Hi loyal readers. You know who you are.
It’s November so that can only mean one thing. It’s the new series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, which is an absolute pain to type so I’ll just call it IAC from now on.
IAC, for those who don’t know, is a program hosted by Ant and Dec about a group of celebs who, for whatever reason, have decided to spend a few weeks in the Australian jungle doing all sorts of tasks called Bushtucker Trials. These trials are quite varied but all have the same goal: to collect stars for food, hence the name. The more stars the celebs manage to collect the more meals are sent into camp. So if the camp has 10 members in it the goal would be to collect all 10 stars to ensure there is a bountiful supply of food to go round. Simple.
Of course the trials aren’t meant to be too easy and although the celebs are never really put at proper risk they’re meant to at least feel under threat. Think of it as a type of waterboarding without the water, the towel and the CIA operatives wearing balaclava’s. There’s always a medic on standby called Bob who is there to make sure no creepy crawlies stray into areas they shouldn’t when they’re dropped on to our celebs heads. There’s, of course, the eating trials where some not-so-nice dishes are placed in front of the chosen celebs who are then ordered to eat them. These ‘dishes’ could be anything from testicles to eyeballs to live spiders. It’s a fairly gruesome task.
So IAC is a kind of torture for celebs who, for reasons that are their own, wish to try and ignite their careers by being ridiculed. It makes for interesting TV and not just for the trials that take place. When they’re not being force-fed bugs and other nasties, or having bugs dropped on their heads, they’re at camp. The camp consists of a few hammocks and camp beds placed around a camp fire. There’s a pool to clean in – which is also used for their washing up – a waterfall, everybody has seen at least one female celeb doing her thing under the cascading water to help bolster her familiarity rating, and a dunny, which is basically just a hole in the ground, that they use as a toilet. So the celebs aren’t treated especially well when off camera. One difference between this group, however, and the everyday tourists who venture into the bush, is the help they receive to keep the camp clear of all the really nasty creatures that may wonder in. Well, it is Australia after all, where it seems most things are out to get you. Everything harmful like the many poisonous spiders and snakes are cleared out on a constant basis. It makes the camp a safer place than it would otherwise be, but aside from that they’re pretty much on their own.
So why do these celebs like to take the trip down under to Oz each year for what could be tantamount to torture? Well for one, the celebs you typically get in the jungle aren’t usually your A-list types with long and successful careers in film. I doubt you’ll ever see Tom Cruise or Leo DiCaprio collecting stars for the camp by chowing down on a fermented egg or vomit fruit. So the word ‘celeb’ is often a term that could be said to be rather loosely fitting on most of the contestants. The show has seen an influx of people that, until the show is aired, were almost non-existent on the celeb-o-meter to most watching. People such as Scarlett Moffatt, Paul Burrell, Fran Cosgrave, Scott Henshall, Katie Hopkins, Brian Paddick, Joey Essex and Mark Wright, to name but a few are either known to people through one mainline channel of media or totally unknown and mysterious to nearly everyone. It’s obvious why these people would take the opportunity to grow their brand name: literally millions of people watch this show so it’s a good platform for people to get themselves out into the public eye. Plus, I should think the fee for appearing on the show is quite handsome. That said, there have been some fairly big names in the past such as George Takei, Peter Andre, Edwina Curry, Steve Davis, Tinchy Stryder, Chris Ubank, Craig Charles, Larry Lamb and David Guest. Why someone like George Takei (he was Sulu in the original Star Trek in case you didn’t know) would feel the need to go on the show is totally lost on me, but it gives us all an insight into what these people are really like because as the show goes on so their celeb status, and the mask that goes with it, is slowly removed until all that’s left is the raw person underneath. It can be quite fascinating to watch these people evolve into someone quite different from what you’d normally see and, indeed, the person you first meet when the show starts.
Of course, going on any show leaves you open to public opinion and when you give that same public some power to decide your fate then you could quite easily find yourself on a one-way ride to misery and oblivion. Just ask Natalie Appleton, Paul Burrell and Gillian McKeith. The latter was particularly entertaining, although Paul Burrell comes a close second. These are the celebs that for some reason just didn’t meld well with the viewing public who took it upon themselves to ensure they were made to do each trial. Natalie Appleton quit the show after being on the receiving end of the public vote one too many, as did Gillian McKeith who currently holds the record for the most trials at 6. It turns out, maybe unsurprisingly, that the public like to see these ‘celebs’ in uncomfortable situations, and the more uncomfortable it appears the more they like it. If you scream a lot, cry or rant about being voted for then you can bet it will happen just about every time. Horrible lot, aren’t we.
This years show has only just begun but already my money is on Scarlett Moffatt to bear the brunt this time around. She did well in the group challenge when her and 3 others were locked in a tomb and had 120,000 poured over her, but like hungry predators the public would have seen all too clearly the tears before the trial had even started and the subsequent fits and screams as the Tomb of Terror (who comes up with these names) slowly filled to make their mouths water with excitement and anticipation for the next time around. I fear the Gogglebox star is in for a particularly tiring time. There is a way to make the public refocus their attention, however, we’ve seen it before, but it requires poise, guts and a determination to make it dull viewing. Not many people have managed it but it can be done. We’ll have to see what happens.
Meanwhile, Ant and Dec again show how easy it is for them to host a show that is broadcast live. Their effortless banter and improvisations are a joy to behold as they laugh and gently mock those on the jungle floor below them, but one can’t help and wonder how they would both fair if put to the same tests their contestants have to face. Maybe one day, when they’re not longer the nations favourites we’ll get to find out. But, for now at least, they can be safe in the knowledge that there is no need for either of them to try and reignite their careers by going on the show proper. They can continue to enjoy the sufferings of others from their tree-house above the jungle, and we can continue to enjoy it with them.