Melanie Finn: The villa has been spruced up, but ‘Love Island’ may struggle to romance us again

Laura Whitmore

Contestants from the upcoming season of Love Island. Photo: ITV

Maura Higgins, who finished fourth on the fifth series of Love Island in 2019

Love Island 2021 winners Millie and Liam

Irish Love Island contestant Dami Hope

Melanie Finn

THE reality show Love Island has returned for its eighth series and, rest assured, it will dominate many of the tabloid headlines for weeks to come.

However, producers of the hit programme may have an uphill battle on their hands when it comes to getting discerning viewers to fall in love with the dating show again.

In the fickle world of reality TV, absence does not make the heart grow fonder and the programme has consistently seen a slide in viewership over the past few years, for a myriad of reasons.

When it returned last summer after an 18-month-long hiatus, it struggled to reach previous levels of popularity. While some 2.8 million tuned in to see Liam Reardon and Millie Court crowned the winners in the final show, this was down from an average of 3.4 million who watched the 2019 series, the last one before the pandemic.

The Indo Daily: It is what it is - why do so many of us love Love Island?

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And lest we forget, the last two years have brought about huge changes in the way viewers consume entertainment.

The days of appointment TV are numbered, and many people ditched their terrestrial shows during the pandemic in favour of the multiple streaming services competing for your cash and your attention span. The appeal of binge-watching your favourite show at a time that suits you is undeniable.

A TV show has to be exceptionally good or particularly riveting to compel someone to sit down at the same time every night just to get their daily fix, especially in such a competitive market.

And unlike some shows that you can watch later on playback or online, it’s hard to do that with Love Island, thanks to the multiple spoilers on social media.

Didn’t the show also start to feel a little dated?

In an effort to move with the times in 2022, the show has ditched its fast-fashion partners in favour of featuring pre-loved items from eBay, with islanders getting to welcome suitcases filled with clothes.

But the way that some of the guys have objectified and spoken about the female contestants has left a lot to be desired. The star of the 2019 series, Maura Higgins, won plaudits for calling out Tom Walker for telling the other lads that he’ll see if she’s “all mouth” after she won the chance to spend the night with him in the hideaway.

Maura Higgins, who finished fourth on the fifth series of Love Island in 2019

Seeing some of the mental-health struggles the contestants go through on the show after being rejected by a possible love interest can make for uncomfortable viewing. That’s without mentioning the potential for trolling on social media, both during and after the show.

There’s very little physical diversity and people of colour among the participants, who all boast perfectly-tanned and toned physiques, and teeth so bright you’d see them from space.

The show has also felt very rehearsed in recent years. It has spawned a plethora of catchphrases like ‘muggy’ and ‘melt’.

The contestants have all watched the show previously, they are familiar with the format and for many, it’s not about ‘finding love’ or even a connection, but clocking up as many social media followers as they can.

However, on the flip side, the last two years have seen the media landscape dominated by a very serious news agenda. People may well be craving some light entertainment and pure escapism.

For anyone who can’t bear the thought of spending five hours queuing at Dublin Airport for a three-hour flight to the sun, this could be the next best thing – and you don’t even have to leave your couch.

Depending on the mixture of contestants, which includes Dublin microbiologist Dami Hope (26), the show can spawn some moments of TV gold and hilarity. This year’s batch of singletons features, thankfully, fewer ‘influencers’, personal trainers and models. Professions range from a waitress to a paramedic and even a fishmonger.

Irish Love Island contestant Dami Hope

There’s a brand new villa in Majorca, which producers say has gone through a “glow-up”. They have ditched the food-eating challenges and viewers may well see more intimate scenes than in previous years.

Fans of the show will get the chance to pick the first batch of couples themselves by voting on the Love Island app as they have a more direct input into possible romances and a higher level of engagement.

The controversial ‘Casa Amor’ may also be given the heave-ho as producers tweak the show’s format according to viewers’ reactions.

One thing is for certain though – controversy, courting and cabin fever will fill a void as the television schedule lurches into the summer silly season. But whether the latest batch of Love Islanders can romance a new generation of fans will remain to be seen.

Love Island starts on Virgin Media Two tonight at 9pm

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