It's about to get really crowded around the nation's water coolers.

Already clogged with people trying to dissect whatever the hell is going on over at Dancing With The Stars, we now have the debut of TVNZ 2's controversial new show, Heartbreak Island, to contend with.

For those not familiar with the Heartbreak Island concept (or that of Love Island which TVNZ insists is no relation to this show), the series sees a group of scantily-clad 20-somethings matching up - and then ditching and switching partners - in order to become the last couple standing. The grand prize on offer is love (allegedly) or $100,000 in cold, hard cash.

And in a show bursting with characters worth discussing around those water coolers, 20-year-old Australian import Harry is probably the one getting the most mileage thus far.


With his aim being to "lock down a mint chick and cause havoc" at the Fijian resort playing host to our heartbreakers, Harry is the perfect contestant for this morally bankrupt show - and sums up what is most problematic about it.

For example, during the matching ceremony which takes up most of the first episode, it's Harry's observations that are the most savage in what is essentially a live-action Tinder sequence.

With contestants having already made their decisions about who they want to match with based on a few photos and a brief bio, they're guided through a cruel popularity contest by hosts Mark Dye and Matilda Rice.

Tavita and Ella didn't score well in the popularity contest. Photo / Supplied
Tavita and Ella didn't score well in the popularity contest. Photo / Supplied

Amongst other things, we learn one of the women (20-year-old student Ella) and one of the men (28-year-old personal trainer Tavita) didn't get picked by anybody based on their photos. It's like being chosen last at PE, but approximately 1,000 times worse.

But that's nothing compared to the drama around the second most popular woman, Gennady. She's apparently guilty of "misleading" the men with her photos. When the still gorgeous Gennady is matched with 26-year-old DJ Joshua, Harry tells us he's "devastated" for him.

"She didn't look anything like her photos. She's a catfish," Harry says, in a crushing embodiment of the shallowness of today's dating scene.

For better or worse, Heartbreak Island has the makings of an absolute smash hit for TVNZ, even if it does feel like Love Island's poor cousin from the colonies. It doesn't have the sharp humour that Love Island is famous for, but it's at least very aware of its own ridiculousness and plays along with that.

However any show that has beautiful people partying in paradise and being actively encouraged to partner-swap is going to run into trouble at some point, as demonstrated by 'Heartbreak Harry' in last night's episode.

When the group is given an opportunity to re-couple with somebody new, more than half of the contestants jump at the chance, including Harry and 22-year-old harpist Weiting. Considering they both very willingly spent the previous night together, all signs point to these two becoming a new match.

That is until Harry decides to "stir the pot a bit more" and chooses another contestant, Georgia (and her "big ol' booty"), over Weiting.

Just in case that wasn't bad enough, Harry then indulges in a little slut-shaming on a show where the contestants' explicit purpose is to match up with one another.

"[Weiting] was just trying to grab on to any guy that she could and I was just like 'Nah, I'm not gonna have a bar of someone who's that easy to jump around,'" Harry tells us, seemingly forgetting that he was also more than happy to "see what happened" in that bure with Weiting.

While there might be equal opportunity humiliation on Heartbreak Island, with the men and women subjected to the same crazy rules, it's so far merely reiterated that the playing field is not even when it comes to sexual confidence.

It's not at all surprising that young men like Harry still hold these kinds of sentiments about women who are confident in themselves and their sexuality, but it's still disappointing.

It's even more disappointing seeing those attitudes shared by a contestant on a show that airs at 7.30pm and is probably being watched by some quite young Kiwis.

There's been a lot of chatter about Heartbreak Island's bed-hopping and nudity that's being saved for the show's 'Uncut' episodes airing after 9.30pm on Fridays – but I'd argue the continued double standard exhibited by Harry last night is more offensive than any naked flesh that might be on offer.

Heartbreak Island airs 7.30pm Monday-Wednesdays on TVNZ 2. Heartbreak Island UNCUT airs 9.30pm Fridays.