Love Island 2022 review: There’s plenty of ickiness in the first episode of the new series

It’s clear that little has changed, despite supposed overhauls for the reality dating show

Love Island's contestant Tasha Ghouri shares that she was born completely deaf

Love Island returns with the promise of something new. There’s a shinier, larger villa! Unconscious bias training for the islanders! A switch-up of the opener format! But by the end of episode one, it’s clear that very little has actually changed. Bikinis still defy gravity. Favourite sex positions are discussed early doors. The words: “Do you feel old now? 24’s old” are uttered without irony. Watching at home, I accept that the days when I could apply for the show have passed me by, now that I’ve reached the crone-like age of 25.

Series eight opens with a twist, the public having already voted for which couples they want to pair up. The girls react in horror at the thought of being partnered with a man who is not – gasp – their type on paper. One by one, the boys learn their fate too. It makes for pretty laborious viewing and by the end, nobody looks thrilled.

Once conversations start, things begin to shift. Indiyah is initially sarcastic with Ikenna. When she asks what type of woman he usually dates and he replies with “pretty girls”, she shoots back, “Is that it?” But soon she’s pledging to let her guard down, while Amber and Dami go from indifference to a natural, flirty rapport.

Elsewhere, the chat is far drier. We have the aforementioned sex position conversation between Luca and Paige, sparking a million Google searches asking what exactly a “broken needle” looks like. Tasha and Andrew get little airtime together, although she does tell the others about her cochlear implant, making for a lovely moment.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ickiness in the episode too. Both Luca and Andrew announce that they have their eyes on Paige, Gemma and Tasha – AKA the three white women. Love Island’s relationship with race has long been discussed. On a recent episode of the excellent BBC podcast Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV, journalist Paula Akpan said that she’d rather not see Black women go on the show, given how they’ve historically been treated by their fellow islanders. Her words ring in my mind throughout this episode; the boys’ comments strike a depressingly familiar undertone beneath the silliness of the show.

That silliness is heightened as we hear the words: “Did anyone order an Italian snack?” Davide, the first bombshell of the series, has arrived. The boys insist they’re not threatened but, given the eyes the girls are giving him, they probably should be.

Then, we have the obligatory game of dares icebreaker, featuring one awkward moment where Gemma begs partner Liam not to make her give him a lap dance. It’s easy to criticise the 19-year-old, but I do get why Gemma’s closed off. This is a girl who has lived her whole life in proximity to fame. She arguably has the most to gain, or lose, from the show – or at least she’s the most aware of it. Plus, as she points out in her confessional, “it’s still early days”. Gemma, it’s day one! It’s actually the earliest day it could be!

After confirming that none of them know how to pronounce Davide’s name, the girls start to make their moves. Paige is talking to the self-proclaimed “Italian stallion”, when he gets a text. In 24 hours, he’ll get to choose the girl he wants to couple up with, leaving one boy vulnerable. As twists go, it’s a pretty predictable one, yet the islanders are left reeling. At home, I feel less impressed. Are we stupid for hoping Love Island might have changed? Maybe. But it’s the show we love to criticise and we’ll still be tuning in at 9pm every night. See you on the other side.

Love Island continues each night at 9pm on ITV2

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