The cheeky formula is incredibly successful in the UK — the show is a phenomenon there — but it remains to be seen if US audiences can handle a five-nights-a-week commitment.
Reality television has been around long enough that we’ve seen parodies of it produced, but "Love Island" may be the first fully self-aware reality show that manages to be what it is and make fun of itself at the same time.
We kind of love its cheekiness, down to the snarky narrator who makes fun of host Arielle Vandenberg and the intentionally imperfect preliminary interviews with the eleven people we meet in this first episode. Already a phenomenon in the UK, the show’s light tone is a huge part of its success. The beautiful bodies and relationship drama make up the rest.
And what’s beautiful about "Love Island," at first glance, is how incredibly simple it all is. There are singles dropped off on this island and they must couple up. Then, a new single shows up and chooses a partner of their own, breaking up at least one couple. Eventually, someone will be so single that they’ll get booted from the show (we haven’t seen the particulars of how that works yet).
Theoretically it’s possible that none of these people make it to the end, but at only four weeks it seems unlikely. It’s like speed dating on a remote tropical island where you get to sleep (literally) in the same bed with the guy or gal you’re trying to get to know better. In other words, there is no time to waste!
The Beautiful People
In the animal kingdom, it’s usually the females with all the power and the males who have to show off and preen and peacock to get their attention. The initial setup for "Love Island" flipped that script, giving the power to the boys, while leaving the females to step forward from a line to express interest.
At this stage, though, it’s Day One and everyone was just being way too damned nice. One by one, the boys came in and picked a girl who wasn’t already coupled. It was all so very sweet, and proof that this is the first day on the first season of this show. This is gonna get cutthroat in a hurry but nobody wanted to be the one to draw first blood.
So Arielle took care of that, bringing in Kira and telling her she was going to rip off that band-aid by uncoupling one of the following couples: Cashel & Caro, Yamen & Alana, Zac & Elizabeth, Weston & Mallory and Michael & Alexandra.
Let’s see, what do we know about these people? Michael is a model and he definitely thinks he’s beautiful. For the record, everyone agrees with him. Caro stepped up for two other dudes after Cashel picked her, but by the end of the night she was probably the most attached to her partner in the show.
Weston is a cowboy, and apparently the show is just going to let every stereotype fill in those gaps for you for the moment, and Yamen is yummy. No seriously, this dude is hot and everyone is into him. And by everyone, we include Kyra.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Kyra is perhaps the most well known of this initial batch simply because of the role she was put into. She revealed to Yamen while getting to know him that she was in a relationship with a woman for two years and his extremely animated reaction wasn’t what she was looking for. He certainly wasn’t calmly understanding, but rather processing it like absolutely shocking news.
We get it could be a bit of a surprise, but he looked like he was about to run around the villa and holler to the trees about it. Calm down dude, it’s just bisexuality. It’s a thing. Look into it. Kyra didn’t seem that impressed his reaction, either, which could be good news for Alana.
The other two guys she’s macking hard on are Weston and Cashel, which would seem to be no big deal as Caro tried to leave Cashel twice during the initial coupling and Mallory and Weston didn’t really show that strong of a connection. In fact, nobody is showing too much of a connection, except for one couple, and it’s the last one we would have expected.
Day 2, First Kiss?!
That was crazy, and no one was more surprised than the person who abruptly planted that kiss. What was even more surprising was that it was Caro, who’d spent the entire previous day talking about how much she wasn’t into Cashel and how she was already eyeing other dudes. Turns out one night of snuggling (that’s all it was; this is a family show (for some reason)!) was all it took to put Caro fully on Team Cashel.
Ironically, he was fully on Team Caro the previous day, but when Kyra started vibing with him, he was feeling it so hard he had to move one of those thousand throw pillows the narrator warned us about so he could feel them stronger.
Suddenly, as Kyra stood there at the close of the episode, Cashel was looking like he was hoping he’d be picked (despite the kiss) while Caro is really wanting to try and make things work with her man. Plus, you know, she doesn’t want to leave the island if she winds up single-single.
In describing her choices, Kyra acknowledged that choosing Cashel might create enemies in the house, and after her coming out to Yamen, she said the choice she made was for the person she thinks is the most genuinely themselves. Our guess: Weston.
Next Time on "Love Island"
Our reality, we have to wait until Wednesday night to find out because this is still an American reality show and melodrama is the name of the game. Oddly enough, the American reality tropes, like the moments of dramatic music and long pauses, actually kill the otherwise fun vibe of this series. Here’s hoping they tweak the formula as it goes along.
Lean harder into the playful narration, fun songs and general sense of whimsy. We get enough melodrama over on "Big Brother," so why not try and make "Love Island" stand as its polar opposite in tone.
You’ve already got the beautiful bodies, and more on the way, so why not let America have fun with this show before we choose which couple is our favorite at the end of four weeks. They get $100,000 for their trouble, we want to be entertained for ours.
_"Love Island" is on all the damned time, five nights a week at 8 p.m. ET on CBS._
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