Review: ‘Fantasy Island’

'Fantasy Island' key art
(Image credit: Fox)

Fantasy Island, a reboot of the drama from the days of yore, has Roselyn Sanchez as Elena Roarke, relative of Mr. Roarke, who was played in the original by Ricardo Montalban. There’s no Tattoo, but there is Javier, the pilot who brings the guests to Fantasy Island, and sips whiskey and flirts with Elena Roarke. 

The pilot features a morning TV anchor, Christine, who has been starving herself for years, and longs to feast. She’s also battling a demon or two from her childhood. It also features an aging married couple, Ruby and Mel. Ruby is battling a deadly disease, and they wish to be young and carefree again. 

Elena, in her white suit, presides over it all. “What is your deepest desire, your most heartfelt need?” her voiceover goes. “The island knows, even if you don’t.”

Played by Bellamy Young, Christine stuffs her face throughout the episode, be it cake, donuts or other high-calorie delights, until she unearths the root of her anxiety. Ruby, for her part, realizes the life she has lived may not reflect her true self. Kiara Barnes portrays Ruby. 

“In every episode of Fantasy Island, we take a simple, visceral human need and turn and twist it into an emotional, compelling story that subverts expectations,” goes the show description. “Through the magic of the Island, and Roarke’s tough-love approach, everyone who arrives on Fantasy Island leaves transformed.” 

Shot in Puerto Rico, Fantasy Island offers gorgeous scenery and a sexy vibe. The stories and character transformation? Not quite as fetching. We didn’t find ourselves all that invested in either of the pilot’s two yarns. 

Then again, the original, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1984, always seemed to score higher points for style than for substance. Fans of the original may be curious to watch the new iteration, while those who know nothing of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo may not have much reason to tune in. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.