For the second year running, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! (Virgin Media One, Sunday) has been obliged to forsake the Australian jungle for the damp delights of North Wales. But the format continues to weather the hemispherical transition more or less unchanged and launch night gets straight to business as it introduces the latest batch of soon-to-be-creeped-out c-listers.
What’s different this time around is the absence of novelty. Twelve months ago, in the midst of a pandemic, a glow of intrigue hung around ITV’s determination to keep the show on the road, even as it went off the road and relocated to Wales. Second time around however, the damp and foggy setting of Gwrych Castle has lost that shimmer of the new.
For Irish viewers tuning in on Virgin Media One, the class of 2021 is meanwhile surely a bit meh. Breakfast TV smoothie Richard Madeley is about as close as the line-up comes to an actual celebrity. Elsewhere the ranks are filled with British olympians and radio presenters (DJ Snoochie Shy says her big fear is “bugs going up my vagina”), former soccer stars (a very French David Ginola) and not-quite-household-names from the world of pop (producer Naughty Boy, living up to his moniker by smuggling in a stash of tasty herbs and spices).
As the biggest celeb on camera, Madeley is already in the firing line. He is voted to participate in a trial called the Turrets of Terror, in which he goes head to head against Frankie Bridge of The Saturdays. This involves acquiring keys by running a gauntlet of creepy crawlies that cause the more sensitive among us to look away. Madeley may have wished to avert his gaze, too, as he loses out to Frankie, leaving his team to cool their heels in “Camp Clink”, where the food is basic and the accommodation bum-numbing (Ginola is horrified to discover there are no towels).
As with many of the participants, Madeley seems ever so mildly in shock as the fun gets underway. And so there are few of the Alan Partridgisms that are increasingly his stock-in-trade on morning television. But who knows – maybe he’ll treat us to a surprise “Jurassic Park!” moment before the drama is done.
I’m A Celebrity is also, of course, a shop window for the two-headed light-entertainment behemoth that is Ant and Dec. This is their 21st I’m A Celeb,which now doesn’t even carry the bonus of a free holiday in Australia.Yet their eagerness is undiminished and they keep smiling when Dec is attacked on camera by a fly. Amid the rolling green hills of Wales, the message is that I’m A Celebrity….Get Me Out Of Here! is a long way from being put out to pasture.