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'Love Island' comes to the U.S.: 10 things you need to know about the British reality TV sensation

Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The Beatles. Rolls-Royce. Cadbury Creme Eggs. "The Office." Topshop.

And now "Love Island"?

On Tuesday, the latest phenomenon to come out of the United Kingdom was to make its way stateside in a bid for American popularity. The reality TV show, which will air five nights a week on CBS, is a dating competition in which unnaturally attractive young singles live in a tropical villa together. Immediately upon their arrival, 11 contestants are asked to choose someone of the opposite sex to couple up with, based solely on appearance. Couples -- who are expected to share a bed together starting on the very first night -- compete in challenges, go on dates and try to withstand the temptation of new Islanders, who are continually sent into the villa over the course of the season. At the end, the public votes on the winning couple, who take home a cash prize.

Think "Big Brother" meets "Bachelor in Paradise."

But as much as "Love Island" is about, well, love, it's also not. So much of what makes the U.K. version work is watching the friendships form between housemates. Because there's no outside stimulation -- internet, books and TV are prohibited -- the Islanders form bonds quickly and derive pleasure from mundane things. The highlight of a day, for instance, might be spying on a couple sharing their first kiss, or spending an inordinate amount of time getting ready to sit by the pool at night instead of during the day.

You might think that sounds like watching paint dry, but because the show is on every weeknight, it's easy to become invested in the contestants. Unlike the U.K. version, which takes place in Majorca, the U.S. "Love Island" is being shot in Fiji. That means there's a 16-hour time difference between the South Pacific island and New York, giving editors a brisk turn-around time to package the action for television. The first episode of the show on Tuesday night will be made up of footage recorded on Monday morning.

 

With help from "Love Island" executive producer David Eilenberg -- the reality TV vet behind shows like "Hell's Kitchen" and Netflix's "Queer Eye" reboot --here are the 10 things you need to know about the show before Tuesday night's premiere.

OK, but seriously. You're telling me this isn't boring? What do these people do all day?

Honestly? Not that much. A typical day in the "Love Island" villa follows the contestants as they wake up, pick out their bathing suits, make tea, tan by the pool, work out, shower, do their hair and makeup, return outside to the pool and hang out by fire pits. Every few days, there will be a challenge, but they're never serious -- like riding a mechanical bull, or a food fight. Sometimes couples get to go on dates, but they're usually not extravagant like on "The Bachelor" -- they might get a bottle of Champagne under some lanterns in the front yard.

"It really plays in a much different way than 'The Bachelor' does," Eilenberg says. "That's a dramatic show, and we think of 'Love Island' as an ensemble romantic comedy. It speaks to a totally different viewer, and both can exist. One of the hallmarks of a romantic comedy is that even though there are leads, there are usually multiple couples you can root for -- and that rootability has become an essential part of the show."

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