Former ‘Bachelor’ Producer Elan Gale on Breaking the Reality Format With ‘FBOY Island’
HBO Max is stepping into the dating pool with its new reality series FBOY Island, a brainchild of producer extraordinaire Elan Gale, whose prior credits include the wildly popular titles The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise.
Now, he’s teaming up with the premium streamer for a different kind of competition series that puts three single women to the task of sifting out 12 “nice guys” from 12 “fboys.” The catch? Pure intentions or not, the men are all competing for a cash prize that will be handed out to whomever the women keep around the longest.
“We really wanted to follow what the people were feeling and what they were doing much more than creating a format,” Gale teases of the show premiering July 29. “We really try to let the most interesting things that people were doing lead the story.” Below, the creator opens up about the show’s format, casting, diversity, and finding the perfect host in Nikki Glaser.
What inspired this particular concept and made you want to pursue this format?
Elan Gale: Dating shows need to be reflective of the society in which dating is taking place, and I think that we’ve hit a really interesting point in the last few years of endless options and choice paralysis. It was time to make a show that addressed what people that I know talk about when it comes to dating, which is people ghosting them. I’d say it’s the number one complaint that I actually hear from people I know. And as a result, we felt like, why are we not making a show about this very problem?
People will always present themselves as a nice person. That’s very normal and it makes sense. But I think in reality, when we come home from our first dates with people we often wonder, is this person who they really say they are or are they a f–kboy in disguise? We wanted to approach that question honestly.
Reality TV on streaming is something that has gotten more popular in recent years. What advantages do you think there are to having a show like this on streaming?
I think HBO Max offers real freedom when it comes to format and structure. The ability to treat the entire series as one story with many chapters as opposed to having to break it down [helped us] make a dynamic viewing experience so that it would never become predictable for the audience. You want to have the ability to have someone reach the end of the episode and go, “What the hell is going to happen next?” And in this case, with HBO Max, we get to just dive right in. You don’t have to wait.
What was key to finding a balance between the three women—Nakia, CJ, and Sarah—at the center of this series? They all seem really different.
I’m happy to hear that because I think we felt that way also. The only real commonality that we looked for between all of the leads that we considered was, are you tired of fboys? Because that felt like a really important starting point. They were looking for love in their real lives and had trouble with men being dishonest to them.
We also wanted to find people that could tell different stories. They all have really different life experiences, families, backgrounds, and they’re from different places. They date different kinds of guys. When you watch a show, sometimes you don’t necessarily want to see yourself in all of the people you’re watching, but you want to be able to relate to them. I think that having a variety of women as our leads gives us a better chance of having stories resonate with a wide swath of audience numbers.
The cast overall is very diverse. As a creator, has that become more important over time?
It’s obviously something that we always keep in mind, making sure that we are representing the audience that is watching to the best of our ability. We really went out there looking for the biggest personalities on both sides of the spectrum. We wanted our nice guys to be nice in real life, but also not one note or boring. Simultaneously with the f–kboys, we were looking for guys that were braggadocios with big personalities and loved those elements of themselves and would be fboys unapologetically.
Was it difficult finding men who were willing to admit they’re fboys?
The dating show is also a comedy, it has a lightheartedness to it and a self-awareness. I don’t think the majority of people anywhere would go to a job interview and say, “Hi, my name is John and I’m a f–kboy.” But I think within the context of something which was really supposed to be funny and lighthearted, people recognize in themselves that they are fboys when they are. None of us are perfect and people make mistakes. I think that acknowledging your imperfections is often something that people are actually quite comfortable with.
Nikki Glaser is also a great fit as host. What was it like finding her for the position?
I’ve been a fan of Nikki Glaser for a long time as a comedian. I was lucky enough to become friendly with her over the years, and we would chat about dating shows. The minute we embarked on a journey to find a host, the first person I wanted to talk to was Nikki. I immediately called her on the phone and said, “Hey, I’m doing something weird and crazy, and I can’t think of anyone who’d be a better face, voice, and host of the show than you.” It’s so funny because I learned later that she thought I was calling her to be a contestant [Laughs].
FBOY Island, Series Premiere, Thursday, July 29, HBO Max