It's trash TV but we're all addicted to Love Island - here's why
Ahead of the finale on Monday, Sheena McGinley looks at the programme that has had the nation glued to their screens most evenings — it may be trash television, but we might as well face it, we’re addicted to Love... Island
Eight weeks ago, when I described Love Island as a “real-time soap with less clothing and bigger biceps”, justice wasn’t exactly being served. In actuality, it’s a warped social experiment played out in scanties. If you haven’t given the show more than some passing side eye, you may think I’m elevating it past what it seems to be — uncouth, somewhat low rent, and essentially everything that’s wrong with society.
But where else would you get to survey the romantic machinations of scantily clad 20-somethings in a controlled environment, you know, without being called a pervert? What’s not to love? Okay, so there’s plenty not to love, but we’ll get to that imminently; firstly, let’s have a look at the origins of Love Island.
LOVE ISLAND: PAST
The year was 2005. ITV1 launched a show set on a Fijian island which promised to bring love to several tenuously titled celebrities.
Presented by Patrick Kielty and Kelly Brook (who was swiftly exchanged for Fearne Cotton in the subsequent series), it was the sunnier sidekick to Big Brother and made for a more romanticised viewing, complete with rustic huts, flower garlands, and zero access to toilet humour (apart from Rebecca Loos’ moment of flatulence).
The initial outing in 2005 was peppered with the D to Z of the celebrity world, following the casting formula still employed by I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here! producers today, that being…
The random presenter: Jayne Middlemiss, the show’s first female winner, former youth TV presenter and current yoga enthusiast.
The ex-footballer: Lee Sharpe.
The socialite: Lady Isabella Hervey.
The scandalous sorts: Rebecca Loos (aka David Beckham’s former PA and alleged mistress) and Abi Titmuss (aka the nurse who rose to infamy during her raucous relationship with John Leslie).
The ex-pop star: Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten.
The celebrity offspring: Calum Best.
A smattering of soap stars: Michael
Greco (EastEnders’ Beppe di Marco), Judi
Shekoni (EastEnders’ Precious Hudson),
and the infamous Paul Danan (Hollyoaks’ Sol Patrick).
The mandatory American: Nikki Ziering, a former Playboy model.
The athlete: Duaine Ladejo, European championship athlete turned Gladiator.
The ‘I’ve never clapped eyes on them before’ sort: Fran Cosgrave.
As it happens, Fran’s honest-to-Jaysis Irish charm helped him become the male winner of the original series. Instead of capitalising on his win, the then sporadic partner of Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton went on to release a single under the name of Fran Cosgrave & the Inner City Playboys. He also starred in an ITV spin-off show entitled Calum, Fran and Dangerous Danan… Famed for being Westlife’s former bodyguard, he now travels the globe DJing while offering his services as a life coach.
Now that you’ve been bamboozled with factoids from Celebrity Love Island 2005, we’ll spare you the details of Celebrity Love Island 2006; suffice it to say that Calum Best won. Perhaps he stayed in Fiji for the entire year and just popped up at the pre-show production meeting, or he was asked to return. Either way, he managed to portray himself as a sound sort alongside the likes of Shane Lynch, Brendan Cole, Lady Victoria Hervey and Alicia Douvall. At the time, little did viewers know that the latter contestant would become de rigueur in the cosmetic surgery stakes 10 years later...
LOVE ISLAND: PRESENT
Fast forward to 2015; the show is given a reboot. Caroline Flack is the presenter and the venue has been changed to a sprawling Mallorcan villa, which has strangely limited access to the huge garden, meaning everyone HAS to walk through the bedroom. Interchangeable islanders arrive astride a jeep, waving at the facade of a villa, before striding up to the door with a camera attached to their posteriors.
Instead of fading celebrities trying anything to be on TV as their career is on the wane, this reboot features a flurry of ‘normal’ 20-somethings who just happen to have Instagram followers in the tens of thousands.
Three years into this updated format and Love Island is gaining traction. To give that arbitrary sentence some context; the number of people applying to be on Love Island 2018 reportedly surpassed the combined applications to both Oxford and Cambridge. To put it another way, current contestant Dani Dyer (the dotey daughter of Danny Dyer) started the show with approximately 85,000 Instagram followers and — at the time of going to print — now has 1.7 million.
