On a tropical island, three women walk among 24 men, handing out wristbands to a select few with whom they will then be able to spend some alone time during a party that evening. They only just met these men moments ago, making the initial decision one based primarily on looks and vibes, but for the rest of the show, personality — and character — will need to factor into their choices in a big way. After all, a dozen of the men are there as “nice guys,” who may really want to settle down, while the other self-identified in their auditions as “f-boys,” who are likely more into games than long-term romance.
At the center of this new reality dating show, “FBoy Island,” is host and executive producer Nikki Glaser. She announces the rules of the competition elements of the HBO Max series and usually sticks around to witness the insanity, from a semi-impromptu choreography challenge to a Q&A that sees the men doused with water if their answers are unsatisfactory — or even just too slow. She also sits down with the three women who are looking to find love and acts as a therapist to at least one of the men who finds himself unhappy with his outcome.
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But when she first got the call to come aboard — from creator Elan Gale — she thought she was being invited on as one of the women there to find love.
“I thought he was finally fulfilling my dream of being on a reality show as a contestant, and I was so excited because no one ever wants me to be ‘The Bachelorette’ and I’ve been pitching myself for years,” she tells Variety.
Eventually Gale explained he was looking for her to host, which she says ended up mixing together the things she does best: “watch reality TV, comment on it and host a show,” she says.
Here, Glaser talks with Variety about how complicated it was to identify the f-boys from the nice guys on the show, what she learned about falling in love on reality TV, and her pitch for a spin-off.
You’re no stranger to reality dating shows, having hosted the reboot of “Blind Date,” but what made you want to step back into that genre and what was the pitch for “FBoy Island” that made this the right fit?
I saw this show in an email my agents had sent me about upcoming reality projects that were slated for the next year — this was sometime during COVID — and I saw “FBoy Island” and I was just like, “Oh my god, flag that one; I want that on my IMDb!” I told my agents I wanted to get involved in the reality space against what they would have predicted for me because I had been auditioning for scripted things — all things I planned to do — but I just looked at the entertainment I enjoy and was like, “Why am I not taking a part in any of this?” As a consumer, I enjoy reality shows, so I need to be in this world. Because I care [and] I like to do work that I care about and consume myself.
As a host you spend a lot of time on-screen with the contestants. How much of that came from Elan or the other producers, knowing your personality as a comedian, and how much of it came from you saying you wanted to be as involved as possible?
We were on the same page: I asked what my involvement would be and I was immediately promised that I would be used more than Vanessa Lachey and Nick Lachey in “Love Is Blind.” I was like, “I just don’t want to come in once or twice and remind people I’m hosting a show,” and they were like, “Yes, that is not what you will be doing; we really want you to be a part of it.” And I really wanted to bring an element of the host being a friend and someone who is impartial, who doesn’t really know what’s going on either. So I stayed in the dark as much as I could and didn’t give advice about something I knew that they didn’t, ever. I always watch these shows [like] “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and I was always annoyed that the only person that they get to process their feelings about these men and make a life decision with is Chris Harrison. And then there’s one episode where they get to bring their parents in. Where are the friends!? The girls were able to be able to be friends to each other, but I also wanted to bring my own voice in.
When you say you were in the dark, does that include not knowing who were the f-boys and who were the nice guys?
I saw a list: “These are nice guys, these are f-boys.” I truly did not remember when we started the show who was who and I intentionally never checked again. I would not have put my money on any one that I was so sure of because I smoke a lot of pot and so I did not remember. I thought I knew and the girls thought they knew too because it seemed pretty obvious at the end. But I learned that the ones that I thought, “Oh yeah, for sure” were not always right.
You are an executive producer on the show, though, so how did you approach not wanting to know too much as the host with watching dailies or cuts to give notes on what made the final episode?
I was spending my off-time hearing about what was happening with the girls and really trying to be as much a part of it as I could. I was so excited to build a new reality show. I would stop by the control room on big nights and just sit and watch stuff go down, but there’s a lot that would happen that you don’t need to see or I would feel in the way and I would leave. But every day I was making sure that I knew what the other people who had witnessed something knew. I wanted the information that the audience was going to have and that the girls had about each other so that I could walk in and not be a total babe in the woods and not have to waste time with them having to catch me up on things. I was constantly texting producers, “Did they kiss yet!?” I was on the edge of my seat.
And having say in what made the episodes?
