‘FBoy Island’ Creator Elan Gale Dissects the Anatomy of a Great Reality Dating Show

·12-min read

The torch has been lit, and HBO Max’s “FBoy Island” is officially back. While three new women are on a journey to find love, they’ll also have to weed through 24 men — half of whom are self-proclaimed Nice Guys and half who consider themselves “F Boys.”

The series hails from creator and executive producer Elan Gale, who told TheWrap that he has some tricks up his sleeve for the second go-round.

“We have lots of surprises that are totally insane,” Gale teased, adding that this season’s Mansplaining (where the eliminated men get a chance to come back and air the remaining contestants’ dirty laundry before the women make their final decision) will be “like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“I don’t want to be hyperbolic,” he said. “I’m really not when I say [Season 2’s] literally changes the entire game.”

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After a decade of producing “The Bachelor” franchise, Gale isn’t shy about proclaiming his excitement to move from broadcast to a streaming service. Not only does he have the opportunity to build the reality dating competition of his dreams from scratch, he’s also able to push the limits far beyond what’s acceptable on ABC.

“We don’t really have to worry about censoring the more hilarious and lascivious parts of the show,” he said. “The show’s called “FBoy Island.” The F stands for f—. You’ll actually hear the word “f—boy” a lot more in Season 2 than in Season 1. I don’t imagine any broadcast network, no matter how much I love them, are gonna let us say “f—boy” between Bounty commercials.”

Below, Gale breaks down the anatomy of a great dating show and how “FBoy Island” meets the criteria.

What do you think is the anatomy of a great dating show?

For me, the anatomy of a dating show, at all times, comes down to an interesting cast. At the end of the day, as far as I’m concerned, that’s really the only thing that matters. Ao in the process of trying to create and tweak and modify formats, I think that it’s really important to make sure that the format itself sustains an interesting cast. Like, “FBoy Island” Season 1 as an example, I loved pretty much every minute of it, but there was this brand new format and the format was weird and wild and very different. Going into Season 2, the audience now is aware of the format. Don’t get me wrong, we have lots of surprises that are totally insane. But we really had to rely even more this season on having really interesting F Boys and really interesting Nice Guys, and really interesting women as our leads, because at the end of the day, nothing matters if they are not invested in each other.

One of my favorite parts of the show is getting to see the guys’ audition tapes. It’s hilarious. What were you looking for from those tapes to create that interesting cast you’re talking about?

Just so you know, you will be seeing some more of that this season. I think the thing that we’re looking for with the F Boys and with the Nice Guys is different versions of the same thing, which is unapologetically [being] themselves. I think that so many of us try to think about how what we’re saying affects everyone around us, and I think that there’s a purity in this setting to saying “Hey, just be 100% the most you you can possibly be.” So in these auditions, we’re looking for people who are really proud to be F Boys or, conversely, really proud to be a Nice Guy. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t fit into either molds, obviously. And I think that what we’re looking for is people that fit extremely into those molds.

Going back to the format, how did you figure out when to have the men reveal their status, and why did you switch it up halfway through and reveal everyone’s status?

So that also will be slightly different in Season 2, which I’m very excited about. We’re just trying to replicate the real dating experience, which is when you first meet people, you don’t know a lot about them. You don’t know where they came from. You don’t know what kind of relationships they’ve been in. You don’t know how they’ve been in previous relationships. You don’t know what their friends are like. These are things that you go on a couple of dates, and then maybe you meet some of their friends, maybe you meet some of their family, you get more integrated into their lives. So you usually discover the bad things about people after you already like them or don’t like them. Then you get to make a decision as to whether those things can be overcome. I think that in our case, we wanted to make sure that the women had enough time to get to know the men as they would in a normal dating environment. Then simultaneously give them enough time before the end to really interrogate the questions they might have. Because if you find yourself falling for an F Boy, that might be fine, but you want to give the contestants enough time to really ask themselves those questions. At the end of the day, what the show is really about is what these three women want, and you and me and everyone else in the audience have our own thoughts about what people should want. I think you’ll see a lot of people in the near future really being very interested in taming F Boys, as opposed to finding Nice Guys. I think that people always assume that men only like the chase, but I think that we’ve discovered that everyone kind of likes the chase. Everyone likes tracking down the impossible beast.

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I’m glad you brought that up. It’s such an interesting psychological aspect of the show.

It’s something that I think we see in our real lives, right? There’s nothing weird about making bad decisions when it comes to dating. It’s like 80% of decisions when it comes to dating are bad decisions. It’s an irrational part of life. Love and dating are totally crazy. They make no sense. You just figure it out as you go.

