Love Island's appeal explained... and why it's the perfect companion to the World Cup
It's the TV event of the summer, but what's all the fuss about? Bill Linnane explains Love Island's appeal - and why it's an ideal companion to the World Cup
It's the greatest tournament on the planet - we've waited and waited for it to come round and now here it is, even better than we could have anticipated.
We may not have a representative of our country at it, but we are all there in spirit, as this is about skill, determination, passion and the strength of the human spirit.
I speak of course of Love Island, the reality show that drop kicks a dozen failed eugenics experiments into a sunny Majorcan villa in a sort of Battle Royale where you have to shift your way to being last couple standing. The sole aim of the show is to get the young lovelies hooking up with each other and winning £50,000, or possibly just some notoriety, which in today's world of micro-celebrity is almost better than the prize money.
Who knows what commercial opportunities await the contestants after they leave the island - who will land that lucrative deal as the face of Canesten? Who will end up flogging off-brand vodka in the drinks aisle of their local Tesco? Who will be forced into shame-filled public appearances in nightclubs in hotspots like Manorhamilton or Fermoy?
Basically, all of them, because a fame based on embarrassment only lasts so long. Just ask Donegal's Bernard McHugh, who touched hearts when he went on Blind Date, and then went on to become a stripper, albeit a very Irish one who never took his trousers off.
Love Island, much like the World Cup, is one of the few things that will get the teens back watching terrestrial TV. The football is just like FIFA 18 only the players look less realistic in real life, while Love Island is like Call of Duty, only it's the call of booty that is being answered by the players on 3e.
Some would say that the idea of strategic, competitive romance on a reality TV game show is a further sign of the decline of western civilisation, but it really is no different to Les Liaisons Dangereuses: the cast of too-perfect, allegedly 20-somethings all try to seduce their way to becoming the perfect TV couple, winning hearts, minds and other organs, and hopefully then going on to win the public vote.
The reality show stretches back to 2005 when it began as Celebrity Love Island, but it was last year's series that catapulted the show into the spotlight. This year's edition has topped it, reaching 1.5 million viewers so far, with an additional 3.6 million catching up on 3Player.
It started last month when the strapping singletons first descended on the Majorcan villa. They were immediately forced to 'couple up', a rather alarming ritual whereby each girl must 'step forward' from the assembly to indicate their interest in the nominated boy, before the boy could choose whichever girl he liked for his mate.
They were then obliged to share a bed and engage in circular chats about what each other's 'type' is in an attempt to 'get to know one another', a process dubbed 'grafting' by the Islanders.
In the four weeks since the premiere - the show airs six nights a week, for an hour each night - various new contenders have dropped in, 'recoupled' and been ejected from the house, known only as 'The Villa'. There has been subterfuge, deception, manipulation and a lot of very tanned people telling each other they "really rate each other as people" when actually they mean to say they want to get freaky naughty.
In between all this are odd party games, like the one where they had to smash watermelons with their arses (a slow-motion montage that made VAR look like a functioning system), or challenges like the time they had to pass ingredients for cocktails through each others' mouths.
Anyone from a medical background watching the show - including unlucky-in-love contestant Dr Alex, an emergency doctor who you would hate to have dithering in the resuscitation room during an actual emergency) must be counting down the minutes until there is an outbreak of conjunctivitis or scabies. But part of what makes the show so watchable is just seeing how terribly awkward we are as a species.
These people are mostly great-looking, young, fit and healthy, and for the most part they are intelligent human beings.
However, the fact they are what we would consider to be 'perfect' people is in stark contrast to how bumbling they are when trying to mate. It's bliss to watch them fail and to feel better about yourself as a result.
Consider Adam Collard, who looks like a Greek god, yet here is his profile quote: "I would say I'm a 10 out of 10. Maybe a nine out of 10... I'm not good at washing the dishes." It's like if Bret Easton Ellis scripted an episode of EastEnders.
Despite, or perhaps partly thanks to, all this, Love Island has captured the hearts of its viewers, too. As well as sparking debates over the watercooler about the misadventures of 'Muggy Megan', last Sunday's episode prompted over 2,500 complaints to the UK's TV watchdog Ofcom. The episode saw the hunks shipped off to a neighbouring villa, the lustily titled 'Casa Amor', where they were met by another raft of babes, including one contestant's former flame. Said contestant, a charming pen salesman named Jack with a set of blindingly white teeth, has cultivated a relationship with Island favourite Dani Dyer - daughter of, yes, Danny Dyer.
Mischievous producers sent Dani footage of the exes coming face to face, suggesting her newly-christened 'boyfriend' was up to no good - when, in fact, he had chivalrously opted to sleep outside with the mosquitoes rather than share a bed with his ex.
Seeing Dani burst into floods of tears, viewers accused the show's producers of manipulation, emotional abuse and bullying. But don't fret - Jack has since proved he only has eyes for Dani, and the two are the favoured couple to take home the ultimate prize.
Love Island is the perfect companion piece to the World Cup: drained by all the intrigue, big name clashes and shameless overacting/fake crying on one channel? Why not tune into the exact same format on another? Enjoy knockouts (all of them), fit, tanned people running rings around each other (Megan's nimble dance around the blokes), spectacular own goals (Wes's series of unfortunate events), fouls (Dani being shown the footage of Jack's ex entering), maybe even some hand ball (all the various episodes of duvet twitching)? Then Love Island is the perfect place to find your comfort zone during those brief interludes when the footie isn't on.
Love Island airs on 3e at 9pm, Sunday to Friday