Love Island: Everything American viewers need to know about the hit UK show, from ‘graft’ to ‘bombshells’

·4-min read

There’s no American show quite like Love Island, a UK reality TV behemoth so popular it airs six nights a week. Currently in its eighth season, it’s now part of the British summer tradition – as reliable as a massive Glastonbury main stage crowd and as unpredictable as the sunshine.

The first 10 episodes are available on Hulu from Tuesday (21 June), with more being released daily on a slight lag from the UK broadcast. It can be daunting to dive into something its eighth season, so consider this your Love Island starter pack – everything you need to know to about this highly entertaining dating show.

The basics

Love Island is a dating game show with a £50,000 ($61,000) prize, though most contestants go home with only Instagram fame and mild regrets. The format is simple. Contestants, also known as “Islanders”, live in isolation in a villa in Spain. To stay in the villa, they form couples. Single contestants are under constant threat of being dumped and sent home.

Towards the end of the season, the public votes on which of the remaining couples should go home with the cash prize.


A “bombshell” is a new contestant who gets added to the mix as the series goes on. They arrive to break up the existing couples and take their own shot at love and/or money. The bombshells are, critically, extremely attractive. Soon after a new bombshell enters the villa, producers will call for a “recoupling”, which is usually followed by a dumping.

The art of “graft”

Languages evolve to suit the needs of the community and on Love Island, there’s an increased demand for words to describe flirting.

No non-American term is used with more frequency than “graft”. Most often, it’s the female contestants complaining about the lack of quality “graft” from the male contestants. The versatile term is true to its roots; the girls just want the guys to work harder for their attention, usually by doing incredibly simple things, like taking the time to chat.

The infamous “ick”

You may also hear people talk about getting the “ick” (the feeling of going off someone) and you can expect talk of “cracking on” (staring some kind of a relationship).

Ekin-Su and Amber make amends in the make-up room (ITV)
Ekin-Su and Amber make amends in the make-up room (ITV)

Who is Michael Owen, Gemma’s famous dad?

Gemma Owen is the youngest person in the house this year, and also has a mega famous (in the UK) dad. Michael Owen is a huge name in football, leading the line for Liverpool and Real Madrid for over a decade and representing England at three World Cups.

Why are the microphone packs so conspicuously gigantic?

It’s just part of the show’s aesthetic, like disguised bottles of cheap prosecco and garish neon signs as flashy interior decor. At this point, if the contestants showed up with chicly-camouflaged Survivor-style mic packs, it would just look weird. The perfect accessory for a jewel-toned bikini is, in fact, a massive black mic pack.

Yes, they really all sleep in one big room

Every reality show has a barrier to entry that most people can’t imagine crossing under any circumstances. On Love Island, it’s a big group bedroom outfitted with six double beds that all contestants share. I hate it. The sounds! The smells! The fact that producers wake the group up in the mornings by flipping on glaring studio lights, lights so bright that most contestants wear sunglasses inside!

The cast of ‘Love Island’ (ITV)
The cast of ‘Love Island’ (ITV)

What’s “Top 3”?

“Top 3” has evolved as season eight shorthand for sussing out who is interested in who. Almost as soon as a new bombshell enters the villa, someone will ask them who they rate as the three most appealing people in the house. It’s become such a feature of season eight that already a contestant has chosen to weaponise it.

The most important love language is breakfast

Only so much graft is possible when producers control everything around you. In lieu of sending flowers or even sexts, the cuties of season eight have been expressing their feelings via beverages. Nothing says “you don’t give me the ick” like a fresh cup of tea or for the super-committed, a smoothie. You’re only as adored as your macchiato is piping.

Brace yourself when you hear “I want to be honest”

This is a show about finding love in a few short weeks. Recouplings come fast and often, which also means lots of awkward breakups. “I want to be honest” is the sentence starter of choice when it comes to delivering the bad news, as in, “I want to be honest. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.” It’s an ingenious turn of phrase that reframes the fact that someone irresistibly attractive has entered the villa as a moral compulsion to live with integrity.

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