Stream or skip? +2023

On the new Hulu dating show Back in the groove Three women in their forties check into The Groove Hotel, which is also occupied by 24 younger men. Over the course of a month, the women downsize this dating pool of teenage boys in the hopes that they will find a much younger soul mate to rekindle their… final years on earth? I don’t know how much time do women in their 40s really have left?

opening shot: Visions of a tropical paradise flash before us as the voice of host and executive producer Taye Diggs asks, “Are you settled in everyday life? Did you lose…” [wait for it] “your groove?”

The essentials: Three women in their forties (“in the prime of their lives,” Taye tells us) check into a beach resort that also happens to be home to a group of 24 younger men. These women are Steph, 41, a beautiful single mom from Miami who recently recovered from breast cancer, Brooke, a 42-year-old trainer from LA who keeps repeating that she thinks she’ll find her man here, and 43-year-old Sparkle, a beauty entrepreneur from Atlanta. The women immediately band together, calling each other “queen” and “doll” and bemoaning the fact that men their age cause trouble. “Most of the single guys I’ve met…are married. I don’t want anyone’s husband,” says Steph. These three ladies are lodged in a villa called The Groove Hotel, where they hang out and relax in peace and quiet.

Right next to her rooms is another villa which houses her potential partners who range in age from their early 20s to early 30s. Although there are now 24 of them, after an introductory evening to get to know the women, that number is reduced based on who the women feel the most chemistry with. The men are all confident, many even cocky for dating older women before, with one contestant, Luis, explaining that he met his ex-wife when she was 59 and he was 21 and another, Cru said that in elementary school he had a teacher’s “smoke show” and that he would try to get detention just to be around her. I’m all for appreciating the beauty of an older woman, but I feel like I have to draw a line somewhere, and Cru’s anecdote is a bit too Mary Kay Letourneau for my liking.

And then there’s Josh T. “Dating an older woman is a huge effort,” he says. “I’m the best there is. I’m the best person to ever set foot on this island. That’s all me,” the 24-year-old tells us. I’m not sure if Josh’s complete asshole sets him up for a nice early elimination or a smooth, sensitive redemption arc, but I’m excited for whatever happens to him.

So while the women prepare to meet these men, the men are led to their mansion, where they. Walk. monkey shit. I mean, they storm into the kitchen howling and yelling as they pull out boxes of Crav’n Chunky Chocolate Cookies (can’t disagree, solid snack selection) and yell, “I’ve got the peanut butter, let’s light it!” as they in the pantry look. The editing of this scene is simply brilliant as it is juxtaposed with the stoicism of our middle aged royal queens resting in their bedrooms. (May I say so, I too am a middle-aged royal queen, often lying on her bed at 4 p.m. in a state of rest.)

When the women finally meet the younger men, there are some obvious connections. Brooke hits it off immediately with both Cru and Josh T., while Steph and Sparkle make friends with several less obnoxious men. They are then approached by Pedro, the concierge at The Groove Hotel, who informs them that it is time to check out and three men are being sent home.

The women narrow down the number of men on the island, eliminating three and keeping the rest, but before the episode ends, we learn that one of the men on the island is harboring an earth-shattering secret he has yet to reveal to anyone. More on that in a moment.

What shows will it remind you of? Back in the groove wouldn’t exist without the film How Stella got her groove back, so there’s this obvious connection. But also consider this fictional show within a show 30 rocks called MILF island? I mean, it wasn’t real, but if it were…

Our opinion: Back in the groove is co-produced by Taye Diggs, who co-starred alongside Angela Bassett How Stella got her groove back (I think that means he owns a piece of “Groove” as a unit?). Although he appears prominently at the beginning of the episode, unlike most other dating show hosts, he does not reappear. How ever. Instead, Steph, the most outgoing of women, just announces things loudly to the group. When it’s time for the box office ceremony, she just yells, “Boys! Come on up!” like a mother who has just finished cooking dinner.

The show really makes it clear that older women know what they want and that younger men, at least modern young men, are confident and like an “established” woman. There’s not much to fault with the show’s formula because it’s fairly simple, but there are definitely personalities on the show that are built to be… if not vicious, then at least grating. The women all seem fine, they are beautiful and fit and successful and smiling, which seems to surprise some of the younger men. It’s just some of the men (Cru and Josh T in particular, who I know I can’t stop talking about, but man do they suck) are hard to like, and it’s hard to understand why Brooke, the an ee cummings tattoo is on her arm, so at least she has a depth of poetry 101, is enchanted by them.

What I felt most sorry for in the first episode was that the checkout time — which is this series’ version of a rose ceremony — wasn’t more a bloodbath, it was certainly designed that way. But unfortunately only three men were eliminated. The show also promised that these men would be half the age of the women, although most of them are 10-15 years younger. It’s not nothing, but it’s not the cradle heist scenario we were promised either, which is probably a good thing.

gender and skin: Abs. So many abs. But not much sex so far.

farewell shot: If that’s what you thought Back in the groove was just a dating show, the last moment of the premiere will change all that. When the men return to their mansion, 22-year-old Steven gives an interview in which he reveals he harbors a secret none of the men know. “One of those women,” he says, “is my mom.” So, Steven, does that mean you’re here to meet your… new dad? Or is he just a mole? That is fun!

sleeping star: This might be my favorite part of the show: The eliminated men have to approach the hotel reception where they are greeted by Pedro asking things like “Checked out so soon?”. and “What is the reason for your checkout?” Pedro’s involvement in the show is so minimal, but his role trolling these men is genuinely hilarious.

Most pilot line: “What is my husband here? Like, fk, that’s real shit.”

Our appeal: if you have one bachelorette-shaped hole in your heart and you want an interesting dating show full of big twists and bigger personalities, STREAM IT! I know I’ve joked a bit here about the show’s focus on women’s ages, but honestly the show tries to be a celebration of these three women who’ve already gone through the dating BS and are upbeat, love to find . What would otherwise have been your average dating show is elevated by women who want to cheer you on, the adorable Pedro and the twist you never saw coming.

Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer based in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show chain reaction.

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