It’s the new phenomenon – but what IS it?
It’s the new phenomenon – but what IS it?

Pop CultureJune 10, 2019

Meet Love Island, the clothes-optional UK reality show taking over NZ

It’s the new phenomenon – but what IS it?
It’s the new phenomenon – but what IS it?

British reality TV sensation Love Island is back on NZ screens, this season at the extremely questionable time of 5pm. But what is it? And why are people so obsessed?

Shave a heart amongst the wild thickets of my hairy back, for I am ready for love. I am ready for some steamy summer loving, and I am ready to stare at my screen for 60 minutes every day to work out how to wear a pleather swimsuit without chafing.

I am ready for you, Love Island UK.

Can you see the heart or is the ONLY thing you can see?

Set fire to Heartbreak Island and send Celebrity Treasure Island out to sea (jokes, ILY) because there’s only one island you should waste your precious TV time on. It’s Love Island, of course, that hallowed isle of hopes and dreams where love burns eternal under perfect Spanish skies and the teeth shine brighter than the neon ‘SEX’ sign in Casa Amor.

Love Island UK began another bumper run this week, promising us “the ultimate summer of love”. My summers usually involve enough SPF400+ to slip, slop, slap my way straight to a Vitamin D deficiency, so I’m here for all the banter and the budgie smugglers, the twists and turns, the heartbreak and the happiness. While we wallow in the cruel depths of winter, Love Island will be the sunshine in my life, which probably says more about the empty hollows of my soul than I care to admit.

I can’t explain it, I can’t defend it, the heart wants what the heart wants. So, what can we expect from the new Love Island, other than 15 sets of fresh veneers and plenty of wacky catchphrases? Let’s gather round the fire pit and get the low down on the hoedown.

What the heck is it?

Love Island is what happens when you take the best bits of reality TV, chuck them into a blender and pour out a sweaty but delicious love smoothie. Think Big Brother without the psychological manipulation, Bachelor in Paradise without stuffed animals being thrown into the sea, or Geordie Shore without the binge drinking and shitfights. In fact, the only way Love Island could get better was if you chucked All Talk with Anika Moa in there, too. Be right back, just off to throw a whole heap of BAFTAs at that idea.

What actually happens?

Fifteen young, gorgeous twenty-somethings in tiny togs move into a villa and couple up, with the last remaining couple winning £50,000. They could play for love or purely for the cash, but either way, these guys are living their best life — no clothes, no responsibilities, no worries.

Add in some wacky challenges and unexpected twists, a self-deprecating narrator and a bunch of people having fun together, and Love Island is your next addictive piece of escapist television.

Funnily enough, that’s the smallest alcohol vessel available on Love Island.

How popular is it?

 Four million Brits tuned in to the 2018 Love Island UK finale, while on our own isle of love, the UK and Australia franchises scored over 4.1 million streams on TVNZ OnDemand in 2018. Wednesday’s premiere of the UK season saw record viewing numbers for ThreeNow. That’s a truckload of people watching beautiful strangers fall in and out of love before their very eyes, so what’s the appeal?

Is it because it’s on every single day (at 5pm – won’t someone think of the children?) making it a dirty habit? Is it because our own lives can be a bit shit, and Love Island’s a perfect world to escape into? Or is it because of the real-life soap opera unfurling before our eyes, where the best and worst of human behaviour is thrown up purely for our viewing scrutiny and entertainment?

I don’t have all the answers, I’m just a pale shroud of a human with a giant love heart shaved into her back hair.

Potentially the only shot in Love Island UK that doesn’t feature a Hot Tub.

Why is it on six times a week? Why? WHY?

See above, re back hair. Some things in life you don’t question, you just bathe in the hot tub of trashy goodness and let it soak into every bristly pore.  

How will this season be different?

Love Island has its issues, and ITV recently released new “duty of care guidelines” after the deaths of two former contestants sparked calls for improved support and after-show care.

But ITV also said their new guidelines won’t change the show itself, and responded to criticism about a lack of body diversity by saying they want contestants “to be attracted to each other”. Add in criticism about gaslighting, casual racism and a reliance on heteronormative dating expectations, and it makes a supposedly silly show about summer flings pretty problematic.

Let’s pray to the sun gods that the 2019 season sees positive changes, so our Love Island stars are diverse and nurtured like the precious summer-loving aircraft engineers, scientists and pharmacists that they are.

In case you wondered what Number One Shoe Warehouse would look like if it was a hotel.

Can I escape Love Island?

Nowhere is safe, so put on your arm floaties and prepare to be hit by a tsunami of Love Island content from Australia, the US and even New Zealand, all screening on Three later this year.

The evidence is clear. Winter is coming. The ice caps are melting, the end of the world is nigh, and Love Island is the television we deserve.

Still, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Keep going!