Nice Guys are sent to sequester in a posh villa, while FBoys are sent packing to cots in a hut on some barren field. As the FBoys suffer through tongue-in-cheek therapy sessions with comedian Glaser, the dudes over in Nice Guy Grotto get up to all sorts of leisurely, shirtless shenanigans — facials, massages, splashing around the pool. The scenery everywhere on the Cayman Islands-set show is eye-catching, and the action stays PG-13.
Crucially, the show’s leading ladies are all likable, but they don’t make astute choices. Bonafide nice guys and gals watching at home might not be surprised to see that CJ, Nakia, and Sarah keep favoring FBoys who’ve incorporated Nice Guy moves into their bag of tricks. It’s funny, sad, so true, and a little tedious, all at the same time. Regardless of which woman is doing the picking, several of the least appealing guys overstay their welcome — although that doesn’t apply necessarily to the guy named Welcome, a lanky, tattooed charmer serving low-key Pete Davidson energy.
But is Welcome a fuck boy or a nice guy? The public’s been wondering the same about the real Pete Davidson for years, and that mode of gossipy guessing game is part of the point with this show. There is money on the line, too, but precisely how much, and by what criteria it’s doled out, remains woefully ill-defined until a dramatic reveal near the end of the show’s ten-episode season. In fact, FBoy Island saves a few jaw-dropping twists till the end, which might be too late for some who have already escaped to more inviting shores.
FBoy Island premieres episodes 1-3 on Thursday, July 29 on HBO Max, followed by three additional episodes on August 5, and the final four episodes on August 12. Visit www.hbo.com.
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