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Why is Love Island so popular?

With fans ranging from pre-teens to Radio 4 listeners, how did a fairly simple dating show manage to capture the zeitgeist so completely?

Published: Thursday, 27th June 2019 at 10:14 am

Whether you love it or loathe it, Love Island is utterly unescapable.


Having been resurrected from the ITV graveyard in 2015, the show has morphed from a fairly modest dating programme with mostly negative reviews to an annual national phenomenon – rated Twitter’s most talked-about TV show in 2018 and making ITV millions in merchandise and advertising.

Love Island is now so hugely influential it has seeped through from its summer schedule and into our day to day lives. “Cracking on”, “pied off” and “my type on paper” have slipped into our own vocabulary, Kem Cetinay is all over daytime TV like a rash and now ITV are even thinking about making Love Island a biannual event.

From pre-teens to sixty-somethings, school kids to Oxford grads, Love Island has a universal appeal, uniting the nation together for eight weeks as we settle down to watch, critique and pour over what is fundamentally the Instagram Influencer Olympics.

So how has Love Island managed to unite such a disparate group of people to tune in at 9pm six nights a week?

1. It’s a welcome distraction from the grim realities of everyday life

Love Island ©ITV

With the never-ending saga of Brexit, Donald Trump’s gaffe-fuelled presidency and our own government in total meltdown, Love Island gives us one hour of glorious escapism in our day where literally nothing else matters other than the relationships of those on screen.

Its slickly-produced visuals, Instagram-worthy villa and gratuitous bikini shots put a glossy sheen on the almost soapland-levels of drama, and distances itself from the mundane reality of bad hair days, boring conversations and terrible days at work. From 9pm, we can all welcome a respite from our troubles, and watch beautiful people crack on.

2. It’s genuinely fascinating on an anthropological level

Love Island recoupling ©ITV

Without getting into David Attenborough levels of analysis (although Danny is right, Attenborough would be great as a commentator of Love Island), the programme provides a fascinating insight into human behaviour, providing many water cooler moments in the office the next day (or on Twitter instantly, if you’re so inclined).

Each episode tends to end on a tantilising cliffhanger regarding two of the Islanders, almost goading you into switching on again tomorrow night to see the results.

Producers don’t shy away from putting practically every relationship trope under fairly withering and often brutal spotlights, with some episodes sparking national debate on what is acceptable behaviour. With the Islanders being front page news in all the tabloids, you can’t help but get sucked in to Love Island’s ever-more powerful sphere of influence to see what all the fuss is about.

With controlling relationships, gaslighting and female sexuality being explored in its most recent incarnations, Love Island also teaches a generation of youngsters what it means to respect themselves – which is nothing to be sniffed at, whether you like the show or not.

3. It’s also funny and heartwarming at times

Anton and Elma Love Island ©ITV

Love Island is a show that spawned a million memes for a reason – it’s genuinely really funny.

As much as producers try and force some relationships down our throats (yes, I get it, I’m meant to like Amy and Curtis), the show’s best moments come from the Islanders’ close friendships with one another – with their boredom in the villa often leading to inane yet hilarious conversation.

Who can forget Chris and Kem’s rap of series three (which even spawned its own single), Hayley wondering whether Brexit “would mean Britain won’t have any trees” in series four, or Tommy being helped by the lads to make a decent meal in series five (before ending up with cheese, bread, mayo and ketchup)?

4. We love love

Yewande and Danny kiss Love Island (ITV screenshot)

Watching love blossom – be it in a villa in Majorca or a car park in Slough – is something that we can all relate to, invest in and enjoy. It’s why we’re happy to come back night after night at 9pm for eight weeks, and why dating shows such as First Dates, Naked Attraction and Dinner Date are schedule staples.

For all the stick that Love Island has received over claims the romances are manufactured and that they’re only promoting the fame-hungry, it's worth noting that it does have several successful couples who met via the show.

Olivia Buckland and Alex Bowen, of series two fame, married last year, while Jess Shears and Dom Lever also tied the knot.

Former winners Cara de la Hoyde and Nathan Massey have since had a baby, and third series’s runners-up Camilla Thurlow and Jamie Jewitt have recently moved in together and bought a dog – and if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

5. It’s just really good, well-made and addictive television

Anna and Jordan, Love Island ©ITV

Yes, so it may not be as intellectually nourishing as its prime-time drama counterparts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean binge-worthy junk TV like Love Island isn’t worth the investment.

Itself BAFTA-winning, Love Island has rightfully won its audience by framing real-life drama with slickly produced, watchable narrative, presented every night with a tongue firmly placed in its cheek.

Still too po-faced to give it a go? With an audience of nearly five million and tweets about the show having a staggering 2.5 billion impressions last year, you may soon be finding yourself in the minority…


Love Island continues weeknights and Sundays at 9pm on ITV


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