This summer, starting June 5th, just as in eight summers before, the U.K. reality TV show, Love Island, sent numerous single guys and girls to Mallorca, Spain where they would live with each other and work to form romantic connections. As in previous summers, different versions of the show premiered in other countries such as the U.S., France, and Australia. At almost any point during this summer, you could go online and find pages upon pages of discourse surrounding the show, its characters, and its various international spin–offs. And yet, despite Love Island's attempt at recreating its original hype from its first run, the show did not achieve nearly the same results this time around.
The premiere of U.K.’s Season 10 brought in around 1.3 million viewers. Between 2017 and 2019, however, the series had an average of 3.5 million viewers per episode. The decline in viewership was in part a result of COVID–19, which put a short halt on the U.K. series in 2020. The implementation of an annual winter season in 2019 (in addition to its usual summer season) has also led some to believe that the audience have become tired of the show’s repetitive format. Each season has roughly 50–60 episodes, featuring recurring plot–points and situations, and thus it is possible that fans have gradually become disinterested.
Even as the show’s producers introduce different elements to the format, it doesn’t seem to make much of a substantial difference in the overall popularity. Some of the more popular twists the show has added in the past few years include “Movie Night” where islanders watch moments from the show that they haven’t seen before, and “The Grafties” where the audience votes on awards that are given to the islanders based on their potentially “messy” or dramatic behavior. These added moments cause some engagement online with the drama they stir up. Yet ultimately, none of them are as popular as the returning of old islanders back to the show.
Starting for the first time last summer, Love Island started to reintroduce people from prior seasons or other nations’ spin–offs into the show to re–attract viewers of former casts or current international versions. In the past, Love Island has been successful in creating memorable characters from contestants on the show, and many fans still keep up with some of the contestants on social media. Because of this, bringing previous contestants back onto the show and giving them another, hopefully more successful, chance at being paired with “the one” should shock and excite viewers. One of the first instances of this came in the U.K.’s Season 8, in which Adam Collard—originally from Season 4—returned to find love. Since then, cast members from the Australian version have come to U.K.'s Season 9, fan–favorite Kady McDermott from Season 2 made a reappearance in Season 10, and most recently, Scott van–der–Sluis flew almost directly from Season 10 to Fiji where he entered Love Island: USA.
Re–introducing old characters in the show tracks with a trend that seems to be happening everywhere in pop culture. It’s the ‘multiverse’ effect. With their growing international expansion and their almost 10–year long run, Love Island may be declining in viewership, but they have also taken advantage of an opportunity to bring together the different “worlds” of the show and their variety of audiences. Such gimmick raises engagement with the series as the whole and adds a ‘world–building’ element to a seemingly straightforward reality dating TV show. Whether you are only loyal to the original U.K. version of the show or you have taken it upon yourself to try and watch every rendition out there, the mixing of nations, seasons, and experiences makes the show much more complex and interesting. Though the “returning contestant” trope has occurred in other reality shows (such as Survivor: All–Stars or even returning contestants on The Bachelor), adding the international element to this now–expansive dating franchise takes it to a whole other level.
It is expected now that the series will return to its normal programming in summer 2024, but Love Island All–Star Games will be airing in place of a typical winter season. The games will bring back popular characters from prior seasons and include players from Love Island UK, USA, and Australia. Though some of the returning players on the series were thought to have already found love in past seasons, it is somewhat commonplace for these relationships to fail after the show ends. In the new spin–off though, some of these characters from across the franchise will come back and receive a second chance at finding love in the villa.
Through this rendition of the show, Love Island is trying to breathe some new air into its now tired format. Whether this will produce the results they are hoping for, however, is yet to be seen. Historically, a ‘multiverse’ premise has mostly helped the popularity of TV shows or movies (key case studies being any major superhero franchise and even past Oscar winner, Everything Everywhere All At Once). Recently, this trend has been critiqued in franchises for its cheap use of fan–service. But because Love Island is in nature a “reality” show and may indeed produce realistic results, it could appear to be a more genuine attempt to bring together people looking far and wide for a romantic connection. Though if the new series doesn’t engage as much as it has already promised to, we may be looking at the end of Love Island.