TV

Love Island can learn from the success of The Traitors - people want to see normal people on TV

Love Island: Meet the professional footballer ready to 'play the field in …

Love Island is giving me the ick, now more than ever.

The show is back on Monday (16 January), and we’ll see a fresh set of singletons ostensibly looking for love in the sunshine.

Or that’s what the press releases say. More likely is that they’ll be making the most of the profile to up their numbers on Instagram, before cashing in on Boohoo contracts and cosmetics endorsements a few months down the line.

But everyone knows that’s the case by now, and it’s not that aspect of the show I’m grumpy about. So why am I getting worked up now? Well, weirdly, because of The Traitors.

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The BBC reality series was the smash hit of late 2022, and people bought into the personalities of everyday people doing the dirty on each other. It aired during the World Cup and proved the perfect antidote to the action out in Qatar for people not too fussed about the football – and served us more drama than FIFA in their infinite wisdom could ever dream up.

What was the key to its success? A brilliant central conceit? Definitely. The sheer star power of Claudia Winkleman’s fringe? Certainly. What really appealed to me though was the excesses of relatable people in the spotlight, reflecting a wide spectrum of the general public.

They were normal, with normal physiques and a totally normal human instinct to do almost anything in a bid to take home a big cash prize. The show itself made for addictive viewing, and it also proved, if it needed proving, that people don’t have to have supermodel looks to hold our attention in the world of reality TV.

As Love Island rears its perfectly manicured head once again, perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves that a variety of body types, shapes and sizes on telly is a refreshing thing.

It’s coming at a telling time of year, too. When I get back from trundling along the high street in my running gear next Monday, doggedly trying to shift the excess Christmas weight, I don’t really want to look at people who look like they wouldn’t know a carb if it came and told them their type on paper.

That’s not to take anything away from the cast of the new series, who this year will be watched on by new host Maya Jama. I’m sure this batch of islanders probably have a lot more about them than your average gym bores. But it's a shame too see the same tired old beauty ideals perpetuated that have been rammed down the throats of young people for decades, especially with both female and male body dysmorphia on the rise, while offering little to variation year on year.

The new islanders have been revealedITV

Social media users have already hit out at the show for a lack of diversity and the fault has to lie with the producers. Love Island has pledged to produce more diverse line-ups in the past, but this year hardly looks to match those commitments.

While 2023 will feature the first ever partially-sighted Islander and a model with the skin condition vitiligo, only two of the first 10 contestants revealed are of BAME backgrounds, and all of them are of similar body types.

This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. After promising to “reflect the diversity of its audience”, creative director of ITV Studios Entertainment Richard Cowles left some viewers incensed all the way back in 2019 with comments on diversity.

“Yes, we want to be as representative as possible but we also want them to be attracted to one another,” he said during a press conference in Spain.

He continued: “We’re not saying that everyone that’s in there is how you’re supposed to look. We’re saying, ‘Here’s a group of people that we want to watch for eight weeks, and we want to watch them fall in love’. That’s not at the front of our mind, but we do want to be as diverse as possible.”

The world has changed a great deal since Cowles made those comments back in 2019, but Love Island and its contestants' body shapes have stayed resolutely the same.

As the new run begins, it’s groundhog day again, and the show has to do better. The upcoming series couldn’t be much different from the show that gripped millions during the World Cup. In this case, the only traitors here are the makers of the show to the viewing public.

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