The Love Island Phenomenon

How a reality TV show has become imbedded in the nation’s conversations

The BAFTA winning reboot of a failed celebrity dating show has now become ITV’s most watched show ever, attracting over 3 million viewers. Also, a successful export for ITV to countries such as Australia, Holland and Greece, the show is now on air somewhere around the world every single day until Christmas. More people even applied to Love Island than Oxbridge this year. So what is it that truly puts this show in a league of its own?

For starters, the format – a familiar type of show with a modern twist – makes it instantly appealing. People are flooded with the selection of dating and relationship shows currently on TV, Love Island of course falling into this category. However, whilst every episode may end on a cliffhanger like a soap opera, the real stars of the show are the producers.

The producers are of course vicious, as in every reality show, ruthlessly exploiting any conversation in order to engage viewers. But it is their relationship with the audience that I think truly sets the show apart from others – viewers, as with most shows, create memes and other content off the back of the show on social media, and the producers then actually use this to their advantage, forensically analyzing what viewers say about contestants to feed into what they do next. Everything is finetuned in real time to the desires of the viewers.

On the other hand, of course the viewers also play a key part in its success – you have to be invested in the contestants’ stories to tune in night after night for 8 weeks. Of course, there’s something about tuning into all the petty drama after a long day that is really relaxing. Yet, one of the show’s greatest and most simple successes comes from tapping into a universal interest at the heart of its target audience – we love a love story, particularly one that unfolds right in front of us.

Can we figure out someone’s game plan, chart their relationships and watch a fairytale ending? If yes, we feel satisfied. If not, well, it’s only trash TV.

Katie V