Is reality TV in the UK better than in the US?
You be the judge
Pop some popcorn, pour a drink, and grab your favorite candy! It’s time to binge watch your favorite guilty pleasure TV show! Chances are you might be a bit embarrassed about what you’re watching if your colleagues showed up in your living room unannounced. What show are you watching? Would this show embarrass you or would you embrace the mindlessness of your favorite binge?
My favorite guilty pleasure binge is the UK version of Love Island! There’s nothing better than watching a social experiment in action! Especially a social experiment that is ever changing and feels high stakes for the participants. There are currently multiple versions of Love Island. Australia, Sweden, Germany, the UK, and the US all have their own versions of the franchise.
I live in the US and have watched the UK, Australia, and US versions of the show. The premise of each version is the same. Find love or get packing. The show starts with 5 male singles and 5 female singles coupling up with each other based purely off of looks. Each week the couples have a chance to get to know each other and must decide if they have a spark and would like to stay coupled up with each other or if they’d try their luck at finding love with someone else. The trick is not getting dumped from the Island. Following the recoupling each week, two new participants are brought into the Love Island villa. These new participants generally alternate between male and female every other week. With a different number of males and females each week, two participants run the risk of not being coupled up at the end of the week. Those two end up being dumped from the Island.
If the idea of the show is the same regardless of where it airs, what makes one better than the other? In my opinion, there are a handful of little things that make the UK version the most entertaining. The biggest reason however is simple: the people. Perhaps you’re wondering how I find that the people make that big of a difference. Don’t worry, I will fill you in.
The US version is full of people that I live my life around each day. The participants are also the stereotypical personalities found on nearly every other social experiment reality show in the states. I also find that on the US version, some of the participants are whiney just for the sake of being whiney or mean just for the sake of being mean. I find that the US participants behave in a way that they feel will get them more screen time rather than in a way that is truly genuine.
The personality types on the UK version might be stereotypical for UK social experiment reality shows, but as an American living in the US, I don’t have as much access to those shows as I do to the US shows. That means that if the personalities on the UK version are stereotypical of UK reality shows, I am not already burnt out on watching those same types of people across multiple different television shows.
A good example of one of the personality types that are often on reality shows in the US is the frat boy. The US frat boy can best be compared to the UK lad. There’s something way more fun and entertaining about a lad than a frat boy. I find the lad to be more genuinely entertaining for everyone around him just by being himself while the frat boy looks for ways to disturb and disrupt others as a means of finding fun only for himself. Perhaps both the lad and the frat boy are also trying to impress others, however as a viewer this difference looks like the lad is just having fun while the frat boy is simply being a bully.
There’s also a difference of language or vernacular. The brits have a way with words that is lacking in the US. I find the language to be more rich and entertaining. Oftentimes there is no good comparison in the US version. For example, in the UK version, you see a lot of chat or banter. There is, in my opinion, no good comparison of this in the US version. While there is joking around and playfulness in both versions, in the US version, there really is no comparison to the chat and banter of the UK version. A couple of examples of vernacular that is much better in the UK than in the US are: “grafting”/“get grafting,” and “mug someone off”/“feel like a mug.”
If you’re looking for a new guilty pleasure binge, I highly recommend you watch season 1 of Love Island UK. The fun these people have with one another while they search for love and compete for money is extremely entertaining to watch. Warning to US audiences: if you don’t often watch television shows from the UK, you might want to turn your captions on. Sometimes the banter is so quick, it’s hard to catch what was said. But don’t worry, even if you don’t understand all the vernacular, it’s still an extremely entertaining watch.