‘Love Island’ washes up as tedious addition to reality dating tide

Posted at 8:58 PM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 22:58:58-04

Seriously, “Love Island,” five nights a week of this — a “Bachelor in Paradise”/”Big Brother” love child?

With “The Bachelor” and its various spinoffs, knockoffs and copycats, one might think there’s an unlimited appetite for yet another fun-in-the-sun dating show. Yet CBS is testing that theory with “Love Island,” an unscripted series that made its debut Tuesday. It comes with a proven pedigree in the UK, and the network is giving it a five-night-a-week summer run.

The main issues with “Love Island,” and indeed most of these shows, involve being able to suspend disbelief that those participating are really looking for romance, as opposed to a trip to Fiji and the fame (or notoriety) and career prospects potentially yielded by weeks of primetime exposure.

Much has been written about the current “reality TV presidency,” but the fact that these series continue to proliferate suggests there’s still ample work to do in terms of media literacy and people having even a vague understanding of how the sausage gets made.

“Love Island” arrives as programs with similar conceits have essentially started recycling, from Fox’s “Paradise Hotel,” to USA reviving one-time Fox sensation “Temptation Island” — a show built around whether committed couples can survive when having a menu of available singles to help rub suntan lotion on their backs.

CBS is nevertheless providing this latest series an exhibition pattern similar to “Big Brother,” with multiple telecasts per week, in an effort to provide some sizzle in the months before its fall premieres (which were heavily promoted during the show) make their debut.

Executive producer David Eilenberg has described “Love Island” by saying that there’s “nothing quite like it,” which exhibits more of a gift for marketing than accuracy.

In the premiere, the six women, age 21 to 26, paired off with five men, age 22 to 29. After the slow-motion intros, the real surprise was that the show feels so modestly produced, in the sense that it lets the participants just sit around talking, without stunts, contests or fabricated drama, other than the “Recoupling” ceremony used (predictably) as a cliffhanger.

In addition to the scheduling, the other major wrinkle hinges on the program being taped and edited as quickly as possible, meaning the footage in each episode will “hit your screens” within a day of when it happens.

For the series to work, viewers will need to be drawn in by these characters, with the prospect that the close-to-air construction offers real-time rooting interest and a chance to shake things up — including the arrival of new faces — on the fly.

As noted, it’s all worked quite well in the UK, where the show is naughtier, since broadcast content rules are less restrictive. Based on first impressions, this looks like the TV equivalent of Brexit — a tired echo of similar fare about as empty as the “love” in tennis.

“Being this good-looking is a gift and a curse,” one of the contestants, a model, said by way of introducing himself on Tuesday.

As for being tedious, well, it isn’t a gift.