Speaking of Dani; unless they were ousted by the public last night, herself and Jack Fincham (the stationary salesman with the whitest teeth known to humanity) look set to become this year’s winners, having been the most consistently ‘real’ on-screen couple. Their only hiccup to date has been courtesy of the, dubious at best, lie-detector test.
OTHER CONTENDERS FOR THE 2018 CROWN INCLUDE...
Wes and Megan: Famed for getting the most action under the covers with each other and their respective past partners, Wes managed to make headlines for pulling the wool not only over Laura’s eyes, but also over the bloodshot peepers of the viewing public.
In conjunction with Wes’s apparent personality transplant, Megan also garnered her fair share of column inches based on the amount of cosmetic surgery she’s had. Before and after pictures of the 24-year-old went viral, with such allegations as lip fillers, breast enhancements and nose jobs being bandied about.
With a reported £25k worth of ‘work’ under her belt, it may come as an unnerving surprise to few that she was deemed the most covetable islander when the new batch of boys came in. As for the message that imparts to impressionable viewers, well, that topical debate is still raging.
Laura and Paul: At this point, Laura deserves a break in the form of newcomer ‘cool Paul’. Despite being dumped twice (in the same spot, no less), the 29-year-old who seemed to be a man-eater from the offset, has proved herself to be a very genuine and compassionate person...
Josh and Kaz: Blissfully in love since Casa Amour, this couple are in danger of not making the final this coming Monday due to viewers deeming them to be ‘smug’.
Alex and Alexandra: Forgive me if I’m wrong, but everyone’s favourite Doctor Love, who was on an endless quest for Miss Right, seemed to have settled for Miss Right Now although they've now parted ways.
LOVE ISLAND: FUTURE
Given we’re presently three episodes in on 3e, and it airs immediately after Love Island UK, you’re invariably already hooked on Love Island Australia at this point (or you’re a superfan, in which case you’ve streamed the entire first series of online and know the winners have split up already). In the event you’re considering watching on 3e, below are just some of the similarities and differences between the UK staple and the new Aussie version.
Both shows are set in Mallorca pretty much simultaneously, however, the Australians look freezing at night. Their villa is pokier comparatively, but — to be fair — their view compensates for the confines spectacularly. The grass is still fake, but the Aussie islanders — who presently comprise of Josh (yes, there must always be a Josh), Tayla, Erin, Eden, Grant, Cassidy, Millie, Justin, Charlie, Natasha, plus new arrivals Kim and John James — actually use their hot tub and haven’t the same reliance on creative profanity. While we welcome their collective ability to construct sentences not riddled with the word ‘like’, every, like, third word, like approximately, there are no immediately likeable characters.
Despite this, the brasher Aussie version seems to be the increasingly unnerving future of the Love Island brand: no nuance, zero filters and OTT to the MAX when it comes to physical attributes, with breast and peck implants wildly prevalent.
Australians are used to being ‘body beautiful’ on account of their climate; it seems perfectly normal for them to openly comment on each other’s bodies while introducing themselves.
Over this side of the world, the pedestal of physical ‘perfection’ is a relatively recent phenomenon. We’re only just ‘catching up’, or ‘regressing’, depending on your point of view. This has, arguably, led to a surge in what could be coined drive-through cosmetic surgery with certain outlets in the UK and Ireland now offering ‘Love Island Packages’. The fact that ‘Aesthetic Clinic’ Therapie is the show’s Irish sponsor is unsurprising.
But let’s face facts. Brand Love Island isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so let’s set the aspersions aside and look at some potential positives. Taking it at face value (not literally), it is the perfect storm of viewing entertainment. It’s bubblegum for the eyes and a bona fide way of shutting down your brain of an evening. If the teen in your life is addicted to it, watch it alongside them. Cringing aside, it’s the perfect conduit to help tackle tricky topics such as sex, relationships, body image, bullying and insecurity.
With that in mind, you could prepare yourselves for the inevitable onslaught of Love Island 2019 by viewing Love Island Australia.
The show’s narrator, Eoghan McDermott, has been deemed “likeable” and “self-effacing” by viewers. Okay, so he may not utter such immortal lines as Iain Sterling’s “I have a birthmark on my left buttock shaped like Denmark” — and you’re not guaranteed such uniquely British comments as “me fanny’s just fluttered” — you will be treated to Kristen Johnston’s Australian equivalent as host (that being Sophie Monk), a very emotional “kangatarian” model (Justin), and way more punch-ups than necessary...