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So far, Peacock’s Love Island USA is blander, not spicier

So far, Peacock’s Love Island USA is blander, not spicier
Love Island USA season 4's Zeta Morrison, Courtney Boerner, Andy Voyen, and Deb Chubb (Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock)

When Peacock announced that it’d coupled up with Love Island, it made this big promise: “The new season will be hotter than ever as the Islanders couple up in a sexy new villa and compete in naughtier games and steamier challenges, with shocking twists and turns along the way.”

After its first week, I haven’t spotted those adjectives, unless you count a shit here or a fuck there—and I mean the words, not the actions.

In many ways this is very much the same show as it was on CBS; it’s still produced by ITV Entertainment, who sold the show to Peacock after CBS wanted to cut down the number of episodes.

Sereniti and Jesse kiss during Love Island USA season 4 episode 4's challenge
Sereniti and Jesse kiss during Love Island USA season 4 episode 4’s challenge. (Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock)

Now it’s on Peacock, a practically invisible streaming service that has a handful of excellent shows. Will Love Island’s six episodes a week convince people to pay $5 a month?

Not for the spicy content, which has been rather PG-13, even though the show is rated TV-MA.

The most salacious content was a few seconds of simulated doggy style in actual full clothing—not the typical Love Island uniform of scraps of clothing pretending to be swimsuits—plus a handful of words and phrases that would never have aired on CBS.

I didn’t expect it to be x-rated or a revival of Foursome (although…), but given a TV-MA rating and a home on streaming, there’s so much possibility, and yet it’s very much the same show it was on CBS.

There have been Survivor contestants in more-revealing clothing, and I’ve watched far more suggestive TikTok videos.

Otherwise, almost everything remains familiar, from the liberal use of pop music that mirrors the emotional content to the villa (a new place, in Santa Barbara, Calif.) that’s decorated with the usual bright candy pastels, neon signs, and a pool that’s deeper than any of the islanders.

Love Island: USA’s slow start

Peacock's Love Island USA season 4 islanders Felipe Gomes, Jesse Bray, Valerie Bragg, Sereniti Scott, Andy Voyen, Sydney Paight, Courtney Boerner, Zeta Morrison, Deb Chubb, and Timmy Pandolfi
Peacock’s Love Island USA season 4 islanders Felipe Gomes, Jesse Bray, Valerie Bragg, Sereniti Scott, Andy Voyen, Sydney Paight, Courtney Boerner, Zeta Morrison, Deb Chubb, and Timmy Pandolfi (Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock)

Love Island: USA began its fourth season by making it clear that it’s not seeking to stimulate us intellectually.

I’m not sure the casting has done the show any favors; the men in particular soften into a monosyllabic blob.

The first person we met was Deb Chubb, who’s ready to settle down. At 26. On Love Island.

“I just need someone to give me attention. That’s all. My type is attention,” Deb told Sereneti, who replied, “Male attention is what I’m lacking.” #Feminism

Meanwhile, the men are all “yeah yeah yeah yeah,” “nice nice nice.”

“In the bedroom, I love when they say ‘ Daddy,'” says Andy, age 23, which is a curious use of that word.

As usual, the show’s progressive tradition give the men power to choose which woman they couple up with. The women who are interested step forward, and the men get to ignore the women’s preferences and choose whoever they want.

“Go get your girl,” Sarah Hyland said repeatedly, asking also if they wanted their girl put into a paper or plastic bag.

All of this took most of one episode, and it dragged. So did the early challenges.

There are quick, fun moments, and conversations ranging from hilariously dumb one-offs (Deb wondering if birds are government robots “sitting on power lines to recharge”) to abusive (Isaiah apologizing to Sydney for his cruelty by saying he only did that because he liked her so much).

As a streaming show, Love Island: USA is edited just like it was on CBS: after commercial breaks and episodic cliffhangers, we have to sit through watching everything we already just watched.

Because a new episode arrives each day, six days a week, it is not edited for binge-watching. But since it’s on-demand each day, we’re also not watching it at the same time, and thus it’s the worst of both worlds.

I really miss Matthew Hoffman’s narration

New Love Island USA host Sarah Hyland in episode 1 of the Peacock show
New Love Island USA host Sarah Hyland in episode 1 of the Peacock show. (Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock)

Overall, Peacock didn’t start its Love Island: USA with any kind of splash that’d convince people to start paying.

To be fair, Love Island generally starts off slowly. The real drama comes as relationships deepen and get splintered as new people show up and everyone is forced into re-coupling ceremonies.

Yet this show is also missing what held all these superficial pieces together for me.

Love Island USA host Arielle Vandenberg has been replaced with Sarah Hyland; no offense to Arielle, but the host is always so absent that it’s a barely noticeable swap.

What I really miss is Matthew Hoffman’s narration.

