Voices: Love Island is back ⁠— and so is the nagging sense of unease

Franschhoek, just outside Cape Town, is a very easy place to fall in love. There’s an old tram that used to take grain between the farms that overlook the Franschhoek valley, in the most beautiful corner of the most beautiful town on earth. But now all the farms are wine farms and the tram takes tourists from wine tasting to wine tasting.

I happened to fall in love there once, but all I got out of it was a wife and a family. These days, if you fall in love in lovely Franschhoek you also get to be the face of a range of internet fashion chains and you might even bag the exclusive Instagram tie up for a brand new in car air freshener. Them’s the breaks.

Love Island’s ninth series is upon us. The British public’s insatiable demand for this kind of thing now necessitates both a winter and summer iteration, with contestants having to be flown all the way out to under the South African winter sun.

With its unique track record of destroying lives but also quite literally creating others (it may be the only TV show in history with its own complete ledger of births, marriages and deaths), it will not necessarily have been lost on Shaq, 24, airport security officer from London and Anna-May, 20, payroll administrator from Swansea, that things they might not ordinarily do for love nor money they’ll absolutely definitely do for both.

They lined the boys up beside the pool and under the Twelve Apostles - the mountain range that is - the girls swept in and picked the ones they liked the best. And now, over the next two torturously long months, Will, Shaq, Ron, Kai. Haris, Olivia, Tanya, Anna-May, Lana, Olivia and Tanyel will become briefly as famous as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and whatever the rest of their names were. With almost as much doubting and denying and betrayal too.

There is, however, that undeniable sense of de ja vu all over again. They’re like car radios, TV formats. The longer they’ve been around for the more obvious they become. In The Apprentice’s very early days people really did imagine it to be a gruelling audition for a high flying career in business, and not a thrilling bit of midweek hubris voyeurism gladly laid on by deluded and demonstrable idiots.

But it’s hard, after this many years, to watch Love Island without a nagging sense of unease. That maybe these very young, very attractive people just shouldn’t be doing this, at the very start of their very long adult lives.

Gemma Owen was nineteen - NINETEEN! - when she spent last summer being pressured into a Potemkin relationship with a well meaning fish monger from Brighton. And for what? Well, mainly just to keep some TV producers happy and maybe, fingers crossed, to have a little go on Dancing on Ice.

They tend not to prod them in to the night vision sex room anymore. ITV2 viewers this year are unlikely to see anyone’s toes curling in the infrared light. Somehow, after about five years or so, someone’s worked out that it’s a stone cold moral outrage that it should ever have happened even once.

It’s not like they don’t all know they’re doing a deal with the devil. Who of us is to say that there is anything necessarily wrong with, say, smearing Immac over your pectorals and regurgitating half swollen jelly in order to gob it through the veneers of a total stranger just to win a ‘challenge’ if such things are your ticket to the Instagram big time?

The American actor Kevin Pollak called his autobiography ‘How I Slept My Way To The Middle’ - an ingeniously self-deprecating line that had sadly been doing the rounds for many years before his book came out in 2012.

And who knows - maybe the last laugh will be on us, not them. Some of them will win moderately big, some will lose even bigger. Somebody will go to Casa Amour and do things that they find themselves unable to explain but somehow still get away with. Someone, you never know, might even fall in love. There are worse places to do it.