Heartbreak Island makes The Bachelor look like a picnic at Gloriavale

by Diana Wichtel / 24 June, 2018
Heartbreak Island. Photo/Tom Hollow

Heartbreak Island. Photo/Tom Hollow

RelatedArticlesModule - Heartbreak Island

Dating show Heartbreak Island takes the worst bits from every idiotic example of the genre and chucks them into a black hole of pointlessness.

We live in a country where the leader of the Act Party assuming a position suggestive of acute gastric distress set to music counts as top entertainment. When it comes to television, and politics, we deserve everything we get. Cue the cynical underestimation of the intelligence of the audience that is TVNZ 2’s Heartbreak Island.

Hey ho, it’s off to defile a Fijian isle with a dating show that takes the worst bits from every idiotic example of the genre and chucks them into a black hole of staggering pointlessness. It’s Married at First Sight with no marriage and no psychologists. Tinder in bikinis. Eight couples match themselves by choosing from photos and a bio. Then it’s off to a bure to let nature take its course, or not, under video surveillance. As one contestant explained, “I’m sleeping in a room with a random.” The online-only Heartbreak Island Uncut version cut to the chase: “In the 70s, they used to do this with car keys in a bowl.”

There are Survivor-like challenges. One involved men lashed to poles while women threw balls at them. The balls first had to be fished out of a vat, then carried stuffed into skimpy swimwear. The scene defied description, although the Uncut commentator tried: “She looks like an amphibian ready to spawn her terrifying eggs.”

Panels behind the men had to be knocked out by the women throwing the balls or, alternatively, they just pummelled the bejesus out of the men. “It’s a modern-day fairground-style crucifixion!” went the Uncut commentary. Fair enough. What is trash reality television but a modern-day fairground crucifixion?

God knows what the rules are. The contestants look as if they’re in a lab experiment designed to drive them mad via random punishment and reinforcement. Some claim to be there seeking love, but this makes The Bachelor look like a picnic at Gloriavale. The contestants were taken out to a floating bar to bond or drink themselves into a coma, whichever came first. Young Izaak, alarmingly a pilot, was soon pie-eyed and vomiting. His partner, Ruby, left to chat up Kristian. Whatevs.

Our hapless hosts are Matilda Rice and Mark Dye. What were they thinking? There’s no way to come out of this well after delivering such lines as, “Who is about to find out they are the least popular player here!” In the first episode, Ella and Tavita learn that no fellow contestant picked them. Ella struggled to fight back tears at this ritual humiliation for our entertainment.

There are laughs. Australian Harry looks disturbingly like a 12-year-old, yet seems to have acquired his excruciating pick-up lines from Dame Edna Everage. “Hello, you naughty little possums!” he cried winningly to the appalled women. But mostly this show seems designed to highlight attributes that would be helpful when applying for the KGB. Every reality show has its nasty backstabber. On Heartbreak, everyone is Naz from The Bachelor. Uplifting relationship advice from the show’s hottest guy, Kristian: “If you’re not the predator, you’re the prey.” His partner, Ruby, was unimpressed and he was eliminated in a cheerless jamboree of betrayal.

At least there’s no pretence, as with Married at First Sight, that this is a groundbreaking social experiment. As someone noted, “Your moral compass doesn’t work on Heartbreak Island.” That goes for those who made it.

The format is similar to Love Island. That show hit the headlines when the dysfunction spilt into British living rooms: “Police called after 11-year-old girl ‘kicks off’ over ‘Love Island’.” She wasn’t allowed to watch it. Well, these things aren’t family entertainment. When it comes to modelling healthy relationships, you’d be better off letting your children watch characters in The Walking Dead trying to eat each other’s heads. Heartbreak Island? Just no.

Heartbreak Island, TVNZ 2, Monday to Wednesday, 7.30pm.

This article was first published in the June 30, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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