Why millions have fallen in love with Love Island

  • Love Island feature by ITV News Multimedia Producer Amani Hughes

  • Video report by Video Producers Natalia Jorquera and Aspel Brown

The nation has once again tuned in to Love Island in their millions, but what is behind the country's obsession with this summer series?

When the reality TV show landed in 2015, no one could predict how popular a show focusing on men and women parading around in their swimwear and coupling up with each other could become.

Fast forward four years, Love Island has broken records, with six million viewers tuning in to the latest series, a second winter series in South Africa on the way and 11 other countries jumping on the bandwagon - a US version being the latest country to cash in on the success.

It's also spouted water bottles, suitcases and a whole fashion line.

But beyond the commerce, the most valuable offering to viewers is the chance to be a part of something.

The latest series has reached six million viewers. Credit: ITV

For those meeting up at work, colleges and schools, the question on everyone's lips is 'did you watch Love Island last night?!'

"It has grown by the viral method of people talking about it," behaviour psychologist Jo Hemmings told ITV News.

"So over the past few series, its become huge and it becomes something you have to watch. You need to be talking about it too, otherwise you will feel isolated from it."

The show has tapped into that communal experience through the power of social media.

Each night, fans share their views on dedicated WhatsApp groups, post hilarious memes and find out whether you're #TeamAmber or #TeamMichael.

Love Island fans took to social media to share their view on the Amber/Michael drama. Credit: ITV

In doing so we become devoted watchers of human behaviour every night, muses Geoff Beattie.

The professor of psychology at Edge Hill University is well known to reality TV audiences himself as one of the original Big Brother psychologists.

"A major aspect of the show is trying to understand what's genuine in a relationship and what isn't," Professor Beattie said.

"Can we understand what's real and what's not by the body language, what they are doing, their gestures, smiles...we are trying to work out what's going to happen next.

"It allows people to develop your own hypothesis, your own theories, about the tell-tale signs, trying to spot incongruities and going on social media to give your views, and interpretations.

"A programme like that works well because there is an emotional connection with the whole thing, trying to see which relationships hold up."

But with any human drama, we identify with some characters more than others.

We might take a liking to the Ambers and Ovies of the villa, but with others (ahem Curtis/Michael) we don't necessarily want to see them prospering.

Professor Beattie explained: "We want to see them suffer the consequences of their actions, some of what we see in that villa is a moral play and with some people coming unstuck."

ITV2 has announced Love Island will go to two series a year from 2020. Credit: ITV

Empathy is another key aspect of the show - seeing our own lives mirrored back at ourselves and knowing despite the good looks, six packs and 'perfect' physiques these people still have the same insecurities as the rest of us.

"Love Island is not just couples meeting in the sun, I think it has a real resonance," Jo Hemmings explained.

"Watching the situations they go through, the relationships that they are in, the ups and downs of those. The problems they have within the relationships and the fears they have, someone else coming along and turning one of their heads.

"All that is a mini version of what goes on in a lot of people's lives."

Ovie (and his hats) have received a huge fan base. Credit: ITV

However the show is not without its faults.

It has had to intensify its aftercare support in the light of the suicides of two former contestants.

And it has been criticised for sharing the message that relationships are all about appearances, recoupling, trading up and dumping someone at any time.

There's even been accounts of children imitating the recoupling process in the school playground.

Jo Hemmings argues the show has become too stage managed, directed and lacks the rawness that Big Brother had.

"Its over structured, over managed in that you need to go back to talking about yourselves and relationships," she says.

"In a way, it's a shame as the perspective you get is of people who aren't very bright and who aren't interested in the outside world."

The recouplings are a huge part of the show, but some are concerned it sends the wrong message to young viewers. Credit: ITV

More often than not, the show's standout moments come when they are not discussing their 'connections' or relationships, but when the islanders' personalities shine through.

A few personal favourites; hearing Ovie sing as he cooks his eggs in the morning; the boys acting out their favourite Harry Potter scenes and all the contestants 'salmon-ing' into the pool (has to be seen to be understood).

It is also when the 'Love' Island of the show is demonstrated not through boy-girl relationships, but through friendships, despite being reminded frequently this is not 'friendship' island.

An example of this was when Anna confronted Jordan for grafting India, despite asking her to be his girlfriend just days earlier.

"Anna got some amazing support from the girls in the villa, boosting her confidence, saying she deserves better," Jo said.

"When people are having a tough time, they rally around, that's one of the nicest messages the show sends out."

Love Island is about the friendships that develop between contestants as much as the romantic relationships. Credit: ITV

Viewers have been quick to note that sex is less prevalent in this series compared to previous years - the show has definitely become more PG friendly.

Lucie Donlan, one of the contestants this year, told ITV News that's because people have respect for each other.

She said you're not going to crack on with your partner, if your best friend is sleeping in the next bed.

"It's more focused on friendships which is really nice, because a lot of people would focus on looking at the friendships, people having fun, mucking around," Lucie added.

"It's a lot more entertaining to see a friendship bond get stronger, sometimes more than watching the sex."

Lucie told ITV News it's more entertaining to watch friendships develop, than watching sex. Credit: ITV

Millions will tune into the final on Monday night, as the winners of the fifth series is announced, but we watch the show as we do with any rom-com film, with a certain amount of cynicism, knowing less than half the relationships last the course, despite couples planning their lives together.

But will anyone really care or even remember who has won the show a few months down the line?

The appeal of this guilty pleasure is in the moment.

Perhaps by seeing a bit of Maura's feistyness, Amy's insecurities or Ovie's charm in ourselves, we enter a world of cracking on, getting mugged off and grafting, that we can all share in for eight weeks of summer.