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'Fantasy Island' boards the plane for another reboot

'Fantasy Island' boards the plane for another reboot

Posted: Aug 10, 2021 10:41 AM
Updated: Aug 10, 2021 10:41 AM

Like "Charlie's Angels," "Fantasy Island" is one of those old Aaron Spelling series that keeps resurfacing, whether anybody asked for it or not. So after a 1990s reboot and a pretty awful horror movie version last year, Fox boards the plane once again with a slightly updated version about a magical place where dreams are fulfilled and lessons learned.

Frankly, this latest "Island" visit would be better off had HBO not recently premiered "The White Lotus," a much better, more complicated look at travelers to an island paradise and those who serve them.

The most new-look aspect of this "Fantasy Island," by contrast, is that the person greeting the guests is Elena Roarke (Roselyn Sanchez), the great niece of the original white-suited emcee played by Richard Montalban, who notes that stewardship of the island has been in her family for generations.

Beyond that, there's a somewhat serialized aspect involving one of the characters introduced in the first episode, and a sexual-tension thing happening between Ms. Roarke and Javier (John Gabriel Rodriquez), the handsome pilot who flies over the new guests.

The formula otherwise remains largely the same, just with more contemporary flavor, such as a woman who comes to the island facing a terminal illness, and whose flirtation with another woman makes her husband wonder if she settled by choosing him decades earlier.

Other storylines feel more strained, such as "Scandal's" Bellamy Young as a TV anchor who has fretted about her weight for years, and comes to the island to indulge in "guilt-free calories," an appropriate metaphor for this kind of escapism.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that, though the various twists still feel fairly slight -- if not as weightless as in the '70s -- compared to the modern anthology genre.

Mostly, "Fantasy Island" reflects the latest attempt to cash in on vintage intellectual property with a few new wrinkles, a strategy Fox notably employed around this time in 2019 when it launched its very meta revival of "Beverly Hills, 90210," cheekily titled "BH90210."

After some fanfare that show slipped over the horizon, which seems like a harbinger of "Fantasy Island's" fate.

"What can the island do for you?" Elena earnestly asks a new arrival.

The better question might be whether enough viewers are hungry for pristine beaches (the show filmed in Puerto Rico) and bland nostalgia to turn what should be a quick summer visit into, in TV terms, an extended stay.

"Fantasy Island" premieres Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

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