With gloomy winter weather coming to the UK, what better way to cheer yourself up than tuning into the trials and tribulations of a group of tanned and toned singletons desperate for love?
The winter series of Love Island – the UK’s most popular dating show – returns to screens on Monday night, as new host Maya Jama introduces a fresh cast who will spend up to eight weeks in a luxurious sun-soaked villa in South Africa, “pulling each other for a chat”, getting their “head turned” and “doing bits” when the lights go out.
The lineup includes Will Young, a 23-year-old farmer with a million followers on TikTok, and Olivia Hawkins, a 27-year-old fight progress manager and actor who can be seen in the background of Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film, No Time to Die, and once worked as a body double for Emma Watson and Michelle Keegan.
Also on screen will be the show’s first ever partially sighted contestant, Ron Hall, 26; Tanya Manhenga, 22, a biomedical science student; Kai Fagan, 24, a PE teacher; Lana Jenkins, 25, a makeup artist; Anna-May Robey, 20, a payroll assistant; Tanyel Revan, 26, a hairstylist; Shaq Muhammad, 24, an airport security officer; and Haris Namani, 21, a TV salesperson.
For the first time, all contestants in this series have to keep their social media accounts dormant to protect them from “adverse effects”. Previously, friends and family members took over accounts to publish content including memes and statements on the Islanders’ behalf, and often had to deal with any negativity or trolling and have in the past posted pleas for viewers to be kinder.
The new rule is part of an overhaul of measures by ITV relating to the duty of care to contestants.
Islanders will also receive guidance and training on “mutually respectful behaviour in relationships” after the most recent series prompted thousands of complaints to the broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom. Many of these related to “alleged misogynistic and bullying behaviour”, although they were not upheld.
The show’s duty of care has been under the spotlight after the deaths of previous contestants Sophie Gradon in 2018 and Mike Thalassitis in 2019, as well as that of former host Caroline Flack in 2020. In recent years, Love Island bosses have offered contestants a minimum of eight therapy sessions after their time on the show.
On Monday, the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid urged producers to “consider their duty of care”, adding: “Real women at the heart of these storylines shouldn’t be disregarded for entertainment. We are in contact with women who have been on reality TV and have experiences that were traumatic and avoidable.”
But Jo Hemmings, a psychologist who has worked behind the scenes on numerous reality TV shows, told the BBC that Love Island now had a “gold standard” when it came to duty of care. “I think the protocols, particularly the one about pausing the social media accounts, will certainly help the families or people managing those accounts,” she said.
The series launch was thrown into chaos after 50mph winds battered the region, making filming the opening scenes extremely difficult. An insider told the Sun: “Every department was affected – sound, lighting, cameras, wardrobe … None of the Islanders expected to be shivering around the firepit either, but it came into its own.”
Jama, who takes over from former host Laura Whitmore, makes her grand entrance on set in a helicopter – making it the “biggest budget opening” in the show’s history.