‘Love Island’ was back on air Monday for the first time since the death of former host Caroline Flack on Feb. 15. Amid the reality series’ return, broadcaster ITV insists it supported the star after she was removed from the show.
Monday night’s episode began somberly with narrator Iain Stirling providing voiceover over scenes of crashing waves and South Africa’s coastline.
“We are all absolutely devastated by the tragic news that Caroline, a much loved member of our ‘Love Island’ family, has passed away,” said Stirling, who is never seen on the show. “Caroline and me were together from the very start of ‘Love Island,’ and her passion, warm and enthusiasm connected with millions of viewers.
He continued, “Right now, we are all just trying to come to terms with what happened. I hope we can all be kinder, always show love and listen to one another. Caroline, I want to thank you for all the fun times we had making our favourite show. You were a true friend to me.”
The episode, which is currently still airing, has picked up from Friday night’s edition. The return of “Love Island” Monday came hours after ITV director Kevin Lygo spoke out about Flack’s death on the back of calls for ‘Love Island’s’ cancellation.
“Everyone at ITV is absolutely devastated and still trying to process this tragic news,” he said. “Caroline was part of ‘Love Island’ from the very beginning and her passion, dedication and boundless energy contributed to the show’s success.
Lygo added, “After Caroline stepped down from the show, ITV made it clear that the door was left open for her to return and the ‘Love Island’ production team remained in regular contact with her and continued to offer support over the last few months.”
The executive said Monday’s tribute was compiled by the team in South Africa, where the winter show is filmed, as well as Stirling, another one of the show’s most recognizable figures.
“Caroline loved ‘Love Island’ and was very vocal in her support of the show,” Lygo said. “Viewers could relate to her and she to them and that was a big part of the program’s success. We will all miss her very much.”
Conspicuously, Lygo makes no mention of the show’s future on the broadcaster. His comments do, however, address accusations that ITV did not do enough to support Flack following her arrest in December for assaulting her partner Lewis Burton and after which she was replaced as host by close friend Laura Whitmore.
Flack’s death marks the third “Love Island” cast member death in 21 months. It follows the suicides of contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.
ITV faced widespread calls for ‘Love Island’s’ cancellation following the suicide of Thalassitis last March, leading the broadcaster to instate and expand a number of post-show procedures for last summer’s show to better care for those who appear on the program.
The measures came ahead of a wider government inquiry into the treatment of reality stars, which took place last summer and came in response to the suicide of a guest on ITV’s now cancelled daytime program “The Jeremy Kyle Show.” The inquiry ultimately concluded that ITV had failed in its responsibility to contributors on that show.
Separately, U.K. tabloids are also coming under intense scrutiny for negative coverage of Flack in the months since her arrest. As previously reported, The Sun pulled at least one article about the host mere hours after news broke of her death.
Two separate petitions have now been set up in support of greater regulation of the British press. One online petition set up by Stephanie Davis, an actress on the soap “Hollyoaks,” has reached close to 475,000 signatures, while another from Joshua Anthony cracked 200,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.