Host Mark L. Walberg on Why It’s the Right Time to Revisit ‘Temptation Island’

Temptation Island - Season 1
John Tsiavis/USA Network

More than 15 years after it last aired, relationship reality series Temptation Island is back, as four couples at a crossroads put their relationships to the ultimate test. In the backdrop of Maui paradise, the “temptation” of the title comes into play as these individuals are joined by hot, single men and women looking for love.

Reality’s guilty pleasure, which originally aired on Fox but moves to USA Network for its return, reemerges during the era of “swipe right or left” and “slide into my DMs.” Can the series still be successful in this virtual era?

Before Temptation heats up your winter nights, we chatted with original and returning host Mark L. Walberg.

Why do you think now was a good time to bring back Temptation Island, after more than 15 years?

Mark L. Walberg: The same questions asked back then remain today when it comes to relationships. The relevance might be heightened now because if you’re single today, temptation — the possibility something might be better out there for you — lies with the swipe of a finger on your phone. Not even in the apps, but on Instagram, where you can DM anybody. People are sending out the best version of themselves at all times, all day long on their feed. I think now it’s even more relevant.

This time around, it seems more prevalent in showing that the featured couples aren’t the only ones looking for love. It’s the singles on the island, as well. How do you think that changes the dynamic or approach of the show?

I don’t know if it’s too different than before. We acknowledge their journey more. It may have been the case before, but we sort of looked at them as tempters. Now we’re really looking at the fact that these people are also at a crossroads. They are hoping to find love, and it’s not so much about them trying to just break up a couple. It’s also maybe about one of these people is better for them too. I like that it’s a two-way street now.

This season’s four couples: Evan Smith, Nicole Tutewohl, Kaci Campbell, Karl Collins, Shari Ligons, John Thurmond, Javen Butler, Kady Krambeer (Photo by: Mario Perez/USA Network)

What was it like for you to step back into the shoes of host and seeing the season progress?

It was fascinating. I was at a different place in my life back then than I am in now. That’s interesting to me, being older than I was compared to their age. A lot is the same, though. My job now is the same in that I say to them, “Look, you chose to come here. But now that you are, let me be of service to you as best I can. Let me be an advocate for whatever you hope to find out of this.”

As we get into this, I’m really focused on trying to keep them on topic and real. As soon as I feel they aren’t being truthful or being a little evasive, I have to tough love them a little bit. That’s no different than it was originally.

The first season had much success and buzz. with the second and third seasons kind of tapering off. What have you learned from past seasons to make sure this time around is a success?

First, let me address the reason why Seasons 2 and 3 didn’t go as well as Season 1. I think a lot of it is typical TV stuff. It was about promotion and timing. They waited a year-and-a-half between seasons. By then, people had come and gone and moved on.

Now what’s interesting, is there are whole bunch of people who are thinking about it, saying, “Oh my God! I loved that show. I can’t wait to watch it again.” There is an entirely new audience raised on reality TV. They know exactly what to expect. They’re saying, “Oh my God. This is crazy.” I’m thinking it was crazy a long time ago, too. It’s just still crazy.

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Expect plenty of drama when four unmarried couples travel to paradise to decide where their relationship is going.

Now it has gone from Fox to USA Network and cable television. Does that change the presentation at all?

I’m not so sure, because even network television has changed. I’m not sure that’s a factor. My trepidation was, is it going to look like what I used to think cable television looked like? And, in fact, I think the show is richer as far as what you’re watching. The producers and the rest of the crew did an excellent job. But it all really comes down to one thing: casting. If you don’t have people you’re interested in, you don’t have a show. I think they did a great job.

The show features a diverse set of couples from different backgrounds and points in their relationship. Those with commitment or trust issues, and those whose experience is only being with one partner. It’s all here. How do you think they will resonate with viewers?

I think what these four couples are going through is real and relatable. It might be extreme, but it’s no different than what everyone else goes through. They are sort of the proxy for all of us. Even when you’re in a relationship, those questions are always there. Watching them struggle through in a way you might never do, it’s what makes the show successful. I think at the end of the day, you are rooting for them to find the answer that is best for everybody.

Photo by: Mario Perez/USA Network

We are in the age of social media. Do you think this adds to the viewing experience? I can imagine what it would’ve been like back during the original seasons with Twitter alone.

It’s so much more interactive. The audience can participate and share their thoughts, which they are already doing because we previewed the first episode online. They are already making the call of who is staying together and who is not. For me, it’s fun to see the interaction and to get that feedback…

You yourself have been married for a while. What do you think is the secret to a good relationship today?

If I knew that answer, I would be running seminars. For me, I’m just really clear with the things that draw you to a relationship: love, like, flattery, chemistry. All that stuff is a fluid situation, and an ebb and flow, as you change and live together.

When you grow in a long-term relationship, you realize how important you are to one another. Then all that bad stuff falls by the wayside, and you realize you don’t want to go through life with anyone else. Even if sometimes you may feel like you hate one another, you still stay together because you can’t live without them.

What can viewers expect this season moving forward? You already see the cracks some couples are starting to show early on.

If you’re someone who watched the old show and are hoping that you get the same sort of thrill you had originally, I can promise you it’s everything and more. And if you’ve never seen the show before, imagine The Bachelor and The Bachelorette happening simultaneously — times eight. That’s what is exactly going on here.

Temptation Island, Tuesday, January 15, 10/9c, USA Network