‘They are deeply weird, unnatural’: Why are people obsessed with reality TV dating shows?

'Hunk correspondent' Patrick Freyne on why shows like Love Island are a ratings winner

Listen | 27:32

Love them or hate them, reality TV dating shows are one of the most enduring formats of the small screen.

“The reason there’s so many of them is because there’s a huge crisis of heterosexuality going on,” jokes Patrick Freyne, Features Writer for The Irish Times.

The self-appointed ‘hunk correspondent’ regularly reviews shows like Love Island and while he enjoys them, he’s under no illusion that they are ever really about finding love.

“They’re a ratings grab. They are deeply weird, unnatural shows and if love comes out of it, it’s an accidental by-product or because of the law of averages.”


It seems like TV producers will take any concept and turn it into a dating show. They run the full gamut, from the earnestness of First Dates to the hilarious Too Hot To Handle; a Netflix show where couples compete to win a pot of money that depletes if they have sexual contact.

“A bunch of gorgeous people are stuck on an island. Some sort of lust archipelago. They’re told they have to go without sex for a month. Any Irish person looking at that thinks ‘I could do that easily.’ I spent most of my teens and twenties going without sex! The unreality is part of the attraction.”

There’s little doubt that if these programmes didn’t net big ratings for TV execs, they wouldn’t keep making them. So what keeps us going back for more?

“I think there is reality in it. If there weren’t some genuine people and some genuine connections in them, these shows would be unwatchable.”

In this episode of In The News, Freyne analyses the good, the bad and the ugly; and why they make such compelling viewing.

Presented by Aideen Finnegan