Unmissable: As Jimmy Bullard heads to the I’m A Celebrity... jungle, will you be watching?
This week as the nation prepares itself for another round of bug-based gag-fest I’m A Celebrity... (I think we can drop the rest now) it’s time for former Blues star Jimmy Bullard to guzzle down some kangaroo penis.
I’m A Celeb is one of those programmes that comes straight out of the odd box. How it was pitched, I’ll never know.
Think back to 2002, when it all began – maybe it went something like this...
Producers to ITV executives: “Here’s the thing, there’ll be a load of huge stars – think Tony Blackburn, Darren Day, Uri Geller – and they’ll all go to the Australian Jungle, deep into the jungle (not just on a nicely cleared section right at the edge of the jungle, you know) and we’ll put them through hell every night as they become more and more sleep deprived and hungry. Hopefully they’ll lose weight and start arguing and almost die – it’ll be fantastic.
“And we’ll call it I’m A Celebrity... Get Me... Out Of Here. Yes, that’s right.”
Sounds irresistible, doesn’t it? But somehow it works. Eleven million people watched the finale of that first series, hence the fact that we’re now on the 14th edition of the show.
Part of the recipe for its enduring popularity remains Ant and Dec. I have to confess that while I find them really annoying most of the time, when it comes to I’m A Celeb they’re on cruise control and relax into some well-scripted banter which is just right. Their links are often genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and the brief interactions with the strung-out celebs can be hilarious.
So who’s your favourite ever celeb to enter the jungle? What’s your most memorable moment from those 13 years of bush tucker trials?
Is it Paul Burrell with his hysterical “move over darling” plea to an unseen beastie during his Hell Holes challenge, or Dean Gaffney’s frantic late entrance via the Bush Spa – a gruelling and grim series of tests that helped him win over the viewers immediately.
There was something demeaning yet satisfactory about seeing Jenni Bond locked in a coffin with two-dozen rats for 10 minutes, while
You might cite well-known crybabies Helen Flanagan, Natalie Appleton or Gillian McKeith as your most treasured I’m A Celeb turn, but that’s missing the more subtle contestant who simply can’t quite cope with what’s being asked of them.
Think Hugo from Made in Chelsea – his trials and tribulations were rather moving at times, although he got little sympathy from Eric Bristow.
And that’s how I’m A Celeb earns its stripes. By throwing together the most unlikely of campmates.
Who wouldn’t want to watch Huggy Bear, Janet Street porter, Vic Reeves and Brian Harvey try to all rub along together? Dean Gaffney and David Gest? Christopher Biggins and Rodney Marsh?
Looking back almost every line-up has its strokes of genius. Think series eight with Timmy Mallett, Martina Navratilova, David Van Day, Kilroy and George Takei. How ex-EastEnder Joe Swash won that year I’ll never understand.
Series 10 with Nigel Havers, Shaun Ryder, Britt Ekland and Linford Christie also had its great moments.
Over the years the presence of some particularly prickly characters has helped elevate some series above the others - think the belligerent Joe Bugner, the pot-stirring John Lydon and pop diva Limahl as in their own way they riled their fellow campers for days on end.
This year’s line-up doesn’t look the best ever, but until the action starts it’s never wise to write it all off. I’m a Celebrity... Get me out of here! starts on Sunday at 9pm on ITV1.
What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss