TheYearofElan Productions’ Elan Gale

FBoy Island took the world by storm when it debuted in 2021, breaking through the crowded dating reality genre. Creator Elan Gale and his TheYearofElan Productions seemed to have cracked the code on creating a buzzy format that cuts through and takes off globally. Since its debut, FBoy Island has been remade in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Australia, and The CW has even greenlit a spin-off, FGirl Island. Building on the success even more, TheYearofElan scored an overall deal with ITV America earlier this year. Gale tells TV Formats about what makes FBoy Island stand out and what the ITV America deal means for TheYearofElan and any future formats it develops.

***Image***TV FORMATS: In a crowded dating reality genre, FBoy Island really stood out and became a hit when it launched in 2021. What about it made it so appealing, and why was 2021 the perfect time to launch it?
GALE: There’s been so much dating content out there for so long. It’s getting harder and harder to break through. What we tried to do with FBoy Island was respect our audience’s awareness of the tropes of the genre and really let them in on the joke. There’s so much of a distance in reality TV sometimes between what the joke is for people making it and what they let the audience in on. We tried to make a show that didn’t take itself too seriously, and that speaks to your question about why 2021. We shot the first show early in the pandemic when vaccines were first made available. There was a lot of uncertainty and fear worldwide, and people really were anxious for content that was a little bit more frivolous, less serious, a little lighter, where the stakes were low. And that’s what FBoy Island has tried to do to separate itself from some other dating shows. Our stakes are really low. It doesn’t really matter. Your life is not going to change, just like how most of dating is! Part of our approach was always: Dating is fun, dating is funny, and dating is weird, and for the most part, dating is an unserious endeavor, so let’s make a show that’s equally unserious.

TV FORMATS: What must be at the heart of each FBoy Island adaptation, no matter where it is remade?
GALE: [There are] two things that are really important. One, the leads need to be empowered to make decisions and not have the format dictate what kind of relationship they want to establish. It’s OK for the leads on our show to date an f-boy if that’s what they feel like. We’re not being prescriptive. You can have different storylines. Not everyone has to want the same kind of relationship. So, that’s really important; allowing the three leads, the three women, to go on their own journey and chart their own course. The second thing is it has to be comedic. It cannot take itself seriously. It cannot be important. And the host has to, at any time when things feel a little bit too earnest, remind us that this is a television show and not real life.

TV FORMATS: Are there any ways that the format has been altered in other territories, and has there been anything from one of the international adaptations that you would incorporate into the original?
GALE: The thing that has been most interesting in looking at some of the international versions so far is the way they play more with these big group activities. We don’t do a lot of challenge-type things in the American version. That’s something I’ve really been inspired by, seeing the different creative ideas from around the world. Additionally, there have been so many different uses with the hosts and the way that they eke comedy out of the specific cultural touchstones that exist in each dating landscape. Some of those ideas I look at and go, ‘Wow, we have to try that!’ Because it may be very different here in America. And as we go into our third season, there are a few things that we’ve seen abroad that we want to bring back home.

TV FORMATS: Earlier this year, The CW greenlit the series’ first spin-off, FGirl Island. Is there anything you can share about that?
GALE: I think f-boys and f-boy culture have been running amok for many years, especially in Los Angeles, where I live. I think they have some in New York, also. [Laughs] I think that the age of f-girls being unapologetic is upon us, and I think you’re going to see new stories you’ve never been able to see in reality dating shows before because we just haven’t made space for it. I think that oftentimes, our leads have been pigeon-holed into wanting traditional, heteronormative values, and I think that FGirl Island is going to let us unleash a wide variety of different interests and explore lots of individual personalities that shows that are more straightforward don’t have the opportunity to explore and allow for. I think people are going to be celebrating f-girl culture in a way they’re not expecting.

TV FORMATS: You worked for many years as a producer for shows in The Bachelor franchise. What are some of the things you learned from working on those that you incorporated into creating FBoy Island and other formats?
GALE: The most valuable thing that I learned from getting to work on dating shows that were so successful for so long is that the contestants are really, really complex and interesting people. Everyone is different. The more we allow them to be complex and to not fit into straight and narrow paths, the more interesting things get. I think it’s very common for us to see people as two-dimensional characters because we’re looking at them on a flat screen. I think we [should] take the time to allow those characters to evolve and change and see where they need to improve or see where maybe they’re a little too hard on themselves and should be kinder to themselves. Allowing space for characters, through scene work, to become three-dimensional is where these shows shine and where the viewer feels like they’re actually watching someone they know. When we did that on other shows, it always worked really nicely. In FBoy Island, and moving forward in all of our formats, we’re really trying to leave room to let characters take the lead and have format fall a bit to the side.

TV FORMATS: TheYearofElan Productions inked an overall deal with ITV America a few months ago. Tell me about that and what it means for producing new formats.
GALE: It’s a very exciting time for me and for all of us. What we really like to do is try to push the boundaries of what’s possible. We try to take new approaches when it comes to traditional formats and traditional storytelling. ITV [has] this incredible track record, abundant production services and really all of the mechanics in place to deliver shows beautifully and on time and on budget. Having that backbone behind all of our formats allows me to be much freer creatively. I don’t really have to think too much about what’s possible anymore because I have these great partners that allow us the freedom and flexibility to reach for the moon and come up with the craziest, wackiest, most psychotic shit we can possibly imagine, but still know that for me, there’s an adult in the room who’s going to hold my hand and say, ‘OK, Elan, take it easy, we still have to make a television show.’ I think where chaos and order come together, that’s where success is. So, in creating all these new formats, we’re going to continue to come up with big, loud, buzzy, insane shows and character arcs and people that you will fall in love with. Because at the end of the day, we’re nothing without our incredible cast members and allowing them to shine. ITV and our partnership creates a structure that’s so solid that there’s space to move within the walls.

TV FORMATS: Is there anything you’d like to add about what else you and TheYearofElan Productions are currently working on?
GALE: We started working together [with ITV America] just [a few] months ago full time, and we’ve already put together a pretty incredible and dynamic slate for the next 12 months. We’re just ready to go and ready to hit the open market and try to create some new stuff. One of the first ones we’re doing is a new relationship show that is based on a very, very bizarre experience I had in my first serious relationship; so, again, drawing from real-life experiences and seeing how other people react to things that other people have done before. ‘Social experiment’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but really trying to figure out how we can put people in new and interesting situations where they can learn more about themselves and from that, the audience can see themselves reflected back. That’s what we’re most excited about and diving headfirst into now. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing a lot from us soon because we’ve had a lot of coffee, and we’re ready to go!