Love Island: NI contestant Matt McNabb on why criticism of ITV show is over the top

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Former Love Island contestant Matthew MacNabb has said the reality show is still relevant, entertaining and deserving of its place in the television schedule.

he Downpatrick man, who took part in the ITV2 summer-time series last year, said that while it was superficial and focused on beauty and brawn, it didn’t advertise itself as a “deep and meaningful” show.

The dating series has come under fire in the past for promoting shallowness and voyeurism, with one critic calling it a “mating zoo”.

But MacNabb, who has since found love after competing in the series, said it was “light-hearted fun” that provided some much-needed escapism for its viewers.

Speaking after Love Island’s return to our screens on Monday night, the 27-year-old said: “I get why people say it’s superficial. It is in a way, but that’s the nature of reality TV.

“It’s not meant to be deep and meaningful content and if that’s what you’re hoping to watch, then it’s definitely not the right show for you.

“Yes, viewers do feel like they can make negative opinions and judge people, but that’s everyday society as a whole.

“For many, it’s just light-hearted fun, something to switch on and enjoy after working hard all day. That’s the audience it’s aimed at, and I think it still deserves its place on TV.”

MacNabb, who was in the Casa Amor villa for three weeks before being sent home, said he watched the launch show and felt “weird” seeing the new contestants heading in.

“Honestly, taking part feels like a lifetime ago now, even though it’s only been a year,” he said.

“I understand how they all must be feeling at this stage. They’ll be wild nervous, knowing that so many people across the UK and Ireland will be watching them.

“To begin with, I felt kind of stunned for a bit, like I was in a weird zone, until I got used to it.

“I’d say the new contestants will probably be feeling a bit like that too. It’ll take them a few days to settle in then it’ll be carnage.”

MacNabb won support among viewers for refusing to get involved in triangulation games with fellow contestant Kaz Kamwi and ending their relationship with the blunt putdown “we’re done”.

And though he left the villa still single, he is now in a relationship with his Dancing with the Stars professional partner Laura Nolan.

Love Island also gave the fitness fanatic a platform to launch his coaching business, which is going from strength to strength. He is currently making plans to move to Marbella for a while, dividing his time between the Spanish resort, Downpatrick and Dublin, where Laura is based.

MacNabb said he had absolutely no regrets about taking part in the show and that he would do it again, if still single.

And he said that the new group of Love islanders should just enjoy every moment of the series and not take it too seriously.

“It is a pity that there are people out there who can take to Twitter to post something nasty and that there’s no recompense,” he said.

“You need to be pretty tough skinned to do reality TV, so the best thing to do is just ignore the negative stuff and have fun.

“I’m 100% glad I took part in Love Island. I’m so grateful for the opportunities it’s given me, which I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t appeared on the show.”

Although the series has just started and it’s too early to predict who will do well, MacNabb said he had a few favourites so far. “I think Paige is coming across as a really nice girl and Luca, the fishmonger, seems like a funny guy,” he said. “The lads all seem to be good craic and down-to-earth, though Davide is too handsome for his own good.”

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