I Kissed A Boy is the drama-filled, unfiltered dating show us gays have always deserved
Groundbreaking without sacrificing Love Island levels of messiness – I love it
“I think it’s time for a show like this one” is the buzzline being pinged about for I Kissed A Boy, the UK’s first ever gay dating show that launched on BBC Three over Eurovision weekend. I think a more apt line would be “It’s 10 years overdue for a show like this one, but here we go anyway”. Remember when ITV boss Amanda Stavri declared LGBTQ people would prove too “logistically difficult” for Love Island? BBC Three listened, and delivered audiences a show that is almost note for note Love Island but with an all gay male cast and Dannii Minogue – who looks 18 years old. I pressed play on I Kissed A Boy with my guard up, braced for two hours of cringing – but against all odds, two episodes in and I was gasping, laughing, and raging at my new TV enemies. In short, I was hooked. Because what I Kissed A Boy has done spectacularly is not give us yet another queer centric show where we are all sunshine, rainbows and sisterhood but given us the messy, drama-filled reality TV show Love Island equivalent we always deserved.
It starts with a kiss
The show loves announcing from the off that the pre matched couples “meet with a kiss”, as though most of us don’t already spend our weekends in our city’s respective gay clubs necking off with men we’ve not even asked the name of. I Kissed A Boy couples up the gays involved and on the whole does a great job of it. Except in one case: Josh and Bobski.
Beggars belief how this one came about, beyond the producers deciding to mismatch for a bit of drama. Bobski is an Essex boy who I think is the most likeable character on the whole show – the charm and charisma of Rylan Clark, just immaculate vibes. Josh is recently out, ex-Mormon and the polar opposite – and is instantly not attracted to Bobski in a romantic way. Which is fine, but his disdain is a bit questionable from the off.
The cast are well cast and well rounded. A good job has been done to diversify across all fronts and it makes the show better because of it. It’s all a bit Mighty Hoopla: The Movie – but it’s endearing in many ways.
The drama is giving Ekin-Su on the terrace
So we’ve got Bobski and we’ve got Josh. Bobski – out and proud Essex twink, all smiles and knows exactly who he is. Josh – says he only came out five months ago, and was raised in a community where he believed being gay was wrong. It’s a showcase for how destructive internalised homophobia from religion and family pressure really is, because Josh is visibly working very hard to love and accept himself. His story is valid, important and sad – but what’s happening on the show feels like he’s on there too soon. His declaration of Bobski “not being his type” and other cast member Ross calling out how he knows his type when he’s never been on a date or even kissed a lad shows it for what it all feels like: That Josh is “no camp” masc vibes to his core.
Bobski gets sidelined for semi-masc-I-guess latecomer Mikey, who enters I Kissed A Boy late and gets to take a couple of the lads he likes on dates. Josh is right up for Scouser Mikey in a second, leaving Bobski and his dinky pride party ensemble looking well and truly binned off in front of the gang, as Josh springs up to give Mikey “a tour”. Mikey picks Josh and Ben for his dates, and all goes well on both counts but there’s nary a kiss in sight.
Later, on the terrace, Mikey and Bobski are having a chat and end up necking off. It’s a bit of a blindsider. I genuinely gasped – not since Ekin-Su crawled on hands and knees to neck Jay on the Love Island villa balcony have I been so shaken at a turn of events. Bobski gets a semi, it’s all comedy gold.
The next day, Mikey confesses the kiss to Josh who looks like he’s just been slapped around the gob. It’s great drama, and I accept there’s a disappointment at play but something about Josh’s shock and annoyance annoys me. The energy is giving “I am not attracted to this loud and proud Essex twink, so how dare you be”. In the kissing ceremony at the end of ep 2, the I Kissed A Boy equivalent of a Love Island recoupling, Josh literally rolls his eyes when Mikey says about the kiss and has to choose between them.
And just like that, we’re left on a cliffhanger with heroes, villains, favourites and couples to root for. Not everyone comes across great, and there in lies what makes I Kissed A Boy so engaging and an instant success. We deserve our show of chaos.
Our time to be feral
Why I loved I Kissed A Boy so much comes down to this: I am over gay representation on dating shows being a few gay men shoved together on Dinner Date, First Dates and MAFS and told to make the best of it amongst the ranks of straight couples. I’m bored of all of our representation showcasing us as all-smiles “everybody say love” joy. We can have a celebratory show that gives a showcase to blossoming gay dating and sexual charge that also lets us be messy, be bitchy and create good reality TV.
True equality is us having the space to get bluntly pied on the telly, like Ben did to Ross. True equality is letting Bobski and Mikey have secret terrace snogs where they both end up with raging semis and Josh eye rolls his way into oblivion about it all. I want the messy gay drama that isn’t RuPaul’s Drag Race – and I Kissed A Boy is the carnage we deserve. I am salivating for more mess, more men and more Minogue.
I Kissed a Boy continues Sunday and Monday at 9pm on BBC Three and iPlayer.
For all the latest reality TV and entertainment news and gossip, like Pop Culture Shrine on Facebook.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
All images via BBC.