Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a crisis is nothing.
It’s tough work being a model citizen in 2021; it entails a lot of sitting around.
In my case, that means watching endless episodes of Love Island U.K. and coming to some definitive conclusions.
I say ‘endless’ with only slight exaggeration because the widely syndicated British reality match-making series is quite nearly an entire summer’s worth of TV entertainment. Each series has about 50 episodes, all an hour in length – an absolute slog getting through, though reaching the end is somewhat irrelevant to the show’s purpose: the producers essentially compress an entire day’s worth of poolside sun-tanning footage into pill form, easily digestible, to be taken twice daily.
We’ve all learned our own lessons during lockdown; some of those lessons may even be useful to us in our lives. But it’s wise to recognize that at various points in this pandemic we’re all going to burn out — many already have — and it’s important to give ourselves a pass when we hit a wall.
Consider this one of my free passes.
Here’s my takeaway from the past so-and-so: Season 5 is far and away the best Love Island has to offer.
The show runs on drama. We want to see Alex, the “love doctor,” turn red in the cheeks to match his blistering shoulder-burn when Alexandra calls him out on his manipulative ‘nice guy’ shtick (a gratifying payoff in Episode 42, Season 4, but it comes way too late to be worth it).
But the show is also founded on authenticity. We want to be fully convinced that Alex had feelings for Alexandra that were real, that he’d somehow managed to separate her from the cameras and the $50,000 prize that goes to the last couple standing.
As a general rule, the less often you’re having to parse genuine tears from $50K-crocodile tears, the better.
And Season 5 does it better. There are multiple comeback stories (Jordan!), near-comebacks (Michael!) and embarrassing falls from grace (Jordan again!); there’s an over-representation of strong personalities which somehow manage to avoid being annoying; equally important is the lack of boring or grating or cliquey Islanders who tend to take up the spotlight with explosive outbursts.
You might think a strong season of Love Island would have a wealth of strong relationships, but the tendency for Season 5 contestants to guard themselves against commitment turns out to be more authentic (it’s less realistic when couples “fall in love” in six weeks or so; not to be overly cynical, but more likely it’s dollar signs lighting the twinkle in their eyes during the near-consummate season finales).
Not to mention, all those cold feet in Season 5 open doors for a tonne of dramatic storylines.
Reality TV is often crassly referred to as a ‘boredom cure,’ but make no mistake, it is not. It’s no substitution for the meaningful things you may take up when induced by lockdown.
But not all of us are going to come out of this pandemic having used our extra at-home time to become perfectly rounded individuals. If you’re like me, on many days your keenest insight into the nature of things comes in the middle of a binge-watching session – or it appears unbeckoned on your social media feed in the form of a break-up post by an ex-Islander four weeks after they won the series.
If you haven’t to this point in the pandemic thrown your laptop into a body of water out of boredom, let us know your biggest takeaways from lockdown. What’s kept you entertained these past 14 months? I’d like to know; once I’m out of Love Island U.K. episodes, I’d rather not get hooked on the American version…