Love Island: Ah, happy memories of meeting my own wife while taking part in an erotic challenge

Patrick Freyne: Is the reality show giving young people unrealistic ideas? I wouldn’t say so

The hunks and hunkettes of Love Island 2021. Photograph: ITV

The hunks and hunkettes of Love Island 2021. Photograph: ITV

 

Okay, readers, it’s time for the talk. Sometimes, when a mummy and a daddy and a former glamour model, a semi-professional footballer, a financial-services marketing executive, Miss International UK 2018, a luxury-events host, a PE teacher and a fashion blogger love each other very much, they journey to a sun-scorched lust peninsula in order to perform erotic dances for one another, sleep in one room like smelly youth-hostellers, obey the demands of a production intern’s texts, dress up as sexually charged Judeo-Christian demons and, when the occasion arises, suck each other’s toes.

And so it has always been. As a species we make our way to far-flung locations to spawn like salmon, becoming truly fertile only in the presence of a firepit, a sarcastic narrator and at least one person called Brad. It’s possible that young people are developing unrealistic ideas of love from Love Island (Virgin Media One, Sunday-Friday), but as far as I’m concerned it checks out. Watching it just brings back happy memories of meeting my wife while participating in an erotic challenge on Love Island 1995. Of course, in those days it was hosted by Rod Hull and Emu.

Love Island begins with footage of the hunks and hunkettes at work – civil-servanting, luxury-event hosting, fashion blogging – whereupon, in the midst of the day’s labour, they shed their burdensome clothing and stride away

The new series begins with fly-on-the-wall footage of the participating hunks and hunkettes working at their various professions – civil-servanting, luxury-event hosting, fashion blogging – whereupon, in the midst of the day’s labour, they shed their burdensome clothing and stride away. Nobody arranges a meeting with HR. In fact, their workmates seem quite pleased and can barely refrain from saying, “Hubba hubba! Vroom Vroom!” But be cautious: this probably won’t be the experience of anyone who tries to imitate this behaviour.

It is implied that at this point they all simply stroll all the way to the Love Island like intrepid eels traversing the Sargasso. We cut to each of them walking into the compound interspersed with footage of them posing in some sort of liminal studio space saying things like “I love meat. A nice big sausage”. Which is very interesting and all, but surely on a show like this you should forgo the gastronomy and say something about sex.

Some of the hunkfolk know what’s expected and describe their sexual types. “Blonde, blue eyes, small feet”, says one, and I visualise huge goggling peepers fringed with blond troll hair bouncing away on tiny, tiny toes. Phwoar!

“Tall. Nice teeth. A tan”, says another, and I picture a toothy mouth on an elongated brown flesh blob. Ooh, matron!

Look, it’s possible that they didn’t mean these were the only features they wished for in a lover. It is possible that arms, legs, chins and abdomens were implied and that their sexual peccadillos aren’t, in fact, the Muppets. But as someone who was once tricked by an evil genie, I think it’s important to be as specific as possible when saying what you want in life.

The girls express interest in the boys by stepping forward. The boys then make choices about who to ‘couple up with’. You will of course remember all of this from your wedding

The hunks certainly don’t seem thrown by the fact that the others do not accord with their freaky minimalist lusts. The girls are quickly lined up alongside a swimming pool by presiding Irishwoman Laura Whitmore, and then the boys are brought into the villa for judgment. The girls must express interest in them by stepping forward; the boys then make choices about who to “couple up with”. You will of course remember all of this from your wedding.

Before long everyone is “coupled up” and lounging around the pool or in the communal bedroom, where they all sleep together like cult members, puppies or Smurfs. In the evening they don shirts and obey the whims of a texting pervert to snog, hump and suckle on each other’s digits or earlobes.

Then there is a bombshell by text: another woman exists. She turns up at their front door from the ethereal mists beyond and throws the group into consternation by trying to steal their menfolk. Their civilisation has been stable for a whole 24 hours but now teeters on the brink of anarchy.

By Tuesday the new hunkette is integrated into their society and they fall back into their daily pattern of lounging, gabbing and grooming as we hear contentious sentences from the day before reverberating ominously (the echoes of time). The day-to-day routines on the island are fascinating. The islanders lift weights, moisturise and add features to their faces before mirrors, much like Mr Potato Head. If I’m to be completely honest, life seems hard for a hunk. Not to boast, but I maintain my own particular body shape with very little effort at all.

In many ways Love Island is surprisingly relatable on the subject of young love, in that no one has any chemistry and everyone seems a bit embarrassed

The island can often be courtly, like a Jane Austen novel. Gentlemen and ladies approach one another to determine their intentions. They scheme in corners. They calculate each other’s places in the social hierarchy. Sometimes the boys and girls separate as though an old colonel has said, “Gentlemen, let us retire to the beanbags, where we will discuss affairs of state.” In this instance “affairs of state” means “riding”. There’s even a sort of masked ball where everyone dresses like sexy trident-wielding devils and must guess at each other’s erotic secrets before sliding down a waterslide into a vat of ice. This is basically the plot of Sense and Sensibility (originally titled, like this segment, Horny Devils).

It’s early days on Love Island, so personalities are slowly emerging. The show will rise and fall on this. Faye seems quick and funny. Jake is covered in tattoos, which gives him a dual purpose as both a cheeky chappy and something to read. Chuggs runs a bucket-hat business in Surrey and is called “Chuggs”, which is more or less a personality. In many ways this series is surprisingly relatable on the subject of young love, in that no one has any chemistry and everyone seems a bit embarrassed.

In Black Summer, bigger arcs only emerge because some traumatised characters survive for longer than an episode. Photograph: Netflix
In Black Summer, bigger arcs emerge only because some traumatised characters survive longer than an episode. Photograph: Netflix

If you want something slightly different to watch, try Too Hot to Handle (Netflix), where another batch of hunks are told by a conical robot that they will lose money from a $100,000 prize pot each time they’re too sexy. We’ve all been there. It should be straightforward – refrain from sex stuff at the behest of the interfering celibacybot for dosh – but the participants struggle with object permanence and are easily swayed by new stimuli. It’s basically the marshmallow test that psychologists use to determine toddlers’ ability to delay gratification, except they’ve replaced the marshmallows with hunks and the toddlers with more hunks.

If you want something very different, watch Black Summer (season 2 now on Netflix) a zombie apocalypse in which terrifying single-shot action sequences alternate with near-silent scenes of tension and dread. There’s little backstory. The chronology is artfully jumbled. Nothing is explained. And it’s the most original television storytelling I’ve seen in ages, sometimes resembling a nihilistic Atlanta. Bigger arcs emerge only because some traumatised characters survive for longer than an episode. When they arrive at the Love Island (my prediction for the finale) they will definitely eat the islanders. This will come as blessed relief for some. Chuggs, frankly, was born to be someone’s dinner.

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