If We’re Going To Watch Love Island Next Year, Here’s What Needs To Change

Viewers are saying that the show’s winning formula is beginning to get a little repetitive — what should the producers do to shake it up next year?

Love Island winners

by Rose Stokes |
Updated on

Love Island has become an anchor of our annual television calendar over the six years since its inception. According to ITV data, 3.2 million viewers tuned in for last night’s final, which saw Liam Reardon and Millie Court take the crown. It has been the stand-out TV show success during the period it has been on air this year, beating BBC2, Channel 5, and Channel 4 (although this doesn’t include Gogglebox) for all audiences, every night at 9pm throughout its run, excluding Saturday nights (when it doesn’t run). TLDR; we all like Love Island a lot, OK?

When it comes to exactly why this is, particularly this year, the answer tends to be: you know what you’re getting with Love Island. From season to season, the show rarely changes even the smallest detail, whether that be the type of people they cast, the ‘twists’ they introduce, the dates they send islanders off on or even the challenges. In any other long-running reality TV competition, this would be unheard of — remember all of the twists and turns Big Brother used to take us on? And yet with Love Island, there’s something comforting in this predictability. You know that in week four or five, the boys and girls will be split, and couples tested in Casa Amor. You know that ‘bombshell’ contestants will land just as soon as a semblance of ‘peace’ arrives. You know that someone is going on a final date on a boat, or with awkward dancers in the background and lots of roses. You know that the winners will tend to be ‘original’ or at the very least early cast members. And you know, ultimately, that the islanders will look a certain way, act a certain way, and all leave the villa to a roaring Instagram crowd and partnership deals with Boohoo and I Saw It First.

In a year like the one we’ve just had, maybe it’s for the best. After all, the last thing anyone wants is another excuse to use the word ‘unprecedented’. And yet, after the winners were announced in last night’s finale, many people took to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction with the result and swear they wouldn’t be tuning in next year, prompted by host Laura Whitmore’s reminder that applications for the subsequent series are now open. And despite the show’s success in viewing figures — which will have at least in part been influenced by the fact many of us have been unable to leave the country for holidays this summer — the show received a record-breaking 30,000 Ofcom complaints this year. “We need to boycott Love Island they do not deserve views after this series,” one fan wrote. “I don’t see myself watching next year,” wrote another.

So what would it take for the show to recapture the imagination of these people? What simple things could they do to shake things up? And what tired features of the show’s format would viewers not miss if they didn’t return?

More diversity please!

It’s not a new complaint, and is one that the producers of Love Island have tried to address over the years after previously using the excuse that the lack of diversity was because they wanted the contestants “to be attracted to one another.” Oops. The word “diversity” is quite a blunt instrument these days due to overuse, so let’s get specific. This would mean: more ethnic diversity, and non-white cast members being afforded the same airtime — this would also mean picking contestants whose “type” isn’t simply “blonde and petite”. This extends to the body shape and size of contestants, which is far from representative of the country as a whole, and makes little sense given that — as a plus-size person — I can confirm that plenty of people have wanted to date and have sex with me over the years. It’s a myth that only thin people are attractive.

This would take some work, because as Jada Sezer, a plus-size model, has rightly pointed out, any non-skinny contestant would be likely to become subject to intense body shaming online. As well as working closely with the social media platforms to find ways to address this, producers could actually bring people on the show who specify that they are attracted to curvier bodies — and put a range of different body types in the villa of both genders, as well as islanders who aren’t able bodied.

Another highly contentious aspect of the show is its lack of diversity when it comes to sexuality and gender, which the show’s bosses came under fire for referring to as “logistically difficult”. Despite some stand out islanders like fan fave Megan Barton Hanson, there has been a lack of even bisexual or pansexual contestants to date, despite the fact that this wouldn’t require any changes to the current format, really, as long as there were other people who would be attracted to them in the villa. So, like, other non-heterosexual people. In terms of the impact that any of these changes could have on the show’s relevance to its audience — as well as its ability to use its influence to drive positive representation in wider society — the potential could be huge.

For the love of god please come up with some new date ideas

Picnic in a field or chocolate fondue by a sunset? Been there, done that. What about binge-watching Netflix and eating Galaxy, like the rest of us? OK, it wouldn’t work but you get the idea. Be creative!

Ditto on formats

If I never again have to watch islanders dress up in tuxedos and dresses to speak pseudo wedding vows at the end of the show, I wouldn’t miss it, not one bit. And what about bringing in someone’s ex fling or at least letting the girls go to Casa Amor for once. The predictability is pretty boring by now.

Ditch the innuendo

Look, I know we’re a nation of prudes, but my god, if I hear sex being referred to as an NVQ or as an extended football metaphor one more time I’ll scream. We are all grown-ups and this show happens after the watershed. And even so, what’s so wrong with talking about S E X. There, I said it. It’s a small point, but actually shows with huge platforms like this around sex and dating have an outsized influence on society, and can help people to change the way they think on certain subjects. The pervasive shame we all carry around something as natural as sex between two people is pretty damaging, and normalising talking openly about what you want and need in that context would actually be pretty cool.

Equal airtime for everyone

It’s been said before but it’s really the producers who decide who wins the show, by how they edit the footage and who they focus on. This means the process isn’t truly democratic, often making the results painfully predictable.

Give islanders a yellow card system for unacceptable behaviour — and be transparent with the audience

After Faye’s much-complained about screaming match against Teddy and Jake, and Danny’s possessive behaviour this season, it’s safe to say that the producers not only need to be more hands on with how they’re looking after contestants’ wellbeing — but need to take a strong line on what is or isn’t acceptable. Otherwise they risk feeding wider social habits that lead to the mistreatment of people in relationships of all genders.

Make friendship couples an option

Look I’m still not over Liberty and Kaz not being crowned as winners, OK?


Who Cares About The Result, We All Know Liberty And Kaz Are The True Winners Of Love Island

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