Love Island 2024 review: The bar, truly, could not be lower – but it’s irresistible TV

Love Island, Glastonbury and an international football tournament were once the holy trinity of a long, hot summer – but now in its 11th series, does the ITV reality show still measure up? Throw in the upcoming general election and there’s no shortage of meme-worthy events vying for our attention. As former Islander Molly-Mae Hague infamously put it, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. So is Love Island worth spending precious time on? We’re only an hour and a half into the current series, but the launch episode delivers a last-minute twist that makes tuning in again irresistible.

The series opener ticks all the usual boxes within minutes: a cheesy opening sequence to introduce the contestants, sweeping shots of Mallorca and at least two twenty-something women looking for men who are “tall, dark and handsome”. The Islanders enter in groups of two or three now, which is a welcome way of speeding up the launch episode – especially as their VTs were all released online last week.

Iain Stirling is on fine form, with topical quips – “That’s what the sea looks like when it’s not full of sewage” – and self-deprecating gags, while host Maya Jama, who rightly elicits screams as she walks into the villa, once again brings genuine enthusiasm that brings to mind the show’s original host Caroline Flack.

In another small tweak to the format, the Islanders are given the chance to mingle and get to know each other a little before playing a game, which seees the girls rank the boys in order of who looks the most like boyfriend material, and vice-versa. Munveer, who at 30 is practically pension age in Love Island terms, takes the top spot for the boys. Why? “He’s quite chatty and hasn’t said anything bad yet.” The bar, truly, could not be lower.

It is heartening to see the Islanders themselves are nowhere near learning each other’s names yet, with the lads instead referring to the ladies variously as “scouse” or by the colour of their swimwear. I’m personally at least a week away from being able to name 50 per cent of them. Jama oversees the game before revealing the Islanders are being coupled up based on how they are ranked, which is another decent way of speeding up what can often be a drawn-out process.

The question is whether the producers’ changes will be enough to keep Love Island feeling fresh and relevant in 2024. At the height of its popularity in 2019, the sun-soaked series pulled in an average of more than 5 million viewers, and 3.6 million of us tuned in to see Amber Gill crowned winner, just weeks after suffering one of the show’s most painful Casa Amor dumpings (Michael “Chaldish” Griffiths has still not been forgiven).

What made that series so compelling was how real it felt. Amber being brutally ditched was a bat signal to all women who have ever been wronged – she could have rebounded from Michael with a plank of wood and we still would have voted for her to win. (As it turns out, she opted for Greg, who had no rizz and allegedly dumped her by text a couple of months later. He too will never be forgiven.)

Jama presenting ‘Love Island' (ITV)
Jama presenting ‘Love Island' (ITV)

The 2019 series also gave us one of Love Island’s most well-known couples in Molly-Mae and Tommy Fury, who finished in second place. But with so many international versions and spin-offs, it’s much harder for ITV to keep up the illusion that love really is the aim of the game. Instead, it seems, they’re leaning fully into delivering drama and tweet-worthy reality TV twists.

The first bombshell is revealed in the final seconds of the launch show – and it’s none other than TOWIE veteran Joey Essex. It’s been a long time since a Love Island twist has genuinely left me shook but this does it. Is the perma-tanned king of reem truly looking for love? Maybe it doesn’t matter after all. As long as the drama keeps coming.