There’s no doubt about it: this series of Love Island has been bigger than ever.
It has broken records for ITV2, becoming the most-watched show in the channel’s history and more than doubling its launch-night audience in the space of a year. And at times it’s beaten everything the major channels have had to offer too.
Add a string of major headlines, controversies and talking points and it’s safe to say Love Island has dominated both TV and our lives this summer.
Even people who haven’t watched just one second of the 3,360 minutes of Love Island broadcast over these past eight weeks know about sunburnt Dr Alex, and that Jack and Dani are this year’s inevitable winners.
And yet. And yet.
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There’s no getting away from a big, problem this series; one even more glaring than Alex’s rosy red hue.
Love Island might have been bigger, but it hasn’t been better than last year.
The ghosts of 2017 were never going to be easy to exorcise, and there was an immense weight of expectation before this series had even begun. That lightning-in-a-bottle of last summer was always going to be hard to recapture.
Chris and Kem! Camilla! Chris and Liv! It’s easy to get misty-eyed when looking back at series three. From grafter Craig (“do you know what I mean?”) to Cash Hughes to Jonny and Theo falling out over Tyla (“who are you calling a bellend?”); the return of Muggy Mike, the musical stylings of Run KMC and a cameo from Stormzy, memorable moments weren’t hard to come by.
But this year? The quotable quips and standout moments have been fewer and further between. Yes, Jack walking in on Wes and Megan in bed was pretty funny, as was Alex tripping and throwing his baby from its pram. But most of the best bits seem to have been plonked into Saturday filler (sorry, ‘compilation of highlights’) show The Weekly Hotlist, leaving the main programme to mop up the melodrama and manufactured conflict that has been laid on factor 50 thick by the producers.
The worst example of this was the casting of Jack’s ex-girlfriend Ellie and the fallout from his trip to Casa Amor. Dani being shown out of context footage of her boyfriend in the second villa led to floods of tears from her and floods of complaints to Ofcom (more than 2,500) from equally unhappy fans frustrated at the producers’ mean-spirited and misleading meddling.
Worse still was the balls-up over Georgia and Jack’s infamous and ill-fated date. After we saw her go in for two kisses with Jack, her flat-out denial made for great TV. Fights erupted around the villa and fans pleaded for the footage to be sent in so Laura could see the truth for herself.
But there was just one problem. The scene had been shot multiple times, throwing the narrative of precisely what happened into disarray. Suddenly, no-one knew who or what to believe and it eroded the joy and the trust in everything else we were seeing, too.
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Continuity error after mistake after continuity error has since been analysed and pored over on Twitter, with frames picked apart in forensic detail. We’ve had missing wine glasses between scenes, mysterious McDonald’s cups appearing and Islanders sitting on different steps between shots. Perhaps this happened last year, too. But for whatever reason, the stitches were far less visible, the trust still intact and the programme, therefore, far more enjoyable.
From what some of the dumped Islanders have been saying after coming out of the villa, we’ve also been missing out on some big key bits. Not only have there been nights in the Hideaway that we had no idea had happened, but whole relationships have seemingly been left on the cutting room floor.
Take Frankie and Samira, for example. It was a shock to see her so distraught after he was dumped – the pair had hardly spoken. Or so we thought. It turns out Samira was besotted, and if we’d seen just how into each other they were, viewers would no doubt have voted for Frankie when it mattered most. Instead, he was dumped from the villa – leading Samira to shortly follow suit, and thus losing us one of the best cast members of the whole series.
Don’t get me wrong: this series of Love Island has been good. It’s still made for must-watch TV and I’ve happily let it eat up 56 hours of my life this summer.
But the honesty, humour and lightness of touch I so adored last year has been lacking, replaced instead by dodgy decisions, lacklustre relationships (how Megan and Wes have made the final is anyone’s guess) and a dearth of genuine friendships between the Islanders.
Either way, when Love Island rolls around in 2019, the pressure will once again be on to make it the biggest series yet. Let’s just hope this doesn’t mean the show moves even further away from what made us fall in love with it in the first place.
Love Island airs nightly on ITV2 at 9pm