Screenshot: BBC Three
Nothing dries me up faster than the phrase “these sexy singles are looking for love!”. I’m not naming names, but you know what I mean. A drone shot of a luxury villa, slow-pan VTs of usually-white-but-extremely-tanned men and women in bikinis with chiselled abs, and that narration. I mean, fuck yeah, I’ll watch whatever show it is. But is it sexy? No. And it’s getting worse. Dating shows use sex to market themselves, but quake from talking about the deed in any meaningful way. Too Hot to Handle literally uses financially-incentivised celibacy as a concept, MILF Manor is transparent Freudian gross-out content, and on Love Island, sex scenes are now so rare that the sight of feet twitching underneath the bedsheets is about as raunchy as it gets. It is a show about competitive monogamy, after all.
Which is where BBC Three’s I Kissed A Boy comes in. If you’ve not seen it, the synopsis is: Basically a gay rip-off of Love Island except the Spanish villa is an Italian masseria, they ceremoniously make out with their desired lad instead of “coupling up” around a fire pit, and it’s only eight episodes long, instead of 50+. In theory, there should be no reason why this is saucier than its predecessors. But it is, because queer people – trust me, I am one – are sexy. The show’s already made waves – there’s already a National Television Award nomination in the bag – even though there’s still two more episodes to drop this Sunday and a reunion special in the works. But dinner party drama aside, a lot of the word of mouth enthusiasm for I Kissed a Boy is down to its endeavour to make reality TV dating shows, well, horny again. Here’s how they did it, and what other villa programmes could learn.
I’m not being funny but why does ITV keep casting really mid guys for Love Island, especially for Casa Amor?. There’s nothing wrong with being mid obviously, but watching the most gorgeous girls you’ve ever seen in your life crying over semi-professional footballers who look like Lego men is horrible. Which stag do venue in Shoreditch did you source these guys from, ITV? This is what happens when you cast people for their torsos, not their face. This is not the female gaze!
1) Cast people who are genuinely attractive
Compare that to the first six minutes of I Kissed a Boy, which introduced us to Gareth, Subomi, Ben, and my personal favourite, Ollie. I mean, WTF. Is this what it was like when women fell in love with George Michael? Ollie’s arse-less leather chaps on Pride Night? With the red AIDS awareness ribbon? Delightful. Maybe I Kissed a Boy succeeds because the casting has some race and body diversity, with people’s style expressing a crumb of genuine personality, as opposed to a bunch of identikit fuckboys who only look good in swim trunks.
The participants of I Kissed a Boy are pre-matched, then make out with their partner as soon as they arrive at the masseria. This whole process can sometimes take upwards of a week on Love Island. Thank god IKAB have cut out the bullshit so we can make a sofa judgement instantaneously of whether they’ll stay together or not.
2) Don’t waste time on the preliminaries
I don’t know how to explain it, but the snogs on Love Island give me such a horrible empty feeling inside. I think it’s the silence followed by incredibly loud, wet slurping into the mic. And the acoustic soundtrack. The complete lack of good chat. It makes me want to cry.Compare the above to:
3) Make the kissing hot
I do acknowledge that the women who go on Love Island and other shows are probably a lot more understandably fearful of slut shaming than the lads on I Kissed a Boy, and that’s sad. We should all feel empowered to admit to being given head in a cow field on TV without worrying we’ll be stripped of a Miss GB title.
But still: Two lads with moustaches absolutely going at it on each other’s tonsils, pushing each other against the outdoor bathroom wall. The tongues. The hands. This is a fantasy you can get behind, not watch through your fingers. And thank you, BBC Three, for turning off their mics.
4) Openly discuss sex
As a BBC production, I thought this would be a pleasant rainbow fest but would skirt around the details of actual gay sex, but the boys surprised me with an opening night discussion identifying the tops and bottoms in the group. Later, Ollie admitted to shagging over 400 people (legend) which no one judged him for (supportive queens) and greeted a new boy in the villa by asking if they’d met cruising (cheeky!). Vitor said he was looking for a guy to rock his “kinky little world” after dating a 55-year-old man. Then Ross gave us a full guide to douching. We’ve not heard about PreP yet but soon come, fingers crossed.If I can be sincere for a sec: This is absolutely radical. While British society may be slowly coming round to the idea of queer relationships, accepting the sexuality that comes with us has been a much slower process. You can love who you want and everything but you can’t rely on your PSHE teacher to explain the ins and outs of anal lube. Luckily I Kissed a Boy is picking up the slack.
Earlier this year, Maya Jama made a total of five appearances on winter Love Island, excluding hosting Aftersun. By comparison, committed ally Dannii Minogue has appeared in every episode of I Kissed a Boy so far. She literally came to work!
5) Give your host actual airtime
On the one hand, these boys are absolutely savage. Vibes aren’t there? They just tell them to their face and the whole fiasco is wrapped in 20 minutes. But isn’t it better this way? Statistically, meeting someone in a villa – sorry, masseria – you can instantly click and maintain a spark with for eight weeks of constantly being around them is unlikely. That’s the advantage of a fast-paced reality show – they don’t need to long it out just to make an impact. Romantic drama doesn’t need to be exploited for four episodes worth of conflict. Learning how to respectfully reject someone is a skill we must all learn, and I applaud these boys for educating the nation on how to do it. I Kissed a Boy airs on BBC Three 9pm on Sunday.