I had no say. But when we were shooting I really took my EP role as, “Oh this would be a funny thing to do” or “This would be a funny thing to say.” It was more that I got to produce myself and how I handled the situations that the other producers put me in. And then I would add onto different dates, “Oh it would be funny if…” In terms of steering something this way, I told the other producers early on that I don’t lie and that I won’t lie. I didn’t know if this was a show where they would lie and I still don’t know because I asked not to be privy to those conversations because I don’t want to know anything because if I know something I’ll have to tell the truth. So just don’t tell me anything. But I work with people who are good people and the contestants still talk to the producers. I believe it was a safe space for people. I was glad to see it was cruelty-free on set.
Along the lines of not wanting to work on a show where there are lies being fed to further stories, did you binge any of the other producers’ previous series to get a sense of what you might be stepping into?
I just watch so much reality and I also feel like, gone are the days where I waste my time trying to familiarize myself with work of someone I’m about to work with — not out of disrespect but my time is better spent in the preparation for “FBoy Island” being happy and confident and doing a lot of stand-up and being quick on my toes. I will say that multiple times on the show I was like, “Oh that’s how that happens.” Going into a scripted show, you know what’s going to happen; there is a plan. Here, what if the girls don’t like any of the guys? The producers looked at me like, “Nikki.” But honestly, I don’t know if I would like any of the guys; what if one of the girls is just like, “No.” And they said that just doesn’t happen. These are people that have spent decades in reality and this may have been a concern they had early in their careers, but the truth is, a reality show will always deliver. You will get what you want just be setting a scene and putting people in positions where they aren’t on their phones and are on camera and letting them be in a tropical location that lets them forget that there is a real world they have to be accountable to. It is a lot of work but leading up to it you can’t prepare too much, you have to just see how it goes, and I love that about it.
What was your mindset, going into the show, about what you wanted or expected from the dating experiment in terms of who could make a genuine, lasting connection, given that some guys were openly coming in with an attitude deemed there for the wrong reasons?
I went in thinking f-boys could change. That’s been my whole life goal. I’m attracted to men who are not really that available or seem to not really care about me or be that delighted by me, and I go, “I’m going to prove them wrong.” That’s my whole career: “I’m going to be famous so that you all like me.” It comes from an insecure place and now that I’m secure with myself I don’t require that as much and don’t go after guys that are as squirrelly. That just comes with age. But I really relate to and still struggle with being attracted to people who don’t deserve me being attracted to them.
And how did your thought process evolve over the course of working on the show?
These relationships are put into a pressure-cooker, so when you watch people on reality shows fall in love, they’ve known each other such a short amount of time — two weeks and they’re ready to propose — they’re not being prodded along by producers as much as you might think. It’s just, you have no phone, no friends, no family, no job; all you do all day is go on dates and think about this person and do interviews about how much you like or don’t like this person. It puts the relationship on a fast track. So what I enjoyed about the show, there were many moments where I got goosebumps from the love I witnessed happening and teary-eyed from the emotions being shared. And I’m not someone who is generally that emotional about TV or people falling in love, but I got tied up in it.
Some of these f-boys do know what they’re doing and the destruction they’re leaving in their path — and the broken hearts and the deception — and some are just doing what they know, which is trying to get love from whatever’s right in front of them and when something else is in front of them, forgetting about the other thing. They’re emotionally stupid. And essentially what I learned is that all of these people, whether they want to be on a reality show or what they’re motivated by, they’re all capable of falling in love despite those pre-conceived notions of why you come into a show. Except sociopaths, but I don’t think we had any on the show. Definitely personality disorders and there’s arguably one or two that people could say are sociopathic, but that’s really rare. So I do think the worst offenders with personality disorders that make them hurt women and make them the f-boys that they are, even those people, if they fall in love, they can change. And what really can make a f-boy change is a woman that respects herself. If a guy really wants a woman that respects herself, he will not be disrespectful and he will change.
But there is also money involved at the end, which is not often the case on reality dating shows. So there could be guys who want to play the women to stay around to the end just to get the cash prize.
Yes, and not only do they win money, but they get more time on TV, which only leads to more Instagram followers, more girls knowing who they are and sliding into their DMs. There’s every motivation to stay on the show and to get these girls to fall head over heels. And if you get found out, so what? You already said you were there for the wrong reasons; you already went into it admitting to being a complete piece of shit. The motivation is money, attention, screen time and this show tells you that. And some of the nice guys could be there for that! Some guys don’t know what their attentions are. But the [f-boys] come out and say it. No one usually admits they’re not there for the right reasons, you just have to guess by their actions. These guys told producers that they were.
And for those who are not reformed, that’s where your therapist character comes in.
I’ve been trying to pitch that as a spin-off! I do believe that f-boy sex therapy with Nikki Glaser, who has no credentials but has read a third of most dating and trauma self-help books, [would be a be a good spin-off].
“FBoy Island” is streaming now on HBO Max.
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