FBoy Island / Ramon Naquid/HBO MAX
What We’re Watching: Emotionally Numbing Television
Tv for when we’re Tired of feeling our feelings
By THE FILM TEAM
The best way to test which of my friends and family truly value my opinions is by seeing who takes my reality TV recommendations seriously. This month, anyone who has managed to get sucked into a conversation with me has heard my feverishly passionate speech about FBoy Island, the show that asks riveting questions such as: Is a nice guy really better than an fboy? Is there a “right reason” for being on reality TV? And who cares?
The cast consists of twenty-six men: thirteen self-proclaimed “nice guys'' and thirteen self-proclaimed “fboys.” Both groups have bodies and faces sculpted specifically for Instagram. They look like they got the job because someone went to The Bungalow in Santa Monica and cast a fishing net over the dance floor, and then they passed one final test by answering “no” to the question, “Have you ever worn a condom?” With this criteria, producers managed to reel in an intriguing batch of deep v-neck t-shirts, designer gold chains, triple-D-sized pecs, and some of the most perplexing geometric hair styles I’ve ever seen.
The cast also includes three women selected to represent three different “types,” all mathematically optimized to seduce a neat one-third (33.3333%) of the men on the island. The three of them have to figure out who is an “fboy,” who is a “nice guy,” and if there really is a difference between the two anyways.
Unlike other dating shows, everyone who opts in to the tropical vacation at the price of their reputation knows exactly what they came there to do, which is to be charming and understated enough to not get kicked off the show entirely, but also memorable enough to be able to start a podcast. This makes for well-paced, decently suspenseful, low-stakes television to help you avoid confronting any more complicated emotions. They even leverage the unassuming and mundane structure of these kinds of shows to pull off some actually shocking twists. Value my opinions and watch it!
I don’t know what it says about me that my comforting rewatch shows are often full of questionable-to-bad people doing questionable-to-bad things (Search Party, Arrested Development, etc.). At the top of this list is Veep, in which there’s no one to root for and, really, no one to like. The characters bicker, pick each other apart with artful insults, and stomp on each other’s toes as they clamber to the top of the American political ladder.
Veep doesn’t give me hope—several real-life politicians have admitted that the show’s depiction of life in DC is relatively accurate—but after so many rewatches that I can recite episodes almost line-by-line, it lets me turn my brain off and laugh when a familiar joke strikes me in a new way. I’m sure there’s something to be said about the comfort of pessimistic narratives in which everyone is terrible and yet the world continues to turn, but I’d like to turn my brain off now, so that’s all I got.
While reading my pick, you might have thought I misunderstood the assignment, but to numb my emotions, I often find myself sinking into those of others. So while Fleabag is probably the complete opposite of what other people would consider escapism, for me, it is the perfect way to distract myself from whatever I am actually feeling.
I recently rewatched the show with a friend who hadn’t yet witnessed Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s genius (or Andrew Scott as the life-changing “Hot Priest”). For the span of twelve thirty-minute episodes, I can direct my focus on Fleabag’s problems instead of my internal commotion. When Fleabag’s stepmother slights her, I feel angry for her, but then I feel a rush of excitement as Fleabag steals (and re-steals) her bronze statue. And perhaps what I enjoy most about the show is that it doesn’t stay in one place too long—before I can wallow in grief, Waller-Bridge has already interjected a heartwarming or funny moment.
My method of drowning my feelings with those of a fictional character is undoubtedly not the wisest. Once the show’s final credits roll, I’m still stuck at sea and now also heartbroken by Andrew Scott saying, “It’ll pass.” Even so, Fleabag provides immense comfort and gives me time inside someone else’s messy brain instead of my own.