As the school year ramps up again, so does the need for easy, distracting television that takes your mind off work, and nothing is easier to get swept up in than “Love Island USA.” The show launched its fourth season this past summer and is now available to watch on Peacock, just in time for the new academic year. Originally aired in the UK, “Love Island” branched out to the United States in 2019 and has become a summer reality TV staple.
As the name implies, “Love Island” is a dating show where a group of young singles come to a romantic villa in pursuit of love. The experience is intensified by dramatic challenges, surprise re-couplings and constant new arrivals to the villa. On the show’s first day, five women are brought to the villa followed by five men. As each new man is introduced, the women step forward to indicate their interest in their potential new partner, but ultimately the guy decides who he wants to be coupled with. This manner of selection is a bit outdated and unfair; there is definitely room for improvement in how the couples are selected. Perhaps instead of having the islanders form couples right off the bat, there could be a 24-hour period where everyone is single and able to get to know each other before making any decisions. Or maybe they could have each islander privately confess who they want to couple up with and any matching pairs would become couples while the rest remained single. But alas, that is not the format the show chose.
Throughout the following weeks, several re-coupling ceremonies take place, where either the women or the men pick the partner they want to be coupled up with until the next ceremony (at least there’s some more fairness here). New islanders continuously enter the villa, causing existing couples to break up and new relationships to form. At the end of six weeks, America votes for their favorite of the remaining couples, and the member of the winning pair who picks the lucky envelope receives $100,000, which they can choose to keep for themselves or split with their partner. Supposedly, the idea is that those in a strong couple would split the money and those in a weak one wouldn’t, but it seems to me that splitting the money evenly would make the most sense since the couple is made up of two individuals, not just one.
The concept of “Love Island” is simple, but the drama between islanders makes it incredibly entertaining to watch. Unlike any other reality show I’ve seen, “Love Island” airs a one-hour episode six days per week, making it easy to get sucked into the show and keep watching. For “Love Island,” the daily format works because there are always new people coming and going, so there are always new connections forming and old relationships breaking apart, making it essential to air enough episodes to keep up with each couple and what is going on in the villa.
Operating under the criteria that good shows are classified as those with meaningful characters, insightful messages and diverse representation, most reality shows don’t fall into this category. “Love Island” is no exception, but it does uphold two of the most important pillars of good reality shows: It’s incredibly entertaining, and it’s very easy to become invested in the cast and their relationships with each other. “Love Island” delivers exactly on what a reality show should, and it is one of my favorites of the genre. Other reality dating shows like “The Bachelor” feel much more produced and therefore less real than a show like “Love Island,” and for the most part, that’s because they are. Obviously producers play a huge part in the narrative on each season of “The Bachelor,” pitting participants against each other, encouraging unnecessary confrontations, setting up season villains and cutting clips out of context. In contrast, “Love Island” moves at a faster pace since the islanders are around each other 24/7 and episodes are aired while the show is ongoing, so it is more difficult for showrunners to orchestrate story arcs like those seen on “The Bachelor.” Heavily produced and edited arcs can skew people’s perception of what the reality of the show actually is. The rawer episodes of “Love Island” are refreshing because they depict an experience that is more real and offers genuine insight into human nature and how we relate to each other.
Another factor that sets “Love Island” apart from other reality shows is its unrelenting emphasis on friendship. While the main focus is unquestionably the romantic relationships developed throughout, the friendships formed between the guys and the girls in the villa are also highlighted. The show airs many conversations between the women while they get ready each day in the dressing room, as well as clips of the boys hyping each other up while they get dressed for the day. It was refreshing how they showed the relationships between the women develop when two were interested in the same guy or when a new one came in with interest in another’s partner. Women are commonly pitted against each other in other reality shows, but “Love Island” instead shows how they maturely handle their relationships with each other. In every case, they become friends with each other in the end, despite any initial awkwardness or tension.
“Love Island” is the perfect show to get lost in when you need to let go of reality for a second and is a great escape into a world of drama, friendship and love. As long as you don’t expect any mind-blowing television and don’t mind some occasional, over-the-top dramatics, “Love Island” doesn’t disappoint.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at email@example.com.