The dating show “Love Island” is an obsession in England, with 3.6 million viewers tuning in for last week’s Season 4 finale. Hulu is now streaming that season, along with the earlier cycles, and viewers (and the media) are buzzing about the show. There’s even widespread talk of a U.S. version.
The premise is very “Bachelor in Paradise”: Five guys and five gals arrive at a villa on the Spanish island of Mallorca and pair up. The women parade in butt-baring bikinis. The men show off their abs and other self-improvement efforts. Jack bought his prenaturally white teeth in Turkey. Niall had his jug ears surgically pinned back.
The cast is mainly white, but there is a bit of diversity and perhaps a bit of racism as well. Samira, a perfectly lovely black woman, says she’s a dancer and is asked, “Can you twerk?” No man picks her in the first round. Then again, the girls don’t fancy Alex, a Caucasian doctor whose reserved manner prompts one contestant to wish she could stick a firecracker up his ass.
The couples share beds (sometimes platonically, sometimes not). Newcomers stop by, the singletons swap partners, rejectees are kicked off. The public votes for its favorite couple, which wins 50,000 pounds — about $65,000.
Why is this formulaic show a smash? The Economist opines that, for U.K. viewers, the fact that the contestants aren’t all from London is key, as “it looks like a Britain in which most people live.”
American viewers don’t care where the Love Islanders are from. But perhaps we are attracted by the Britishness of it all. In a Harry Potter shout-out, ejectees are #muggledoff. Dani the barmaid declaims, “Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo?” — although I assume she knows things didn’t turn out so well for Juliet and her swain. And when male model Eyal says, “Something didn’t go quite to plan,” isn’t that nicer than, “I messed up”?
In addition to the elevated language, the show set behavioral standards for its 2018 cycle, including no drunken sex.
So maybe that’s why “Love Island” is a hit on both sides of the pond: It’s a TV dating show that manages to be trashy, yet a tad classy!