This article is part of Live, Laugh, Love Island, a series of pieces gearing up to Love Island’s long awaited summer 2021 return.
Hear ye, hear ye: Love Island is back, back, back again, ready to ruin your social life and encourage you to stay inside when everyone you know is out having fun, and form extremely strong parasocial bonds with people whose only job seems to be “going to the gym”. Nature is healing, and so on and so on.
Since 2015, Love Island has become the biggest phenomenon on UK screens, but most viewers would agree that it has a deeply flawed format. It’s fairly universally acknowledged that the break from ITV’s biggest money spinner – enforced by the pandemic – was a good thing, and concerns about the show have ranged from the extremely serious (for example, it has been criticised rightfully in the past for not providing contestants with appropriate mental health aftercare, though to the show’s credit it has since tried to address this) to the banal (why did they start cutting out footage of the Islanders smoking?).
As such, as long-suffering viewers and commentators of the show, we thought we’d offer some suggestions for improvement, both serious and fantastical. ITV: If you’re reading and you’d like to implement any of the above, we’ll require a large upfront fee, plus royalties. Here’s what Love Island would look like in an ideal world.
LET QUEER PEOPLE COMPETE
ITV recently stated that including non-heterosexual relationships on Love Island would present a “logistical difficulty.” This was obviously terrible phrasing, and also presents a bit of a missed opportunity. While I do believe on one hand it’s true that heterosexuality is a disease and as such it should be allowed to bury itself on television via the medium of Love Island as it does every year (I say this as a person of long-term heterosexual relationship experience), I do also think that in the interests of both fairness and maximum entertainment, people of all sexualities should be allowed to compete.
Imagine, if you will, the pure chaos of an all-bisexual cast? Or the nice change it would make to do a few seasons where gay and lesbian contestants were featured instead of straight ones? It could only be a good thing: The show’s audience of young people would be on board, and, probably, more people from communities which may previously have felt alienated from the show would watch! In the wise words of Billy Ray Cyrus: “Much to think about.”
BRING BACK SMOKING
This is the single most significant change the Love Island programme makers could make for the general quality of the content of the show. Do you remember the halcyon days of series three when “the fire pit” was the axis around which all of the villa drama occurred, the Islanders like celestial bodies orbiting its magnetic pull? The smoking bench was a place to bitch and a place to ruminate; a place to cackle and a place to have a meltdown because a fireman from Hull doesn’t fancy you (plus anything anyone says at any moment feels about 700 percent funnier when it’s uttered as they wave a cig about).
So ITV must be implored here: please bring it back. Whether or not Love Island contestants smoke will have no bearing on whether or not viewers smoke – do not patronise us – because everyone already knows that smoking is cool. Just give us back the cigs.
PUT OLD ISLANDERS IN
TV loves a returning character – see: Dale Cooper finally “waking up” and bellowing “I AM THE FBI” in Twin Peaks: The Return, or Janine Butcher strutting back to Albert Square – and reality TV is missing a trick by simply passing former contestants around shows like Celebs Go Dating and Ex On The Beach.
Love Island is primed for the reprisal of an iconic role, here and there. For example: rather than chucking in a dozen completely new faces for Casa Amor, most of whom will packing their suitcases again in a few days to spend the rest of their twenties promoting protein shakes and cryptocurrency to 96,000 Instagram followers, why not throw in a few spicy meatballs from seasons past? Imagine the scenes if, for example, someone got up to make the traditional villa breakfast of “unseasoned avocado pressed into bread” and Maura was sat by the pool. A concept.
LET THEM DRINK MORE
As it stands, the Islanders are only allowed one drink a night, as per received wisdom about how the show works. Imagine what we could have if you increased that to two or three. Just a thought.
VIEWERS: DON’T SAY HORRIBLE SHIT ABOUT PEOPLE’S APPEARANCES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
I think that viewers should understand at this point that reality TV is a bit of a two way street, and that people on TV can see the shit we say on Twitter. There’s an extent to which, if people have volunteered to “crack on” – as the time-honoured, wall-stickered parlance goes – on in public, they should expect their behaviour to be discussed publicly, and if they behave poorly, that’s fair game too (though it’s important to remember there’s an edit in play!). But do we really need to be tweeting incessantly about someone’s body or their teeth or whatever? Maybe not!
EQUALLY: NO MORE TASKS BASED ON TWITTER
If there is one lesson we can take from the 2010s, it’s that entertainment and general decision-making does not thrive on input from the British public. There’s plenty of paranoia and bad opinions flying around the villa as it is without reading out a tweet from @sazza_92 calling someone a two-faced bitch. Take a leaf out of the early-00s reality TV playbook and send them on work experience somewhere inappropriate to see how they problem solve as a couple, then we’ll see who’s cut out for showbiz.
STOP AIRING ‘WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT’ CONVERSATIONS THAT PEOPLE HAVE BLATANTLY BEEN ASKED TO HAVE WHEN THERE IS BANTER GOING ON ELSEWHERE IN THE VILLA!!
The show has gotten increasingly worse for this over the last few seasons, and if the intention is to make me feel like I’m on the worst date in the world in a bar full of people having a laugh, then they’ve done a really good job of it.
The emphasis of “reality dating show” should be on show, not “reality dating”. I’m here to be entertained, honey – if there’s laughter booming out of my TV but I can’t see who it’s coming from or what it’s about then you’re doing TV wrong. By all means give us the shots taken and the tearful confessions and the stolen kisses, but if I wanted to see heterosexual awkwardness play out in mind-numbing detail I’d simply go to Slug & Lettuce on a Wednesday.
NO MORE BABY TASK
The only babies I want to hear shrieking on Love Island are 27-year-old men with boat shoes and undeveloped personalities (“chaldish”), and that’s quite enough to deal with thank you. Grateful as we all are to be able to slurp Dark Fruits out of a Love Island-branded sippy cup, tenuously linked to the baby challenge, the entire concept arguably began and ended with “Cash Hughes”.
REPLACE THE ENDING ‘PROM’ WITH A TOTAL WIPEOUT STYLE COMPETITION
It makes no sense that this isn’t the case after two months of physical challenges. Making an influencer and a personal trainer get knocked down by one of those big, swinging foam arms a few times is a true test of romance – and the TV we deserve.