This year, I became a genuine Love Island fan. I’m no stranger to the show, but have previously watched as a voyeur, convincing myself that although I might not be as pretty as these people, I totally have more to offer (all the while alone on a Friday night, sipping the dregs of a McDonald’s milkshake I’ve just had delivered). There was something about the caricatures of last season I found genuinely entertaining, but the price of that is contributing to ratings that allow ITV to justify dropping even trashier commissions into the primetime schedule. This leads us to Celebrity Showmance, a new ITV show that revolves around two seemingly ill-matched celebrities perpetuating a fake relationship on social media for the sole purpose of winding up the public.
We’re using the term “celebrities” loosely here, of course, since we’re talking about Sunday league footballer Jamie O’Hara, David Hasselhoff’s daughter, and others of a similar calibre including “stars” of The Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore. As Variety explains, these… showmances (kill me) have already taken place prior to the show, generating many a tabloid story — you know, the kind that manages to turn a couply selfie posted on Instagram into a 500-word “news” piece. Media interest has already exposed some of these phoney pairings, in fact.
The show will follow these participation-fee fiends from the butterflies-in-the-tummy stage through to bitter breakup. Each episode, they’ll complete totes lols challenges that crescendo into the perfect social media moment. Whichever couple gets the most Facebook likes, retweets and such “wins,” whatever that means in this context.
Celebrity culture has undeniably changed in the social media age, so much so that becoming popular online can actually make you a celebrity of sorts. Daily Mail articles about what coffee so and so bought are an everyday occurrence. But there’s less need for this kind of noise now, since a selfie with said coffee will hit Instagram long before a blog post.
The projectile streams of content encourage people to invest more emotional energy into their fandom. The internet is full of live feeds of aspirational lives with comment sections that are never read, as much as you might want to believe they’re direct lines to your idols — your likes also nothing but a metric “influencers” use to set their sponsored post rates. In some ways, ITV’s new show highlights the meaninglessness of it all.
Perhaps I’m taking this too seriously. After all, as Variety reports, “while the show is part of the “fake news” zeitgeist, it will be played for laughs and is not intended as serious social commentary.” But isn’t the fact this show even exists social commentary in and of itself?
Celebrity Showmance premieres on ITV2 next month.