Welcome, islanders, to the U.S. version of one of the most absurd, most dramatic (sorry, Bachelor) dating series in reality television history: Love Island.
The show is a huge hit in the U.K. right now. It started airing on ITV2 in June 2015 and is now the network’s most-watched program ever, with some 3.6 million viewers tuning in to watch last year’s season four finale. Starting July 9, an American version will air five days a week—yes, five days a week! Love Island is a commitment!—at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
In case you haven’t watched it yet (you should, it’s delightfully dishy and the U.K. version is now available on Hulu), here’s the basic premise: Show producers gather a group of singles into a villa and catch their every move—love, lust, fights, betrayal—on camera. The goal is to “couple up,” with someone, and at the end of the series, the most popular couple wins $50,000.
Here’s everything you need to know about Love Island before it begins airing across the pond.
What makes it different from the Bachelor/Bachelorette?
It’s not just one sexy single man or woman looking for love. There are five guys and five girls called “islanders” who are all aiming to “couple up.” Couples can “pie off” a partner if they’re interested in someone new. It’s kind of like swiping through a dating app in that way. Not interested? Next, please!
New contestants are constantly brought into the villa
This is what makes the show so extra. The news is always announced via a text sent to the islanders, which birthed one of the show’s biggest catchphrases: “I got a text!!!” You can switch partners if you start to connect with someone new, but beware—whoever ends up alone gets kicked off the island.
Like singing competitions American Idol and The Voice, viewers control the outcome
Love Island relies on audience participation, allowing you to choose who gets eliminated and who wins through an app. The U.S. version will follow a similar format giving viewers, “the opportunity to shape events on screen and ultimately crown one lucky couple the winner.”
Everyone on the show is… extremely attractive.
You’ll see what I mean in this promo video for season five, below.
There’s so much drama!
What with new islanders coming and leaving all the time, there’s a never ending stream of juicy fights and love triangles and ~secret hookups. Sharon Vuong, the senior vice president of alternative programming at CBS, recognized the popularity of this formatting, saying in a statement: “We’re thrilled that ITV has partnered with us to bring their most successful show to American television. Having seen the reaction of audiences across the pond and around the world to this most recent season, we expect American viewers will be captivated by this engaging format.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Love Island will not be an exact replica of its British counterpart.
“We want to feel like the World Cup of reality TV,” executive producer David Eilenberg told Entertainment Weekly. “CBS very much supports the show that’s been a hit elsewhere. We want to make sure the show is the show. It’s an aspirational, sexy, fun summer show. And the U.K. show has become less provocative and more broad appeal over time.”
Eilenberg added, “we have to conform to broadcast standards, so what happens with language and—to some extent—what we see visually will be a little different because of the platform we’re on.
So how different, really, will it be from the U.K. version? The short answer: a lot.
According to EW, “the U.K. version’s omnipresent thong swimwear, rougher language, and some of the content (games where Islanders demonstrate their favorite sex positions on one another, for instance) probably won’t pass muster on the home of NCIS and Blue Bloods.”
Which is a bummer, because honestly the ridiculous thong swimwear is part of what make Love Island so great. Exactly how much raunch can we expect? That remains to be seen until the premiere on July 9, but rest assured there will be, according to producers, “a mix [of games] just as there is on the U.K. show.”
“There are games that are meant to bond, games that are meant to spark attraction, and games that are just hilarious,” Eilenberg told EW. “The U.S. Islanders have seen the U.K. show, for the most part. They know what they’re walking into and are excited to do it.”
Who is hosting and who is competing?
It wouldn’t be a dating show without a host! Enter comedian and actress Arielle Vandenberg, who has made cameos in How I Met Your Mother and Bones. She’s apparently a huge fan of the British version of Love Island, telling People, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be hosting Love Island this summer. I’m here for it all… the love, the relationships, the re-coupling… bring it on. I feel so honored to be at the head of the table watching it all go down!”
The cast hasn’t yet been announced, but we’ll update this post when it is.