AFTER a decade on air, even the most popular TV entertainment series usually show some signs they are on their last legs or, at the very least, starting to fade.
But I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! has bucked that trend in the most spectacular fashion this year. In fact, if the show continues at this entertaining pace it could well end up becoming the best edition ever.
Ratings are up too, something virtually impossible to achieve in this era of ‘time shifting’ telly. Perhaps that’s been helped by the fact the show’s coverage in the rest of the media has been more frenzied than ever before.
By contrast, The X Factor, which is in its ninth year, is struggling to maintain popularity after a series of damaging scandals and claims from some viewers that they have simply become tired of the format.
So what exactly have the producers of I’m A Celebrity – appropriately now ten years old, just like Freeview – done to make it the most compelling reality show of the year? In my opinion, there are five key factors, which I lay out below:
1: The Easy Target
Former Coronation Street actress Helen Flanagan is a dream for any reality TV show boss. Scared of everything, wound up by everything, confrontational about, well, everything. From the moment she shrieked and hyperventilated her way over a rickety bridge into the Australian jungle, it was obvious she would be this year’s hapless star targeted by the public to take part in bushtucker trial after bushtucker trial. For almost all of the first week, she left her increasingly agitated campmates to starve as she failed to even try and win them any meals. But, she insisted wishfully, ‘I’m proud’ because I tried ‘100 per cent’. But when nearly all hope was lost, Helen’s dramatic turnaround in trial number six became an uplifting story of redemption. She delivered 12 meals to the camp, the highest number possible, and the public decided to give her a break.
2: The Annoying Posh Boy
It’s difficult not to be infuriated by Hugo Taylor – the uber posh former Made in Chelsea contestant who left that E4 reality show vowing to give up the celebrity game to make it as a serious actor in Hollywood. Those ambitions lasted all of five minutes before another TV series came calling. But Hugo has most certainly delivered just what the show needs: a figure of derision. Less than 24 hours in and he was already crying and the tantrums have only got better. Without caviar, champagne on tap or Chelsea’s nightclubs, the lad just cannot cope. It makes for great viewing.
3: The Politician
Before she set foot on Australian soil, rebel Tory MP Nadine Dorries had already become the most controversial reality TV star in history. Suspended by her party and slammed by the Prime Minister for her decision to ditch her constituency to take part in the show, it was impossible for the broadsheet press to ignore the show. Even Radio 4’s Today programme covered the show’s debut, introducing the joys of I’m A Celebrity to a whole new audience. Nadine lived up to her firebrand reputation once the cameras were rolling, with regular bitching and bossing. Her fiery relationship with Hugo has been especially compelling to watch.
4: The Best Presenters on TV
Ant and Dec are a class act. They’re by far the best presenting duo currently on TV anywhere in the world and I’m A Celebrity has become their flagship show. Their hilarious links into each segment combine just the right mix of humour and storytelling. The way they commentate on the trials is often genius. It’s hard to imagine I’m A Celebrity without these two.
5: The Most Gruesome Trials Yet
Whoever is behind the always grotesque and often amusing series of challenges this year deserves huge credit for making the show so entertaining. You’d think after 12 series, the producers would have run out of ideas. Yet somehow the use of bugs, rats, snakes and crocs to terrify the celebs just gets better. Special credit goes to whoever dreamed up the idea of Helen and Nadine chomping on camel toe and ostrich anus in the eating task.
Now, the British public has the most difficult task. We all need to resist the urge to vote out the big, entertaining characters, while saving inoffensive celebs who might well be very nice but don’t make for exciting viewing.
Worthy winners would be bolshie chef Rosemary Shrager, bonkers 80s popstar Limahl, assertive EastEnders star Charlie Brooks or superhuman boxing champ David Hayes. But it would make for one of the great reality TV shocks if Helen or Nadine were to win over the public and claim the ultimate prize.