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Hi wavey email friends, hope you're well. Fifteen years ago, shrinking giant ITV sent twelve single celebrities to Fiji for five weeks for new reality show Celebrity Love Island. It turned out duller than viewers hoped, and ratings dwindled. A year later it returned with more celebrities, dropping 'celebrity' from its name and with more editorial effort in keeping things interesting. But, as ratings fell further still, the show was canned.

Then in 2015, the show was rebooted. By now British TV was awash with reality shows, but the renewed format seemed to benefit from this. Relocated to Mallorca, with beautiful, young contestants replacing celebrities, and with some of ITV's proven writing and production talent, it reemerged with a clearer sense of purpose.
Love Island. Can't see it? Click to view in browser
LOVE ISLAND: The renewed show's popularity, with viewers and also therefore advertisers, has grown every year, leading ITV to commission two series for 2020: one in the summer from Mallorca and another batch of contestants from Sunday from a new, fancier villa in Cape Town. I'm not the target demographic for this show (I'm too old and too male) but all the same I find myself both glued to it and advocating for it, while also defending it to those who call it problematic trash.

So what is Love Island? What's the point of it? Newcomers will find it's riddled with category errors. Despite what its executive producer may argue, it's not really about love. It's also not entirely on an island, and it's much bigger than a reality TV show. But these weaknesses are its strengths: it outgrew its original format. The biggest change wasn't the location or the stars; Love Island became self-aware. It's no longer really a competition, nor is it solely about who might cop off with whom. That's what makes it so addictive.

The young contestants enter the villa self-centred and dislikable, and the format attempts to reveal their characters, for better or worse, within an even-paced narrative. What the audience gets, guilty as they may feel, to see is a change in the ones not dismissed over the weeks. Whereas contestants start out describing their 'type' by physical or lifestyle attributes, by the end they are articulating why their partner is special in terms of how they make them feel. These seemingly solipsistic morons learn that being respected and celebrated for their thoughts, opinions and outlooks is more important to them than being fancied.

Each series, therefore, is a morality tale, played out while respecting its audience enough to be transparent about the ways its participants are being manipulated. Central to this is the humour: comedian Iain Stirling's surreal observational voiceover forms a tacit agreement with the audience. You know it's all artificial, and Stirling knows you know, so opportunity is missed to relish in the ridiculousness of it all. πŸ’•
⚽️ The Trevor Bastard Extended Universe is modern art: The story of a surreal and elaborate comic world played out on social media. The Outline argues one of the most creative uses of social media yet devised; its vision and innovation clearly make it an important work of art. Yet it falls foul of being mistakenly seen at not fictional, by the media, politicians and even the social platforms themselves.

βœ‚οΈ Which emoji scissors close? Sure they look like they would work as scissors, but would they?

πŸ‘©β€πŸ”¬ Miss America 2020 is an Actual Scientist: Camille Schrier graduated with dual bachelor of science degrees in biochemistry and systems biology. She's now working toward her doctorate of pharmacy, and has pledged to use her title to promote drug safety and abuse prevention and STEM education.

🌍 Here's What the World Will Look Like in 2030... Right? Predicting the future is hard. Here's a handful of far-reaching expectations the decade ahead, from space colonies to straight-up apocalypse. Think of this as a sort-of high-stakes Choose Your Own Adventure.

πŸ”₯ How To Donate To Causes Fighting The Australian Fires: We're probably only a few days away from Elon Musk claiming to have fixed this catastrophe with some unlikely invention, while hurling unfounded abuse at any subject-matter expert that calls him out on it. But if you're keen to offer genuine help, here's some ideas.

🀳 I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them: Without their phones, most initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the β€œreal” world. See also: We asked teenagers what adults are missing about technology. This was the best response.

🏯 Monokai: a trip through Japan: A beautiful linear photo journal.
On with the show: The sun doesn't always shine, though. Two Love Island contestants have subsequently taken their own lives, prompting the provisioning of lengthy aftercare. Despite press outcry, cancellation was not considered. Love Island also attracts criticism for presenting distorted views of sex, body image, class and race. For these, it's one of the worst examples on TV: there's room for improvement. I have to remind myself just how awful TV used to be.

Thing is, a lot of money is at stake. Every other ITV show is losing advertising spend. And Love Island skews young: it's the biggest ratings-puller for viewers aged 16–34, which isn't surprising, but these are the most dispersed across digital channels, so advertisers are desperate for ways to reach them. A long list of brands have lined up to align with Love Island: Just Eat, Rimmel, l'Oreal, Superdrug, Jet2 Holidays, Lucozade, Thorpe Park, Ministry of Sound, Missguided, Primark, Kellogg's, Samsung, Echo Falls, I Saw It First, Boohooman, Musclefood...

The revenue opportunities are much greater than solely brand tie-ups. Everything about Love Island is for sale, from the wardrobe (scant in cut but considerable in range) to the merchandise, mobile game and cosmetics. There's even a board game. With a podcast on top, plus relentless social content, it's also used to recruit into other ITV products like the streaming service, with a view to selling still more advertising.

Then there's exports; all TV networks are keen to appeal to younger audiences. Love Island Australia is picking up an audience more steadily, whereas ratings the US version have been less impressive, although CBS is persisting with a second season. It may be that the format relies on snobbishness, but more likely the American version is just a bit too earnest. The beautiful location and the constant drama and the contestants' incredible physiques just aren't enough. More than anything, Love Island needs to be funny. πŸ˜‚
Finally: this is the era in which the US music industry desperately wrestles with its gender bias issues, with many metrics still heading in the wrong direction. But stars with staying-power have emerged. Here's stories on three: Billie Eilish and the Triumph of the Weird, also Lizzo’s Moment and How Lana Del Rey reinvented herself. πŸ‘©β€πŸŽ€

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