I also think it’s easy to forget, you’re showing us their confessionals and their audition tapes, but the women don’t see any of that. How do you piece those together within the show to really drive home certain aspects of each contestant?

Part of what we’re looking for are moments where the opposite occurs. This thing you think is going to happen, it’s the opposite. That’s usually the most exciting and the most reflective, I think, of how we date outside in the real world. Have you ever had a friend who’s been in a relationship with someone and then finds out three months in that they have a family and they’re like married and they have, like, six children in Florida? I feel like that happens all the time. It’s never the people that you think it’s going to be. It’s always people who present as like, really, really nice and really, really caring and you learn that their character is in fact the exact polar opposite of that. There’s so many great dating shows out there. What we always look to is, what’s everyone else doing? And what’s the exact opposite? When someone’s behaving a certain way with the women in a scene and then the thing that they’re saying in their confessionals is the exact opposite, it’s funny, but that’s how a lot of us are. We say nice things, and then we turn around and we roll our eyes. It’s very human.

So, a tell-all is a huge part of many reality dating shows. But instead of happening at the end, yours happens before the women have made their final decision. Why?

We actually try really hard to listen to the audience. We want them to enjoy the show that they’re giving us 10 hours of their life to watch. One of the things I heard over and over again is these reunions need to happen while the women can still do something about it. So that was very much a reaction to how people want to ingest these shows. With that in mind, when you’re going into these reunions at the end of the day, the thing to remember is that all of these guys have spent so much time with each other. These guys really know each other and they have real relationships — mostly good, sometimes bad — especially on our show when they’ve been in Limbo or the Grotto, just hanging out sometimes for weeks waiting for one more opportunity to say what they think the women need to hear. I think people underestimate [the idea that] even if you don’t have a romantic relationship with one of the three leads, that doesn’t mean you don’t like them. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. It doesn’t mean you don’t respect them as a person. I think a lot of what you see in these reunions is people who really just kind of like feel like the wool is being pulled over someone’s eyes and feel like they have a little bit of a key to unlock that mystery and give the women a little bit of ammo going into those final days. People are anxious for an opportunity to say all of these things.

There’s three female leads, so technically they could all end up falling for the same man. But they’re never really pitted against each other, which I really enjoyed. Was that intentional, or was that just the women deciding on their own that they wouldn’t try to tear each other down?

I would say that the women that come on the show generally are there because their issues are with men more than they are with each other. Also, we’re not really interested in the women fighting with each other. There’s lots of shows where you can watch that. So what we really want to do was create an environment where these women can be supportive of each other and be friends. Obviously Nakia and Sarah and CJ all were very good with each other last year. I think this season, the ladies actually do a little bit more intentional, investigative work together. I think they learned that by watching Season 1. They knew that that would be a goal. My hope is that as the show goes on, then it becomes even more of a sisterhood for our leads. So, two women might fall in love with the same guy. We can’t control that. There may come a time where there is that sort of conflict, but it’s not designed.

After coming off a decade of producing the “Bachelor” franchise, can you talk about the differences between 1) producing a reality dating series for streaming vs. for broadcast and 2) starting a franchise from scratch as opposed to taking over an existing one?

I’d say the primary difference in getting to work with a streamer is that we don’t really have to worry about censoring the more hilarious and lascivious parts of the show. The show’s called “FBoy Island.” The F stands for f—. You’ll actually hear the word “f—boy” a lot more in Season 2 than in Season 1. I don’t imagine any broadcast network, no matter how much I love them, are gonna let us say “f—boy” between Bounty commercials. I just can’t imagine doing it somewhere that didn’t allow us to use the language or to show a little bit more of the sexuality. When it comes to trying to build out a whole new franchise from the ground up, the bachelor worked long before I was ever there and continues to work long after. I was lucky to get a chance to be a part of it. Even though they’re both dating shows, I’m not sure they’re really similar genres, if that makes any sense. “FBoy Island” is a comedy. It’s an unscripted comedy, but it’s a comedy. Yes, it’s a dating show, but it’s also a game show. Can you learn something about people? Absolutely. Does it matter? Not at all. And we’re not going to pretend it does. We’re not gonna pretend that everything we’re doing is for the eventual relationships. We want people to find real relationships, but we’re making a comedy, and we want people to laugh and we want people to be free and express themselves fully. And I’d say that for the most part, most dating shows are melodramas. You know, the battle of the villains and the heroes and good and evil and “will love prevail.” And I love those shows. We want to make something f—ing ridiculous.

Season 2 of “FBoy Island” is streaming on HBO Max.

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