Love Island ratings and fan interest are dropping for good reason, insists show superfan Julie Burchill | The Sun

JUST a few weeks till the finale of winter Love Island 2023 – and I’d be lying if I said I was dreading the final credits.

I’ve watched every season since 2015 and it’s not what it used to be; there’s a distinct Before and After Covid style to the show.

Those heady days when beauty queens could be stripped of their titles for making beasts of themselves on prime time TV look as remote as ‘Babylon’-era orgies now. 

This is the second time that a winter villa has hosted the pouting posse of would-be studs and starlets, though the first time we’ll be treated to two seasons in one year.

Whether this is wise, as viewing figures fell during the half-hearted helming of Laura Whitmore (down from 5.6 million in 2019, the last series hosted by the late Caroline Flack, hitting a low of 3.96 in 2020) remains to be seen.

Maya Jama is gorgeous and likeable, but her debut Love Island episode attracted an all-time low of only 1.2 million, with this season averaging 2.9 million viewers per episode.

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Those BAFTA-bagging days of 2018 seem like a sunstroke fever-dream now. Reactions on social media show growing public hostility in hard times to the sun-kissed influencers and wannabes who are the meat and two veg of the show and also the appeal of new shows such as The Traitors.

The 27-year-old actress Alex Gray actually snubbed Love Island to be a Traitor, saying ‘Prancing around in a bikini…that wasn’t for me. This wasn’t about looks or falling in love – these kinds of boring formats have been done over and over again. This was something new – something exciting.’

There’s another reason; it’s simply far less entertaining than it used to be. Maybe it’s the growth of #BeKind – the Japanese knotweed of mental health solicitude – but Love Island is now less of a peepshow and more of a group hug.

The aftershock of lockdown shows itself in the ‘bantz’ these youngsters have – or rather, in the lack of them.

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Conversations about cups of tea wither on the vine; enquiries about number of siblings provoke dull stares of dismay. Mostly in their mid-twenties – by which time I’d been married twice – they all seem so young for their age; children dressed up in adult’s clothing, smirking about sex positions but emotionally innocent.

The contestants get into a family-mimicking hierarchy with an alpha couple at the top – Tanya and Shaq this year – and then act out like children at a party high on E numbers rather than the Es of my generation.

The most beautiful, Olivia, is a ring girl who looks like a Spanish princess, and so might be expected to be experienced – but she has never been in a relationship and reacted like a 10-year-old to her ’boyfriend’ kissing someone else – ‘lipsing’ is their childish word for kissing.

Looking at the sweetest girl, Lana, react to a roomful of sex toys with bemusement when sent off to have a torrid time with her beau and then tell the other girls ‘I’m just not sexy’ the morning after, the dodgy old pop-song ‘Young Girl’ came to mind – ‘Beneath your perfume and make up, you’re just a baby in disguise.’

How many times can you watch a grown woman bawling like a baby while being told ‘You’re a Strong Woman!’ by her girl-gang?

These are the children of online-porn and Covid, desperate for love but stuck in emotional isolation, living their best lives behind a screen.

The carefree days of falling down drunk, falling into bed and falling in love which my mucky lot was lucky enough to experience is gone.

This generation drinks less, holds onto virginity later and will experience less social mobility – but they are bombarded with images of sex and wealth since childhood, and somehow they mix up the search for The One with the search for La Dolce Vita.

Like children, they seem happiest in single-sex groups. ‘She’s going on a date!’ the girls will chant excitedly as one of their number sashays off in her finery to make awkward conversation (over no more than two glasses of wine, lest caution be thrown to the wind and a cheeky bit of hand-holding take place) but the homecoming heroine seems to get far more fun out of dissecting her date than experiencing it.

As ever, the girls are brighter than the boys; Ellie’s incredulity when Tom failed to identify the word ‘platonic’ was priceless. (He probably thought it was a mixer for gin.) There was a panic when the branded Love Island condoms didn’t turn up on time, but these kids are so childlike they’d probably prefer to make balloon animals out of them anyway.

As with Big Brother towards the end, it’s not clear what the contestants expect to get from the experience the longer the show goes on.

Most of the couples have splintered; the charming Olivia and Alex Bowen, veterans of the 2016 Love island, are the exception, now being wheeled out with their baby to prove that dreams can come true.

The smartest and self-possessed girls have used the show as a springboard to a career in online fashion brands. But many of the also-rans will end up being hired out by the hour in Dubai, probably ending badly and sadly. 

So what? That’s life, and people not getting what they want from it has been a reality when reality TV was just a twinkle in Endemol’s all-seeing Big Brother eye logo.

There’s a risk that we can become far too PG for our own good. Of course no one wants to see attractive people brawling on television – well, maybe just a bit.

But what a dull world it would be where every form of entertainment has to be put into a blender and mulched down into baby food because we’re all so easily ‘triggered’.

How to fix this faulty franchise? Cut it back to once a year again – less is more, especially when it comes to hormonal moaning.

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Hire only hot hard-cases – young people who’ve loved and lost, not never had relationships; seeing people having their hearts broken for the first time on television is a bridge too far for any voyeur.

Remember that all’s fair in love and war; affairs of the heart should be more like Call Of Duty than care of duty. Then stand back – and let Love Island havoc commence, as before we were so rudely interrupted by a pesky global pandemic.

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