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12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

After a series that brought us romance, rows and a new reality TV queen in Ekin-Su, Love Island is now over for another year.

Fortunately, fans aren’t in for too long a wait until the next series, with winter Love Island returning early next year, ahead of a regular summer season in its usual slot.

And while that’s all well and good for 2023 – what about right now, eh?

Well, for anyone who’s been left wondering how to plug the massive Island-shaped hole in your lives, we’ve got you covered.

Here are our top picks, and where to find them…

1. Too Hot To Handle – Netflix

Too Hot To Handle has all the basic elements of Love Island – beautiful people in a gorgeous location looking for a summer romance – but with one crucial difference… they’re not allowed to have sex, or even kiss. And if they do, they’ll immediately dock money from the group prize fund.

Over the course of the episode the Islanders contestants are put through their paces in a variety of challenges intended to test their patience, but also help them forge stronger connections in the real world (with mixed results, obv).

2. Love Is Blind – Netflix

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

Love Is Blind was the reality show that had everyone talking when it launched in 2020, and if you decided not to pursue it at the time because you felt like you’d missed the bandwagon, now could be the perfect time to get into it.

The American series – which sees total strangers getting engaged to one another after only speaking through a wall – totally lived up to the hype, and we couldn’t look away as the couples moved in together, met one another’s families and dealt with the usual trials and tribulations of a regular relationship. Except, y’know, they didn’t actually know each other.

Stick around till the end because the episode with all of the weddings, not to mention the subsequent reunion special, are every bit as explosive as you might expect.

3. Married At First Sight – All 4

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

And if Love Is Blind piqued your interest in complete strangers tying the knot, but you prefer your TV a little closer to home, then Married At First Sight could be for you. The Channel 4 series sees complete strangers being set up by a panel of “experts”, and then walking down the aisle minutes after meeting for the first time.

Cameras then follow them for the first four weeks of their married lives, after which they decide whether they’re going to pursue the relationship or head to the divorce courts. It’s every bit as mad as it sounds, and while it might lack some of the glamour of Love Island, it certainly delivers on the drama front.

And once you’ve binged the British version, make sure you check out the somehow-even-more-outrageous Aussie edition.

4. Back With The Ex – Netflix

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

As the name would suggest, Australian reality show Back With The Ex (from the makers of Instant Hotel, no less) follows a range of pairs who were once in a romantic relationship and have decided, for one reason or another, to give things another go. Will they be able to move on from their past, or will former issues resurface?

You can probably guess in all honesty, but it’s certainly worth a watch all the same.

5. Five Dates A Week – All 4

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

We became absolutely hooked on Five Guys A Week (as it was then known) when it debuted during the pandemic, featuring a woman opening up her home to five complete strangers, who move in with her as she chooses only one of them to start a relationship with.

In the days that follow, she sends three of them packing – brutal! – until she makes the final decision… after a sit-down meal with both of her suitors at the same time, of course.

Channel 4 has since tweaked the show to make it even more inclusive, hence the new name, but we promise it’s still every bit as dramatic.

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

If you’re in need of some cosy viewing, First Dates always totally delivers, and while watching it nightly this summer probably isn’t going to bring the shock value that Love Island provides, a short blast of escapism is probably even more needed in these trying times.

If you’re still in need of a bit of sun, though, the First Dates Hotel spin-off series is also available.

7. Dating: No Filter – Hayu

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

Alternatively, if the part of Love Island you’re most going to miss is Iain Stirling’s commentary, then this could be the show for you.

Essentially a mix of Gogglebox and First Dates, the show sees pairs of stand-up comedians sitting down to watch footage of couples meeting for the first time, and offering their own commentary throughout. Expect big reactions, hilarious chat and one or two awkward moments.

8. Celebs Go Dating – All 4

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

Celebrity reality shows are ten-a-penny, and with so many of them on the go at any given time (usually with the same cast of revolving contestants, too), it’s easy for one or two to slip through the net.

If you dismissed Celebs Go Dating thinking it was just another throwaway series, then perhaps hearing that over the years the dating agency has opened its doors to stars like Gemma Collins, Dean Gaffney, Alison Hammond, Kerry Katona, Mutya Buena and Lady Colin Campbell (and they all behaved exactly as you’d want them to) will change your mind.

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

One aspect of Love Island (and other dating shows, to be fair) that’s repeatedly come under criticism is the absence of any contestants from the LGBTQ+ community. Drag Race favourite and Celebrity Big Brother winner Courtney Act attempted to correct this back in 2018 with her unique reality series The Bi Life, which saw an array of bisexual and pansexual participants looking for love in the Barcelona sun.

Not only did it promote queer visibility, it was also very entertaining, and we’re always happy to have a bit more of Courtney looking extremely glamorous on our screens.

10. Flirty Dancing – All 4

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

More wholesome content for fans of shows like First Dates and Strictly Come Dancing, Flirty Dancing really puts couple’s chemistry to the test. Each of the pairs is taught one half of a dance routine by Diversity and Dancing On Ice star Ashley Banjo. The first time they meet, they then have to perform it together.

Yes, it’s totally cheesy, but watch the clip below and tell us you’re not already dying to see the rest:

11. Eating With My Ex – BBC iPlayer

But if what you’re really going to miss about Love Island is all of the cringe moments, you’ll get no judgement from us. Instead, we present to you the BBC’s Eating With My Ex. The show does exactly what it says on the tin, and reunites former couples for one last meal where they get a few things off their chests. It’s essentially First Dates, but with all the awkward bits magnified.

12. Love Island USA – ITV Hub

12 Best Dating Shows To Fill The Love Island-Shaped Hole In Your Summer

Of course, if you don’t feel ready to give up on Love Island for the year… then don’t!

A brand new season of the show’s American counterpart just kicked off, with new episodes airing nightly on ITV2. Alternatively, if you’re intrigued to see how our cousins across the pond take on the Love Island experience but don’t feel like tuning in every night, there’s always the option of binge-watching on ITV Hub.

As if that wasn’t enough, BritBox has all seven previous series of the UK show waiting for you to dive back into, meaning you can revisit all of your favourite moments, from Camilla schooling Johnny on feminism to the blossoming romance between Jack and Dani – not to mention Georgia’s priceless reaction when Josh returned from Casa Amor.


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