Very important announcement: When the Love Island Australia producers sat down at the casting table, they forgot a crucial ingredient.
Before I start analysing a show that actively makes people brain dead, I should acknowledge that I might be jumping the gun here. But when the topic of conversation is Love Island, moving at the speed of light is hardly frowned upon so, excuse me, thank you, I shall proceed with my insights.
I am a woman who has watched all existing seasons of Love Island UK, so write this as someone with their PhD in separating the “melts” from the “mugs” and “messing around” from the “full on penetration”. I also write this as someone who has felt lukewarm about the series’ Australian debut.
After hungrily devouring the UK’s season three last year – and giggling at every polar bear meme I could find on Twitter – I had high hopes going into our own take on the reality dating show. “How will we create Big Brother meets Geordie Shore?” I wondered. “What would the Australian Chris Hughes even LOOK like?”
And, most importantly for the wallets of the white dudes who run Channel Nine, “How they we mimic the massive ratings that saw Love Island become the biggest reality TV franchise overseas?”
Two episodes in, it has quickly become clear exactly what the Australian producers missed when they selected which genetically blessed super freaks get to wear glorified g-strings and bonk on national telly.
And to illustrate what the ingredient is, I’ll call on the wisdom of Her Holiness Tina Brown, the ex-editor of Vanity Fair: The rule to engaging content is “high-low”; a mixture of high brow and low brow content, that will leave its consumer with a hit of sugar, and a dose of smarts simultaneously.
The beauty – and the eye-watering success – of Love Island UK 2017 was in its perfect marriage of the “high-low”.
For all of the trash, the sex, the cheating, there was a beacon of glorious light; of intelligence and grace and politeness. No matter what misogynistic drivel spilled out of Johnny’s mouth, or the number of bare butt cheeks on display, there was always Camilla, the antithesis to what many think Love Island stands for. The Brit – who works in explosive ordnance disposal where she is tasked with exposing of remnants of war in disadvantaged regions – was classy enough to let viewers tune in to the sauciest show on telly without being overcome by guilt/STDs by association.
Oh, she also dated Prince Harry once upon a time. But I won’t hold that against the current contestants. Or, at least, I’ll try not to.
The UK’s Love Island was not always a raging success; until 2017 it quietly existed on ITV2, filling the summer nights of Britain’s non-ratings period. The sublime casting of its most recent season is what saw it explode into the mainstream and attract more than 2,000,000 viewers per night.
This is a show that lives or dies by the people who are injected into it. Judging by Sunday night’s ratings – 155,000 people tuned in for its 8.30pm premiere on 9GO – Channel Nine’s first crack might have misfired.
So while it’s fine to fill your cast with models, rugby players, and doggy daycare workers, it might not be enough to pull the Aussie viewers who are a little bit too proud to consume the TV equivalent of Coco Pops for dinner.
Most of us need more than just sugar.
And in the case of Australian Love Island, I’m afraid that’s all we’re going to be served up.
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