The nation was on the edge of its seat on Tuesday night. After an endless, wearisome pandemic, how refreshing to see genuine drama, heartache and human emotion on the small screen.
No, not the football. On another channel, there was a far more nail-biting offering: The return of our favourite guilty pleasure, Love Island.
There, served up for our delectation for a sun-drenched hour every weeknight, is a Shakespearean-style play of longing, jealousy, thwarted love and passion.
Complete, of course, with heaving bosoms, nuclear fake tans and tiny swimwear (and that’s just the men).
Like many young women, I am hooked. How refreshing to see gorgeous people frolicking as if Covid were a distant dream, the kind you wake up from and think, ‘that was a bit far-fetched’ (though the narrator’s constant reminder that the contestants have quarantined and formed a ‘sanitary sex bubble’ does rather jolt you back to earth).
Emily Hewitson (pictured) says she has turned down several offers to go on Love Island, because she is a Tory
Ms Hewitson (pictured), said: ‘I like partying. I’m blonde, buxom and wear long flippy hair extensions. I am even often branded a ‘bimbo’ by online trolls on the basis of my looks. But I knew something set me apart from the other contestants: My sharp mind and political views.’
But I have another reason to be so interested in the goings on in the giant fluorescent palace of telly pleasure: I have been asked to appear on the show for a few years in a row.
I was approached by producers who had watched a short clip from when I appeared in the audience on Question Time.
It was clear they saw I offered something unique. However, by this point, it was late in the casting process, so I didn’t hear from them again until they were casting for the following series, when another email landed in my inbox.
You might be surprised that I said ‘no’ to both of these lucrative offers after my effusiveness about the show.
A spot in the villa has become the dream for this generation of wannabe ‘influencers’ (a kind of D-list fame is guaranteed after appearing on the show, with millions of Instagram followers flocking your way).
In fact, the programme is so appealing to its impressionable young audience that in 2018, Love Island had considerably more applicants (150,000) than the prestigious Oxbridge Universities (40,000 combined). And this year, apparently, it has had record entries.
I can see why they might be interested in me: In many ways, I fit the Love Island stereotype.
I like partying. I’m blonde, buxom and wear long flippy hair extensions. I am even often branded a ‘bimbo’ by online trolls on the basis of my looks.
But I knew something set me apart from the other contestants: My sharp mind and political views.
You see, I am an unashamed Tory and hold centre-right views, and know I would have stuck out like a sore thumb.
Most successful reality TV stars have steered clear of political discussion.
For the ones open about their beliefs, they tend to play it safe, confined to those society deems acceptable: Typically left-leaning or woke. And of course, those who do not jeopardise brand deals.
While reality TV has become more diverse, paradoxically, diversity of opinion has fizzled out – a far cry from the outrageous and largely uncensored reality TV of the past, namely Big Brother.
What a pity! A return to a more unfiltered show would certainly add an exciting new dimension and trickle tolerance through society, something it’s in dire need of.
While many laughed when one of the islanders asked ‘what’s a civil servant?’ in Monday night’s episode, I winced. Who could survive such brain-numbing company for weeks on end?
A few series ago, there was the excruciating conversation about what Brexit was, with one islander believing it had something to do with trees.
Love Island returned to our screens last month with contestants all going to the Villa looking for love
I envisaged it would be something of an isolating experience for me – and that I would become the target of an intense online hate campaign, just for expressing myself.
I also felt the show’s reputation might close as many doors as it opened. There are huge levels of risk.
If things work out, you could be the latest face of fast-fashion brand Boohoo.
If they do not, you may be the latest laughing stock of the nation and your chances of a professional career are in tatters. (The only success I can think of is Dr Alex George from the 2018 series, who has managed to retain his integrity and a professional career as a medical doctor and recently, become the government’s youth mental health ambassador.)
My most overwhelming consideration though? Reader, I found love in a more traditional way.
No, it wasn’t sunny and it wasn’t in a TV villa – and it’s all the better for it. He works on the political scene too and while we certainly don’t agree on everything, that makes things all the more interesting!
So yes, I’ll be watching with glee. But do I have any regrets that I’m not lying on a sun lounger on the brink of Insta-fame? Not on your life.
As a pretty party-loving blonde, I’ve been asked to go on Love Island several times.
My reason for refusing? I’m a Tory!