Monday 19 February 2018

'I'm a Celebrity' faces a tough challenge

Laura Whitmore Presenter of I'm A Celebrity
Laura Whitmore Presenter of I'm A Celebrity
Joe Swash, presents the spin-off since winning the competition in 2008.
Comedian Russell Kane, returns to I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here NOW

Lisa Williams

The endurance reality show, which drops 12 pampered celebrities into the Australian bush to rough it in the wild for three weeks, is returning to our screens in a year when other reality juggernauts (Big Brother and The X Factor) have failed to recapture the magic - and the ratings - of previous years.

'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! may be facing its toughest challenge yet. Not only that, but can the series have anything in the bag to rival Gillian McKeith's performance last year?

The Scottish nutritionist proved irresistible viewing after claiming from the outset that she had a phobia of creepy-crawlies, fainting during a task in which she had to set herself free from a pitch black crate, and then flat-out refusing to do another task she'd been nominated for.

The last series also saw the fire and brimstone preaching of former athlete Linford Christie, the early departure of Nigel Havers, who quit because he didn't want to receive electric shocks as part of a task, and the eventual crowing of Dagenham diva Stacey Solomon as Queen Of The Jungle.

But as the 11th series approaches, the presenters of the show's spin-off, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here NOW! don't think there's any chance of the format running out of steam.

"If anything, I'm A Celebrity is one of the only reality shows which has the legs to go on and on, because everyone wants to see the people they know off the telly roughing it, really struggling and being put through their paces," says former EastEnders actor Joe Swash, who has headed back to Australia every year to present the spin-off since winning the competition in 2008.

Comedian Russell Kane, who returns to I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here NOW! for his nightly stand-up stint, agrees: "It's hilarious watching a bunch of 12 relatively pampered, wealthy people struggle.

"We're programmed to be snobby about the fact that it's a reality show, but even people who say they don't watch are at home with a bag of Doritos laughing their heads off at celebrities having to eat an animal's testicle."

As far as they've been told, the format of both shows is staying the same, there's one exciting new development in the shape of Laura Whitmore, the Irish MTV presenter who's filling the boots of Caroline Flack, who left to present The Xtra Factor.

"The one thing Caroline said to me was to bring wellies," laughs Whitmore. "I was wondering why she was always wearing boots on the show, but to get on set, you have to walk over a bridge and through grass with spiders and snakes. So I've got three pairs of wellies!"

Whitmore's relieved she's not actually going into the camp as she's got "two big suitcases" full of home comforts to take to Oz with her - including Irish teabags. And she's also pleased that she'll only have to commentate on the Bushtucker Trials, rather than partake in them herself.

"I could do the adrenaline things, I'm just not that fond of eating kangaroo testicles," she says.

Swash couldn't agree more. He got stuck into the revolting trials like a trooper while he was in the jungle, but admits he has no idea how he got through it.

"I honestly don't know," he says, shaking his head mournfully. "I think my body must have closed down and I went on autopilot, because I don't believe I did that even now."

Kane, who has readily admitted to suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), can't begin to entertain the idea of going into the reality show. He's much happier commenting and quipping from the sidelines.

"I'd refuse to go in. I'm not worried about the beans, rice and tasks, I'd look forward to those. But I'd want to be in control of people seeing what I'm like and my moods and my down days. I wouldn't trust myself not to have a diva attack. It's not worth it," he says.

Swash has some very practical advice for the people who are brave enough to go in this year: Don't wash, stay happy and ask lots of questions.

"I didn't wash for three weeks," he recalls. "It's freezing cold so I knocked that one on the head. Just let yourself go.

"And try to stay happy. People get the hump and start fighting, but you've got to remember you're only in there for three weeks, so just enjoy it.

"And also, try to find out about people and stay interested."

But it's the fighting and the drama which make the show what it is, and that's what's getting Whitmore excited: "I'd love to see Peter Andre and Katie Price back in there together," she says.

"And maybe we should get Gillian back in actually, because I think she was mental. I'd feel really bad for the camp because she'd be terrible to live with, but it'd be great to watch."

:: I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! begins on ITV1 on Sunday, November 11. I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here NOW! begins on ITV2 on the same night

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