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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Back In The Groove’ on Hulu, A Dating Show Where Ancient Women In Their 40s Date Virile Younger Men

On the new Hulu dating show Back In The Groove, three women in the 40s check in to The Groove Hotel, which is also inhabited by 24 younger men. Over the course of a month, the women whittle down this dating pool of virile youths in the hopes that they’ll find a much-younger soulmate to revitalize their… last years on earth? I don’t know, how much time do women in their 40s really have left?

BACK IN THE GROOVE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Opening Shot: Visions of a tropical paradise flash before us as host and executive producer Taye Diggs’ voice asks, “Are you stuck in the daily grind? Have you lost…” [wait for it] “your groove?”

The Gist: Three forty-something women (“in the prime of their lives,” Taye tells us) check into a beach-front resort that also happens to be hosting a group of 24 younger men. These women are Steph, age 41, a gorgeous single mom from Miami who recently recovered from breast cancer, Brooke, a 42-year-old trainer from L.A. who keeps repeating that she thinks she’s going to find her husband here, and 43-year-old Sparkle, a beauty entrepreneur from Atlanta. The women immediately bond, calling one another “queen” and “doll” and lamenting the fact that men their age are trouble. “The most single guys that I’ve met… are married. I don’t want nobody’s husband,” Steph says. These three ladies are being put up in a villa called The Groove Hotel, where they hang out and quietly relax in peace.

Right next door to their rooms is another villa housing their prospective partners, who range in age from their early 20s to early 30s. Though there are 24 of them now, after an introductory evening getting to know the women, that number will be whittled down based on who the women feel the most chemistry with. The men are all confident, many are even cocky about having dated 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, saying that in elementary school he had a “smoke show” of a teacher and that he would try to get detention just to be near her. I’m all for appreciating the beauty of an older woman, but I feel like I need to draw the line somewhere, and Cru’s anecdote is a little too Mary Kay Letourneau for my tastes.

And then there’s Josh T. “Dating an older woman is a power move,” he says. “I’m the best there is. I’m the best that has ever stepped foot on this island. It’s all me,” this 24-year-old tells us. I’m not sure if Josh’s complete assholery is setting him up for a beautiful early elimination or a soft, sensitive redemption arc, but I’m looking forward to whatever is going to happen to him.

So while the women get ready to meet these men, the men are shown into their villa, where they. Go. Apeshit. I mean, they tear into the kitchen hooting and hollering as they pull out boxes of Crav’n Chunky Chocolate Cookies (can’t argue, solid snack choice) and screaming, “I got the peanut butter, we lit!” as they look in the pantry. The editing of this scene is just brilliant, as it’s juxtaposed against the stoicism of our regal, middle-aged queens resting in their bedrooms. (I’m allowed to say this, I too am a regal, middle-aged queen who often lies on her bed in a state of repose at 4pm.)

When the women finally meet the younger men, there are a few obvious connections. Brooke immediately hits it off with both Cru and Josh T., while Steph and Sparkle click with several men who are less abhorrent. Then, they’re approached by Pedro, the concierge at The Groove Hotel, who tells them that it’s checkout time, and three men will be 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 would not exist without the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back, so there’s that obvious connection. But also, remember that fictional show within a show on 30 Rock called MILF Island? I mean, it wasn’t real, but if it was…

Our Take: Back In The Groove is co-produced by Taye Diggs who starred opposite Angela Bassett in How Stella Got Her Groove Back (I guess that means he owns a piece of “groove” as an entity?). Though he appears prominently at the beginning of the episode, unlike most other dating show hosts, he doesn’t appear again. Like, at all. Instead, Steph, the most outgoing of all the women, just sort of loudly announces things to the group. When it’s time for the checkout ceremony, she just screams, “Boys! Come on up!” like a mom who has just finished cooking dinner.

The show really hammers home the fact 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 complain about with regard to the show’s formula because it’s pretty simple, but there are definitely personalities on the show that are being set up to be… if not villainous then at least grating. The women all seem fine, they’re beautiful and fit and successful and smiling which some of the younger men seem surprised by. It’s just some of the men (specifically Cru and Josh T., who I know I can’t stop talking about but man do they suck) are hard to like, and it’s difficult to understand why Brooke, who has an e.e. cummings tattoo on her arm, so she at least has a Poetry 101-level depth to her, is charmed by them.

The thing I was most sorry about during the first episode was that checkout time – which is this show’s version of a rose ceremony – wasn’t more of a bloodbath, it was certainly set up to be that way. But alas, only three men were eliminated. The show also promised that these men would be HALF THE AGE of the women, when in fact, most of them are 10-15 years younger. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not the cradle-robbery scenario we were promised, which is probably a good thing.

Sex and Skin: Abs. So many abs. But so far, not a lot of sex.

Parting Shot: If you thought that Back In The Groove was just a dating show, the final moment of the premiere will change all that. As the men return to their villa, 22 year old Steven gives an interview where he reveals that he’s harboring a secret that none of the men know. “One of these women,” he says, “is my mom.” So, Steven, does that mean that you’re here to meet your… new dad? Or is he just a mole? This is fun!

Sleeper Star: This might be my favorite part of the show: the eliminated men have to approach the hotel reception desk where they’re greeted by Pedro, who asks things like “Checking out so soon?” and “What is the reason for your checkout?” Pedro’s involvement on the show is so minimal, but his role as he trolls these men is really hilarious.

Most Pilot-y Line: “What is my husband is here? Like, f—k, that’s some real shit.”

Our Call: If you have a Bachelorette-shaped hole in your heart at the moment and you want an interesting dating show full of big twists and bigger personalities, STREAM IT! I know I’ve made a few jokes here about the show’s focus on the women’s age, but in all honesty, the show is trying to be a celebration of these three women who have already been through the dating BS and are optimistic about finding love. What would have otherwise been your average dating show is elevated by women you want to root for, the delightful Pedro, and the twist you never saw coming.

Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer living in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show Chain Reaction.