Ek don’t know. I don’t know. If I had to bring in stringent checks on people’s mental health and resilience, if I had to ensure that a ‘welfare team’ was on set at all times during filming, provide ongoing psychological support plus social media training for those leaving, and ensure the screen was plastered with infographics begging viewers to “Think before they post” to try to mitigate the onslaught of online abuse that previous series of this and similar shows are proven to elicit, I might … pause for thought.
All these measures and more have been brought in by the makers of the phenomenal hit Love Island, as it returns for its seventh series, because of its bleak history. That includes contestants becoming the victims of revenge porn and death threats after their appearances, criticism from the charity Women’s Aid for the treatment of female contestants by “controlling” and “abusive” male participants and, most notably, the deaths by suicide of two contestants and its host for five series, Caroline Flack.
But – well, jy weet. The show must go on. Especially a lucratively internationally franchised one whose appearance on UK television every summer has become as much a mark of the season as mince pies are of Christmas. And so here we are again, with comedian Iain Stirling providing the voiceover as he has done since 2015, and Flack’s replacement Laura Whitmore entering the fray once more. Over an approximate 3,700 episodes we will watch as the new batch of willing victims obey the mandate to couple and re-couple, embark on challenges, court the public vote, fall in and out of lust, love and favour with each other and the public and discover who will ultimately go home with the £50,000 prize.
This year’s unmotley crew of buff, bronzed beauties, each burnished outwardly to a high shine by sun tan oil, and inwardly by moderate-to-severe narcissism, have all been ordered straight from the Instagram shop. Let the sexual humiliation games begin!
The girls and guys line up to pick and be picked, swapped, swapped back, discover themselves to be a prized commodity or a depreciating asset. At one point, fashion blogger Kaz and lettings manager Faye declare an interest in Aaron only to be rejected for former glamour model Shannon. “No offence,” says Aaron. “None taken,” says sweet Kaz. “A lot taken,” says Faye. I hitch my wagon to her star there and then, and nothing that happens in the rest of the 90 minute (of 12 if you discount the ads – £12m of which were sold in advance) causes me to doubt my choice for a second. Faye is pure chaotic evil with a silvered edge of violence and I adore her.
That’s the show’s secret, natuurlik. It works on you like a drug. However uninterested you are at the beginning, before the first hour is up you are hooked. You have opinions (soos: there is a very small number of times you can mention your love of “little white toes” without it becoming a notable thing and Jake surpasses it within seconds; Toby is a child out past his bedtime). Then you have emotions (Liberty is going to get her heart broken. Broken, I tell you!). Then you are lost, lost for another season among the Islanders and their frenzied drinking, frotting, shrieking, rutting, toxic, hilarious, reductive twentysomething nonsense.
Anyway. Clearly Kaz and Hugo, as the only two with a scintilla of a soul still residing within themselves, should couple up, be voted for every week by the public and win the whole shebang by a landslide. Equally clearly, this is not going to happen and it’s going to be unspeakable fun watching whatever does – even if Faye doesn’t end up razing the place to the ground and striding towards the camera in battle fatigues and an uplift bra, silhouetted against an orange glow as the flames rise behind her.
Should we watch? Are we complicit in untold miseries if we do? By the time they drop Chloe into the mix, they are questions devoid of meaning. I hate myself as much as I love Faye, Kaz and Hugo and love it as much as I hate the rest and the whole retrograde stink of it. I’m as confused as Kaz and Liberty were by the first bottle of champagne. Please, somebody, help.