You say it best when you say nothing at all. Were those the words whispered into the ear of Jack Keating by ITV producers when shipping him off to Love Island (Virgin Media One, Sunday) at the weekend?
Jack, 22-year-old son of Boyzone star Ronan and Yvonne Connolly, has been parachuted into the hormonal reality show as part of the Casa Amor section of the contest. But on his first night he’s more Casa Anonymous. He isn’t the Ronan Keating in this line-up of new potential love interests — more the Mikey Graham.
This isn’t the fault of Keating, who seems personable and full of enthusiasm when explaining he works in “social media and marketing”. The problem is that, such is the sheer scrum of contestants on Love Island, a gimmick is essential in order to stand out. And unfortunately, in 2022, being Ronan Keating’s son isn’t quite enough.
At least not when you’re up against Billy, another newcomer who insists — to a slightly scary degree — that a love interest needs to have a sense of humour as wacky as his own. And who adds that his job involves “picking up penguins at the zoo”. It sounds like a euphemism — but no, that is actually his job. What next? Panda wrangler? Sloth-whisperer? It’s Love Island, so probably.
Up against a man who hugs penguins for a living, Jack can’t compete. I know this because it is my job to sit through the entire episode and transcribe everything he says. Here are the highlights. “My last girlfriend was four or five years ago” (asked about his dating past); “You want to see how it goes in the other world” (agreeing that he would wait to see how a relationship worked outside the villa before committing long term).
His glittering parentage does, however, help him bond with fellow Islander Gemma Owen — daughter of soccer star Michael — by the pool. “It’s great as you probably know, I’ve got to do lots of fun things, meet interesting people, I’m blessed you know,” says Keating, who then asks, “Are you close with your mum and dad?”
“I’m super close to my dad as well,” Owen replies. “It’s like a love/hate relationship between me and my dad. Our personalities are so similar like we’re either getting on like a house on fire or we’re clashing.”
Keating comes across a chipper sort and it would be nice to see him and fellow Dubliner Dami Hope lounging by the pool together and exchanging man-hugs, if only to bump up the Irish quotient.
Refreshingly, he is also surely the palest person to ever appear on Love Island, aka kingdom of the endless perma-tans. With a skin tone that might be kindly described as “bottle of milk left on a porch in Tullamore in January” he is so pale it feels he is just one skipped meal away from turning translucent.
Yet while this doesn’t happen, as a personality in the villa he’s nonetheless rather invisible. Irish viewers will only hope that, as we get further into Casa Amor — where paired-up islanders are “tempted” by newcomers — Jack has a chance to shine. Right now, his Love Island stint reminds you of that time Ronan Keating covered Fairytale of New York. We all know it happened. But it isn’t something anyone wants to think about too deeply.