Fans of UK’s Love Island seem thrilled that original narrator Iain Stirling, a Scottish comedian who’s narrated all seasons since the show was revived in 2015, is now narrating Love Island USA, too. I’ve never watched more than a few segments of the UK version, so I was excited to see what he brought to the show.

On Peacock, though, that has not been much, as his narration has been rather sedate.

The jokes alternate between cliches like “paging Dr. Freud” to calling the show “Love Hyland.”

More often than not, the humor just falls flat. When some of the cast took a tour of the villa, Iain compared it to “a sexy Scooby Doo” and added, “Shaggy is jacked.” But how is this show in any way remotely like an episode of Scooby Doo?

There have been a handful of good jokes, like the comment about the medical team standing by to reattach Val’s fingers because of the way she was cutting oranges.

But honestly, I laughed harder at Deb’s sleep mask than anything in the narration.

What is nearly entirely gone is the fourth-wall-breaking mockery of the show—and reality TV—that really made me fall in love with it.

That came from Matthew Hoffman, who was credited as co-writer and narrator of the CBS version, and who explained his process like this:

“I watch the show exactly like the viewer does! I come in every morning and watch each act with my genius voiceover producers. We pause the show on parts that accelerate the story, and pause for any potential funny moments and say what we see. I am very adamant that I never want to know anything more than the viewer knows. My goal is to have the viewer feel as if I’m on the couch next to them, so I want to find out the information in real time to capture my first and most genuine response.

It did feel like we were watching together, and that was exactly what I needed to make Love Island watchable.

I have no idea how Iain Stirling is currently narrating two separate seasons of the show, since Love Island UK is also in production right now. I can barely tell the people on one show apart. And maybe that decision has hurt the U.S. version.

Love Island is particularly shallow at the beginning, with people in swimsuits attempting to talk in complete sentences.

Until the drama ramps up, the narration needs to fill in the gaps to make this entertaining. And once the drama arrives, we need someone to undercut it to keep everything light and fun.

That’s what Matthew Hoffman did so well: snarking and saying the things he was/we were thinking out loud, such as calling season-one winners Zac and Elizabeth “talking wedding-cake toppers.”

Maybe I just need some queer-infused wit and sass to keep me afloat in this sunny expedition into heterosexual waters.

But between the flat narration and the lack of any meaningful differentiation from what CBS offered, it seems that Peacock’s Love Island is almost scared to push boundaries, which is ironic considering its TV-MA rating, its home on streaming, and its so-far empty promise of being “hotter than ever.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

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Happy discussing!


Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Somehow I feel like the characters are surprisingly uplifting... I might be the only person on earth that thinks LI is a good watch. Andy is kind of just a trash person.. other than andy they all seem mature and respectful. I hate all reality shows, and i hate fake people. I tuned in to LI to "See the most fake people ever" and they are decent folks, on a super weird dating show. Also the format of elimination is designed well, the producers aren't stupid. And I heard feminists whined about the program. so 1 more point for that. ;)


Monday 1st of August 2022

Why does the show hire a host if they’re never going to be there? Sarah Hyland has been on 1 of 10 regular episodes. The hist should at least be at the recoupling ceremonies. I wholeheartedly agree about the narration. Matthew Hoffman made Love Island worth watching. Half the time now, I can’t even understand what Iain Stirling is saying. Ditching Hoffman was the dumbest decision the producers made.


Tuesday 9th of August 2022

@Chuck, my theory is they think the group will make their own rules, and get comfy/settled in better without the host around. to foster organic interactions

Andy Dehnart

Monday 1st of August 2022

I do not understand the host thing at all! For the hosts, I wonder if it's the best gig or the most boring, or both.


Saturday 30th of July 2022

We couldn’t wait to watch Love Island with Matthew Hoffman narrating. His comedic delivery was brilliant. Now we just fast forward through the episodes to the evictions only.


Tuesday 26th of July 2022

I agree completely!!! Hotter sexier steamier..... where is that? This season sucks so far, it was better on CBS with Matthew as narrator he gave life to the show. Arielle as host was also better, Sarah just doesn't fit the show even thou we dont see much of the host (which is fine) I am very disappointed and hope that it gets better. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I wasnt expecting soft porn or anything but this season is beyond bland. Is it the horrible narration, is it bad casting, is it the new network, new location or the lack of anything going on. I know my thoughts but maybe they can save this season since it is filmed and aired in almost real time.


Tuesday 26th of July 2022

"There have been Survivor contestants in more-revealing clothing"

Oh please... Are we talking about the same Survivor that often blurs female contestants' rears if too much butt is exposed? Whereas these girls in love island are walking around uncensored in thong bikinis.

Andy Dehnart

Tuesday 26th of July 2022

Okay, so maybe a slight bit of exaggeration! And maybe I should have specified the men, because Survivor stopped blurring years ago now, and there's way more VPL on Survivor than on this Love Island. Thongs, though, Love Island gets the point there.