If you’re already a regular viewer, I salute you. If you’ve yet to be converted, sit back and allow me to convince you why you really should – nay, really must watch Love Island. You’ve probably heard snippets of conversation by the water cooler at work or in the line at the supermarket about boys being girls’ “type on paper,” about housemates “catching feelings,” or unsuspecting females being “sucked into the dicksand.”
No? Well, you must not live in the UK. If you did, you would have overheard your neighbors waxing lyrical about Camilla being the people’s princess and Marcel being simply the greatest man that ever lived.
But if you’ve yet to grasp the premise of the program, let me quickly summarize. Love Island is basically like the best episode of Big Brother (circa summer 2002) with a hint of First Dates and a splash of Take Me Out, except everyone’s exceptionally good-looking (read: a “model”/dancer/influencer/promo girl/personal trainer) and obscenely self-confident. They often talk about how much they “back themselves” – but more on that, or rather Chris (whose penis can touch the bottom of a pint glass), later. These beautiful people, housed in a state-of-the-art villa (read: student dorm with fluoro furnishings) in Majorca must pair off, and the last couple standing wins 50,000 pounds as well as, presumably, a lifetime of detox tea and charcoal toothpaste endorsements #spon. Every few days, contestants are booted off the island, meaning lovers are brutally torn apart – but they’re soon replaced by more ridiculously ripped, ridiculously tanned males and more gorgeous girls weighed down by mountains of scraggedy extensions and lash glue. And so the re-coupling begins. (NB. There’s still time to apply for this series if you’re single and really ready to mingle.)
Hmm, so far, no real difference to the drunken frolics of, say, Bachelor In Paradise. So why has this seemingly inane show swept the nation, sparking quizzes, innumerable memes, and viewing parties in cities and towns across the UK? Well, first and foremost, the voyeurism of watching people date (particularly at an accelerated speed) makes for TV gold. You may shudder at the thought of witnessing your best mate trying to drunkenly chase the barman down the pub, but these guys are professional flirts and watching them “graft” is mind-blowing. Let’s take Kem for example, a hairdresser from Romford, with a blow dry to rival Barbra Streisand and one-liners punchier than Anthony Joshua’s right hook. He may not have the physical stats of a Calvin Klein model or an Olympic athlete (don't worry, they both just entered the villa) but he has the self-belief of Adonis himself, and watching him crack onto Amber, then Chyna, then back onto Amber has been a rollercoaster ride we never want to get off. But it’s not all bonking and bed-swapping. This series has seen some really tender scenes – I’ve cried three nights consecutively this week – one of which was when Kem gave Amber an infinity bracelet as a sign of his commitment, merely a week into their romance. It may have cost five bucks from a kiosk at Palma airport but it was a beautiful moment that will stay with me forever.
Despite a few minor glitches, Kem and Amber are one of the strongest couples in the house, rivaled by Marcel and Gabby (aka the future King and Queen of England), Olivia and Chris, Montana and Alex and… nope, that’s it. Jonny and Tyla are dead to me. It’s been a long and winding road to reach this point where almost everyone (soz Cam) is loved up, but in brief: Olivia was with nice-but-dim Sam but then she sacked off Sam because she got the ick, Chris came in and Olivia quickly drowned in his dicksand, in the interim Montana coupled up with Sam until she too got the ick and sacked him off but, just as things were bubbling along nicely for Olivia and Chris, in walked hunky-but-muggy Mike, who turned Olivia’s head and she almost drowned in his dicksand but was pulled back out by Chris and finally put all her eggs in one basket, Muggy Mike got the boot from the house with incredibly-hot-but-horrible Jess, who was supposedly madly in love with bone-dry Dom but rumor has it that Mike and Jess got a little carried away in the Holiday Inn on the way home. Meanwhile Montana spent the first month eating every snack in her path until pretty pinhead Alex walked in and whisked Our Mon off her feet. Marcel, similarly lacking in love and waiting patiently to Flip Reverse, was the most amazing agony aunt to everyone in the house (someone give the man an OBE) and then thankfully fell for Gabby as soon as she arrived. Apart from telling Gabby he loves her too often, the man is truly flawless. If there’s not a public holiday on the day they wed, I'll start a riot.
And finally Camilla. Now, Camilla is an intriguing housemate and no one has yet worked out how she came to be on the show. Perhaps something went awry at the post office and her application for Antiques Roadshow got mixed up, she accidentally ended up in the villa and was too polite to say anything to the producers. Camilla works in explosive ordinance disposal (eh?) and is one of the most well-mannered, timid and moral individuals you’ll ever meet, so while all the others are swapping bodily fluids and catching feelings, Camilla is quietly straightening her hair to within an inch of its life or crying into her porridge in the pantry. Camilla’s had a bloody tough time in the house (Jonny and Professor Green, I’m coming for you) and the nation will be waiting at the airport to welcome her into our bosom when she finally leaves the island. Quite frankly, there’s more chance of Sam becoming prime minister than Cam coupling up and winning the show but her serenity and saintliness have been the necessary antidote to all the others’ repugnant behavior.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that Love Island is a thought-provoking and revelatory study of the human condition and social issues. But I will say that watching gorgeous people burst balloons with their buttocks, pole dance and drink smoothies from one another’s mouths is more intellectual than it sounds. Seeing these contestants “lose their heads” and forget the cameras see everything, manipulate each other's words, form loyal bonds and even fierier feuds is both an interesting insight into relationships and, more importantly, the levity and lols we need in turbulent times. In an era where we all binge-watch series solipsistically and consume media at our own speed, having a TV show that is on every evening at 9pm sharp, that we all watch in sync and dissect the next morning is a nostalgic bonding experience I’ll really miss come August.
And if you’re not interested in watching feet twitching under the sheets or Camilla apply the same wretched pair of false eyelashes for the 75th day in a row, watch Love Island for the dazzling fashion (I’m talking about Chris and Kem’s eye-wateringly tight white jeggings, Olivia’s crochet body con and Tyne-Lexy’s gold lamé), to boo and hiss every time amoral Jonny and Tyla come on screen, or for the scintillating conversation that will make you feel like you belong in Mensa. Who can forget when Chris and Kem masterfully used a chickpea dip as an analogy for Kem and Amber's romance: “He might have a bigger carrot, but my hummus smells better.” Indeed it does, Kem.
With a month still to go, I already feel like I know these guys better than my own friends and family and if I were single I’d probably have found a way into the villa to be on the show myself. So please don’t mug yourself off. Start watching tonight. I promise you won’t regret it.
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