With Game of Thrones just a few days away, it’s strange that the HBO powerhouse isn’t the show clogging our Facebook feeds. From Stormzy to Corbyn, Love Island has permeated British culture and had millions, from all walks of life, captivated for weeks. But how has what appears to be another run of the mill reality TV show managed to become such a huge sensation?

I was sceptical at first. I’ve hated reality shows for some time now, and not just because I find them to be trashy and cheap or because they generally star egotistical, fame hungry morons. It seems as if British reality shows have been steadily declining in quality for years, descending from guilty pleasure to putrid mess; this is reflected in increasingly poor viewing figures. The shows that remain often rely on embarrassingly cringey gimmicks to stay relevant among their big-name America counterparts. But, these gimmicks are too dumb for even the British public to swallow (for the most part).

“My initial reaction was one of disappointment.”

But I was assured Love Island was an exception, those who watched it last year recommended it with such conviction that I had to at least give it a try. And honestly, my initial reaction was one of disappointment. Bloated, narcissistic and lacking any real substance, Love Island ticked all the boxes on the shit reality show checklist. But 6 weeks on and I am unashamedly tuned in to ITV2 every night at nine to catch up on the happenings in the Villa.

“Along the way there’s backstabbing, tactics and plenty of sauciness.”

For those of you who don’t know, the show’s premise is fairly straight forward; a group of singletons are put in a Majorcan villa with the hope of finding love. The best couples remain in the villa for longer, with the nation’s favourite winning £50,000 at the end of the show. Along the way there’s backstabbing, tactics and plenty of sauciness. Think Big Brother abroad.
So what makes Love Island different? Why does it attract so many, like myself, who aren’t your typical reality show fans? Let’s start with the contestants, who on face value are all self-entitled rejects from the likes of TOWIE or Geordie Shore, unrealistically attractive and lacking any real personality beyond stereotypical lad culture (it doesn’t help that half of them are self-proclaimed “social media influencers”). But this simply isn’t the case. The characters in the show are incredibly endearing and relatable, despite the absurdity of some of the things they say and do. They’re lovable, whilst retaining that pantomime quality we associate with reality tv. Yes, the show has its heroes and villains but they seem at least somewhat grounded when compared to the stars of similar shows. The contestants’ personalities are enough to carry the show without the need for gimmicks. The occasional challenges that do feature on the show generally feel like a bit of a silly break from the drama rather than the awkward forced fun that we’re used to.

I asked students what they thought made the show so popular:

“We all like to switch off and watch trash every now and then, but it’s at least classy trash.” – Antonia (1st year Journalism)

“I think secretly we’re all just nosey bastards, and the British are the nosiest people going.” – Lewis (3rd year Business Management)

“You see these kinds of people out and about but you don’t know what they actually talk about. The show gives you an insight into they’re really like.” – Luke (4th year Chemistry)

“It’s a combination of all the best bits of other reality shows, but cuts out all the parts we dislike as viewers.” – Jess (2nd year English student)

No matter what your opinions on the show, it looks like Love Island has gained enough steam to guarantee it will have at least a couple more seasons (or a winter spin off set in an Alpen lodge, calling it now).

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