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'Has Love Island ruined reality TV? Watching Shipwrecked, you'd be inclined to think so'

How many shows with people in bikinis do we need?

ALL CARDS ON the table, I love Love Island. Because, what’s not to love? Throw a few beautiful people on an island, make them fall in love in a bid to win cash with some challenges thrown into the mix for good measure?

It’s reality TV gold – at least, for now. As the show continues to get bigger and bigger, there’s a risk of the bubble bursting. Applicants now recognise the platform the show provides, meaning perhaps not everyone is applying for the right reasons (I can hear you snorting and I don’t appreciate it! These people should be looking for their soulmates!)

Regardless, the show has undoubtedly changed the landscape of television/pop culture, given that I’m still here blathering on about it all these months later. However, that also poses another dilemma – how can shows post-Love Island compare?

It’s very much been a race-to-the-bottom for production companies attempting to emulate the success, and often the entire concept of LI. Case in point? E4′s recent revival of the classic noughties survival show, Shipwrecked.

E4 / YouTube

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Where the show won viewers in its early iterations as a T4 breakfast viewing staple was in it’s super simple concept – it was all a popularity concept. Sure, there was a survival element, but not to Bear Grylls-level which would illicit genuine concerns about starvation (or so we thought – more on that below.) You had people fresh off the boat and out of “uni”, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for a “new experience”.

Enter 2019, you’d find yourself questioning whether this is even the same show. Social media influencers, staunch and models make up the contestants, their agendas and producer-crafted narratives crystal clear from the off. Shot-for-shot, one tropical house deep cut after another the similarities to LI are staggering, to the point where you’d be forgiven for wondering where Iain Stirling’s gone. 

On their deserted island, contestants are met with a wide variety tools housed in pre-made shelters. Where’s the challenge in that? Bring back the Long Drop, for f*ck sake. 

shipwrecked E4 E4

Former contestant Joe Stone spoke about his experience on the show in a piece for The Guardian, calling this year’s recruits “pampered”.

“For five harrowing months, we subsisted on a diet of rice and tongues, lambs’, cows’ and each others’ – thanks to many mandatory games of spin the bottle,” he said.

Rations were scarce, in the hope that we might learn to fend for ourselves. But after a few unsuccessful attempts at spearing fish with sticks, most of us settled for getting very, very thin.
Occasionally we would distract producers by staging elaborate arguments so that one of us could raid the abandoned crew camp for Crunchies, but despite these heroic efforts, one islander lost five stone. Others attempted to stave off rickets by prising sea snails off rocks and eating them raw.”

Of course, we the viewers were never made aware of the extent of their suffering because it’s just not sexy enough for reality TV.

If it was that way in the 00s, the producers efforts to slick even more gloss on to the format makes perfect sense. But how much is too much? Given that the opening episode’s main conflict sparked from a debate about whether mermaids exist, it’s fair to say the genre of “thick people in bikinis” is now over-saturated.

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