From “Real World” creators Jonathan Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, Fox’s latest reality series, “Love Cruise,” involves a group of twentysomething singles sailing in the Caribbean, seeking a love connection — and the $200,000 prize. Sort of a “Blind Date” and “Gilligan’s Island” meet “Survivor,” “Love Cruise” has the men voting the women off and vice versa, with the votes not being kept secret — two twists that promise some particularly humiliating emotional carnage. Oh, and let’s not forget the bikini briefs. Somehow, it all sounds perfectly logical as counterprogramming to the other networks’ fall launches of sitcoms and dramas.
Cruise director Justin Gunn, aka our television host, oversees this “crew” of voyaging voyees (until now, the word “voyeur” had no opposite, but this social phenomenon demands that we create a term for those compelled to be watched — voyee will do for now). At first, Gunn seems like a friendly male Julie from “The Love Boat,” jovially arranging a “speed dating” round robin, where each guy spends a few minutes with each gal. But then he turns evil, asking the women to stand by the man they want to bunk with for the next two days, a recipe for very public rejection.
The best-looking and the least glamorous immediately become the focus in this first episode. Several women crowd around Anthony, a heavily tattooed James Dean-like hunk and aspiring screenwriter. Nobody picks Michael, the Jewish lawyer who used to be obese. Lisa, the successful but very insecure management consultant, ends up with him, and her bruised ego becomes the subject for a good while thereafter. Darin, meanwhile, chooses big-breasted personal trainer Toni — a proud, walking advertisement for plastic surgery — over model Gina, who gets catty with feline quickness. Let the games begin!
Those voted off the boat are banished to “Loser Island,” otherwise known as Aruba. While the first episode doesn’t go into the intricacies of the game, the show’s Web site fills us in on a couple of other factors — that those banished can be brought back (for drama’s sake, I suppose), and that the winners of individual competitions will actually have the power to switch the votes of the majority.
“Love Cruise” doesn’t get under way with the adrenaline charge that “Boot Camp” did, but it looks to hold more continuing interest than that show, which, severely lacking in sex appeal, quickly disintegrated into high-volume dullness. And “Love Cruise” is certainly not as overtly tacky as “Temptation Island” — it’s OK to root for these participants to hook up, since they’re all single. It certainly won’t challenge “Survivor” as the tops of the field, but “Love Cruise,” which carries the optimistic subtitle “The Maiden Voyage,” doesn’t look like the show that will sink the genre either, and, depending on how it plays out, may survive to sail again.