Forget Netflix Friday or Disney+ Wednesday—HBO Max Thursday has become the day that I look forward to every week. This shift in my viewing priorities crept up on me over the past few months, as HBO Max debuted new reality competition shows that made me drop everything and get to streaming. The shows? Legendary, FBOY Island, and the currently-airing The Hype.
The reality competition genre is crowded, and it’s hard for new shows to breakthrough and make noise. The classics—Top Chef, Project Runway, The Bachelor, Survivor, American Idol—are all still around. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a classic too, but it took 10 years to finally get mainstream recognition—which is proof of how hard it is to stand out in this crowd. It took Netflix a few years to get a hit with Nailed It!, and a it took another few years to add The Circle and Too Hot to Handle. HBO Max, however, launched just over a year ago and they seem to have already found their reality competition sweet spot.
Legendary, FBOY Island, and The Hype are about as different from each other as they are different from their predecessors. Legendary’s a performance-based competition centered on voguing and the ballroom scene. It’s like if America’s Got Talent was a million percent queerer, fashion-forward, tough as painted nails, and involved Olympics-level floor routines. FBOY Island is clearly an ironic reaction to the persistence of the Bachelor, specifically The Bachelorette, franchise, but way funnier and way more self-aware. The Hype’s a streetwear-centric design competition in the tradition of Project Runway, but its focus makes it feel way more current. These are three different shows, clearly, but they all have one thing in common: danger.