Love Island season is officially here. Sort of. The sun may not shining, and somehow it feels colder now than it did a week ago but ITV’s hottest reality show is back for its second ever “winter edition”. This, by the way, does not mean that this year’s contestants will be sipping boozy hot chocolates in chalets and chirpsing in hot tubs instead of pools – although, admittedly that does sound like a good idea for a TV show.
Instead, it’s business as usual. The only difference is this year’s islanders – a full list of which can be found here – are chasing the sun in South Africa rather than Spain. Lucky them. But hey, if I can’t be on summer holiday drinking warm sangria from a plastic wine glass, then at least I can watch someone else do it while Iain Stirling commentates. Location aside, there is no doubt that an abundance of tears, tantrums and dramatic re-couplings is on the horizon.
Across its past eight seasons, the show has built its reputation around pure entertainment. The so-bad-it’s-good kind, which in recent years has become acceptable to watch because it’s a quote-unquote cultural phenomenon.
As with anything, though, not all Love Island seasons are created equal and recent seasons have failed to capture the magic of the first few in the same way. Here’s our ranking of the show’s eight seasons, from worst to best.
8. Season six
We were right to be sceptical. When Love Island announced it would be airing two seasons in one year with the introduction of its Winter edition in 2020, eyebrows were raised. Would this be too much of a good thing? The answer, it turns out, is yes. There was your run-of-the-mill tantrums and tears, and yet it all seemed a bit… boring. Besides a mesmerisingly in-sync dance number by Luke T and Siannise Fudge (who are one of the few couples still together post-Villa), the season was lacking in memorable moments and contestants.
7. Season Seven
Don’t get me wrong, I watched every episode of last year’s series – and I have the reviews to prove it – but Love Island season seven was a flop. It stuck to the formula but the magic was missing, making the show ultimately unmemorable. So I’ll jog your memory with a few key phrases: Jiberty, Faye’s brown lipstick, and simply Toby. It was a shame because if ever we needed reality TV escapism, it was last year when travel was still a no-go and the idea of a poolside margherita was for most people only a mirage. This season also yielded the most Ofcom complaints in the show’s history. As our Love Island critic Elise Bell questioned: “Is this the beginning of the post-Love Island era?” And lastly, voting Kyler as fourth place? A national travesty.
6. Season eight
Series eight was an uneven outing for Love Island, boasting some high highs but more low lows. Much of the action predictably focused on the show’s obligatory famous contestant, Gemma (daughter of former footballer Micheal Owen) and her increasingly tedious relationship with Luca. This series has much to thank Ekin-Su for. The bombshell’s arrival into the villa gave proceedings a much-needed shake-up, setting her sights on Davide (who was coupled up with Gemma) before pursuing a romance with Jay. The sight of Ekin-Su crawling on all fours towards Jay on the terrace – in an effort to avoid being seen by the other islanders – will go down in Love Island history. The moment is so iconic that Ekin-Su recently paid tribute to the sultry moment in her Dancing on Ice debut. There was also the reintroduction of season four’s Adam Collard, which opened the door for future seasons to feature returning islanders… who else could we be seeing next?
5. Season one
Series one was always going to be a bit of an experiment and it’s natural that the show went through some teething pains before becoming the TV behemoth it is today. Although it was only released six years ago, times have changed and watching season one now feels dated in a way that you can’t quite get past. The biggest problem, though, was that it felt like none of the contestants were there to find love. Obviously, there’s still the turning of many heads in the more recent seasons but most of the islanders today seem genuinely interested in finding a relationship. Admittedly, the season had its moments (most notably, Jon’s shock proposal to Hannah) but it simply doesn’t compare to the reality hit we’ve grown accustomed to. That being said, with everything that’s come of it since, we’ll forever be indebted to Love Island’s terrible first season.
4. Season four
If season three gently opened Love Island’s door to mainstream success, season four blew it clean off the hinges. Expectations were high – but thankfully met. Each series throws up a couple for the nation to get behind but Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham were a cut above the rest. Although the pair have since split up (RIP romance), watching them slowly – and genuinely – fall in love on screen remains one of Love Island’s most wholesome storylines to date. Audiences were also given not one but two women contestants to root for: Samira Mighty and Laura Anderson showed everyone, everywhere, the true meaning of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Laura was so well liked by fans that she went on to win second place, paired with… what was his name again? Anyway, the escapades of Georgia Steel and Megan Barton Hanson kept us more than entertained, alongside the “Do Bits Society” members Wes Nelson, Josh Denzel and Jack Fowler.
3. Season six
Two words: Chris and Kem. But while it’s true that the best friend duo won us all over, their friendship was only one highlight in a series full of them. Namely, the introduction of Casa Amor – a plot device whose importance in the series now simply cannot be overstated. The most iconic moment of the season, however, came courtesy of Theo Campbell. By the time Theo entered the villa on day 32, most of the couples had found pretty solid ground, meaning that Theo’s decision to pursue Tyla, who was paired with Jonny at the time, ruffled some serious feathers. The love triangle, which eventually saw Theo choose Tyla in a re-coupling, also gave us one of the show’s most iconic quotes after Jonny is forced to choose Amber because, as he put it, “I wasn’t given much of a choice thanks to a gigantic bellend.”
2. Season five
After a hugely successful fourth season, we were all braced for a disappointing dip come season five but Love Island rose to the challenge. There was enough heartache (Curtis and Amy), bombshell entries (Maura), shock recouplings (Amber, Michael, Joanna) and genuinely nice people (Yewande and Ovie) to satisfy drama-hungry viewers. Five seasons in and we as a nation of telly watchers were more invested than ever. Tears were shed watching as Amy left the villa with her head held high and I doubt I’ll ever feel indignation on the same scale as I did watching Michael mug off Amber and then plead for her back – it was “chaldish” is what it was.
1. Season two
It didn’t take long for Love Island to hit its stride. By the second season, the show had evolved into the trash TV we know and love. It was the good ol’ days: drama, sex, chain-smoking and more sex. Watching it back now makes these later seasons of Love Island seem tame.. Back then, it was meme-worthy moment after meme-worthy moment: Malia pushing Kady into the pool, Rykard leaving the island in a grand gesture after Rachel is evicted. Jaws across the nation dropped in unison as an ex-partner was thrown into the mix for the first time. Despite there being no Casa Amor to look forward to, Love Island’s second series still managed to dish up relationship drama on a platter. Who could forget Malin returning to confront Terry for cheating on her on national television? Pure ratings gold. The second series also drew attention to the double standards faced by female contestants. Viewers watched as former Miss Great Britain Zara had her title revoked after spending the night in the hideaway with Alex, who emerged from the scandal totally unscathed.
Love Island continues Monday 16 June at 9pm on ITV2.