Hey kids! (spelling is fun!) (sorry)
So I just thought I should get you right up to speed with a l’il British show you’ll no doubt have seen/heard a lot about if you’re on Twitter/the internet.
It’s called Love Island.
Its fourth series started at the beginning of the month.
There’s a lot that’s wrong with it. And you know – I really enjoy watching it?
Here’s the premise: a group of good-looking single guys and gals head to a beautiful island villa, and then they couple up. That’s basically it. Over the course of two months, they take part in various challenges, split up, get back together, or get together with new people, or end up getting kicked off the show.
The winners are the couple who the viewers like best. They get £50,000 and probably a spin-off show.
Now there are obviously a lot of problems with this format. Let’s start with the aforementioned “good-looking” folk. Because obviously, whilst your idea of beautiful is going to be different to mine, we all know that there is, shall we say, a “standard” beauty ideal – and producers have thus far picked a fairly identikit run of contestants. Here’s last year’s line-up:
Aaaaaand some of this year’s:
D’ya get me? They’re all relatively skinny, and conventionally attractive, is what I’m saying. And many say that fuels body image issues. (By the way, the woman above in red is apparently the “plus size” contestant this year…)
That’s before we get onto the race question. The show has – rightly – been criticised in the past for being pretty white. This year they have taken steps to address that, although I recently read this on that subject, and I think she makes a lot of strong points.
We also have to look at the way contestants are treated after the show. There’s been a lot of publicity surrounding the fact that two former participants have, very very sadly, taken their own lives after their appearances. As a result, the show’s bosses have put more aftercare in place. I hope that it will go some way towards helping people. As part of my job (full disclosure: in television), I have been on the receiving end of a very tiny bit of the internet’s vitriol. Even that was horrible (death threats are no fun! Who knew?), so I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be getting things like that and be in the public eye – and very probably having to try to return to your normal life.
That’s the criticisms out the way. They’re valid. They are. I know.
But – whilst all of that is important, there’s also a lot of people commenting on the show who’ve never seen it. I won’t stand for that. Watch an episode. Watch two. Then you have the right to say it’s whatever you think it is. And don’t be a snob (that article is SPOT ON)
Thing is, there’s also a lot that’s very clever about this programme. It’s a very simple premise. Their casting producers, and story producers, are bloody good at their jobs. Just when things get dull or comfortable, they’ll drop in a new participant, or a new challenge (the one where the couples have to look after one of those “real life” babies that cries etc, is always a belter), and set the cat amongst the pigeons.
For a summer, you get hooked in the narrative, the shared experience. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. It’s escapism for a few months. It’s bonding with strangers online over something mad that’s just happened. It’s asking really important questions about love and friendship, and what we think is acceptable in relationships. It can be really funny, or really touching. It’s got two great presenters in Caroline Flack and Iain Stirling. It’s trash but that’s OK!
A lot of rumours suggest a US version is in the works, which I am sure it is, but you should stick with your British cousins for a little longer. You know how good at trash we are.