Love Island is back and I’m powerless to the pull of this muggy, melty TV gold

After weeks - nay, months - of anticipation, Love Island has landed. Here's what Frances Taylor made of the first episode

©ITV Plc

There was a small – OK, actually quite big – part of me that was all ready to pie off Love Island this year.

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The unprecedented anticipation and hype surrounding the fourth series of the ITV2 show was a tall order to meet. Last year’s series was so good, and was such a pocket of reality TV gold, that it felt as though conjuring up the same magic again would be nigh on impossible.

Therefore episode one had everything to live up to. It had to deliver a varied cast of heroes and villains, laugh-out-loud moments and cliffhangers. And boy, did it.

One by one the girls arrived at the villa in open-topped Jeeps in a stream of MissGuided swimwear and unfathomably toned torsos. The fizzy wine was soon flowing as quickly as the gushing, with the five girls sat on the sun deck swapping stories of love, loss and suspiciously instantaneous bonding.

And then Caroline Flack – in full slo-mo flow – flounced into the villa for the first coupling up of the series. The girls stood by the pool as the tattoos and veneered teeth of the boys bounded down the steps. If the girls liked what they saw, they stepped forward. For the uninitiated, this is basically a relatively structured, organised and civilised meat market.

Kendall Rae-Knight and Niall Aslam on Love Island 2018

And there were amazing moments about to unfold. None (NONE!) of the girls stepped forward for A&E doctor Alex George (undeniably already this year’s Camilla ‘unlucky in love’ Thurlow). It was unfortunate. But maybe not as unfortunate as his decision to couple up with air stewardess Laura Anderson.

She looked less than thrilled to be paired with Alex. So much so, in fact, that 4.7 seconds later when Wes Nelson walked into the villa she stepped forward for him, leaving Alex in the wooing wasteland. “It’s not been the best start,” poor Alex later mused.

Laura then quickly earned herself the reputation of being this year’s Muggy Mike. Because after ditching Alex within a nanosecond when Wes hove into view, by the end of the episode, she appeared to only have eyes for Adam Collard.

Ah, Adam.

©ITV Plc

Once all the five couples had paired off, Caroline delivered the “shocking” “bombshell” – which was neither shocking nor a bombshell, seeing as it’s exactly what they did with Jessica Shears in last year’s opener – that there was another islander yet to enter the villa.

Cue adonis Adam – a man described in an ITV press release as “arguably the most eye-catching eligible male” – and by islander Niall, far more accurately, as “Abs McGee”.

The girls’ jaws collectively hit the floor and now the grafting game was afoot. Adam had 24 hours to stick it on everyone and anyone in an all-out mission to become persona non grata in the villa. His real mission? To couple up with one of the recently coupled-up girls.

As Adam made his way from girl to girl, the scenes that unfolded were akin to something out of Planet Earth II – the bigger, stronger alpha sniffing around as the weaker, smaller males (the ones who were under 6’ 5”, anyway) solemnly and meekly moved out of the way for him to have his time with their “bird”.

Laura Anderson and Wes Nelson on Love Island 2018
Laura Anderson and Wes Nelson on Love Island 2018 (ITV)

It was painful at best and cringey at worst watching Wes try to prise Laura away from Adam for a chat (shudder) to see where her “head was at” (double shudder). As was later seeing Samira Mighty talking about fancying Adam with – you guessed it – Laura, who also said she fancied Adam. Melty.

While most of the islanders were trying to do their best to figure out what Adam’s plan of attack was, Hayley Hughes was too preoccupied trying to decipher her partner’s name. Eel? Ayal? Eeyore? Who knows.

After the first episode, the first impressions of the casting are that it’s strong – and thank God. Because a show like Love Island lives and dies on its contestants. It’s the islanders who will keep ensuring that, night after night, we’re sprinting home to get the telly on for 8:55pm. At. The. Very. Latest.

Unlucky in love Lancashire lass Kendall had heartbreak running through her like a stick of Blackpool rock (“I was engaged… he dumped me”) and is seemingly one of the villa’s most relatable and saccharine girls.

©ITV Plc
Then there’s Dani (“my dad’s Danny Dyer”) Dyer, who’s already brilliant value, coming out with one-liners like saying that her first night sharing a bed with Jack in the villa is going to be “a PG…maybe a U”.

Judging solely by the first episode of this year’s show, the series looks set to be a belter. Ninety minutes in and I’m already utterly hooked and hungry for more; powerless to resist the pull.

So yes, ITV2, you win. I’m hereby handing over my summer; consigning myself to eight full weeks of muggy, melty, purely addictive TV gold. And I cannot wait.

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Love Island airs daily at 9pm on ITV2