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The strife of Brian but Chris' star burns bright

This year's I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! line-up was supposed to be the one that revived a stale formula. After last year's fairly tepid series -- won, in case you've forgotten already, by Dougie Poynter of McFly -- the 10-year-old format was sorely in need of a good shake-up.

The 2012 collection of attention-seekers offered just about something for everyone. There was Nadine Dorries, the minor Tory backbencher who caused a major kerfuffle by deserting her constituents to go off to the jungle and eat kangaroo anus. The viewers, even less impressed by what was coming out of her mouth than what was going into it, voted her off first on Wednesday's show.


There were a brace of soap stars: Charlie Brooks, who plays Janine in EastEnders, and Helen Flanagan, the lesser-brained Webster sister in Coronation Street. Flanagan, who proclaimed at the start of the series that she was "quite deep" (she may have been referring to her cleavage), briefly outstripped Dorries as this year's Gillian McKeith by bungling her jungle trials and failing to win any food for the camp. She's recovered ground since, though.

The pop world was represented by Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts (pictured right), who's surprised many people by being not only charming, but pretty smart with it, and Kajagoogoo twiglet Limahl, who's surprised nobody at all.

The rest of the list was filled out by boxer David Haye, Birds of a Feather Linda Robson, chef Rosemary Shrager, Made in Chelsea poshboy Hugo Taylor, entertainer Brian Conley, former Doctor Who Colin Baker -- who's grown so large one suspects he ate a Dalek -- and darts player Eric Bristow, whose allotted role seems to be to lie in his hammock sniping about the others, yet never lifting a finger himself.

With a collection of personalities like that living under the same tarpaulin, this year's IACGMOOH should have been one of the better ones. The fun has been overshadowed, however, by the withdrawal of Conley due to an unspecified illness -- although the unofficial word is the 51-year-old entertainer, who was seen crying on screen after an argument with Haye, had fallen victim to the depression he's spoken about publicly in the past.

Contestants pulling out of I'm a Celebrity is nothing new; there have been 11 instances since it first went on air in 2002. Last year, Freddie Starr became ill after having an allergic reaction to something he ate in a bush tucker trial.


In the previous series, Nigel Havers walked out of camp on day nine, fed up with the whole experience. And in 2009 the appalling Katie Price, the only person to appear in two series, quit after a week because viewers kept voting for her to do the trials. But a mental breakdown -- if that's what Conley suffered -- is a lot more serious than a sick stomach or a fit of pique.

ITV is toughing out criticisms about allowing a person with a history of mental fragility to take part in the series, while hosts Ant and Dec are being their usual cheery selves. But there's no denying the whole business has left a taste sourer than the rotten egg that sent Freddie Starr to hospital.

>OVER EXPOSURE? It's all happening for Chris O'Dowd right now. Following on from the success of Moone Boy -- which followed on from the success of The IT Crowd, The Crimson Petal and the White and big-screen hit Bridesmaids -- the Roscommon man is to star in a new HBO/BBC mockumentary called Family Tree.

It will be written and directed by the great Christopher Guest, co-writer and star of the classic This is Spinal Tap, as well as films, such as Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Guest will also be appearing, as will top comedy bananas Fred Willard and Guest's Spinal Tap collaborator Michael McKean.

Promising as all this sounds, and brilliant as it is to see O'Dowd making it big, it's always worth bearing in mind the perils of overexposure. Let's just say two words: Ricky Gervais.

>FUTURE'S BLEAK The controller of BBC4, the best digital channel currently broadcasting, had a bleak message this week: budgets have been slashed so much, new original dramas are a thing of the past.

To give some idea of the scale of the cutbacks, next year's highlights include a reworking of a Scottish radio comedy called Bob Servant and Young Montalbano. At this rate, BBC4 will soon be renaming itself BBC Two and a Half.

>REMARKABLE RECORD And speaking of great channels and small budgets, just how does TG4 keep turning out such fantastic documentaries? Coming a fortnight after the brilliant Deora DE (God's Tears), there was another one this week: Wednesday's Glaoch On TriU Reich (A Call from the Third Reich).

During last spring's commemorations of the Titanic sinking, the best TV programme on the subject wasn't Julian Fellowes' ponderous ITV mini-series but TG4's docudrama Waking the Titanic.

It's a remarkable record that makes RTE's constant excuses about not having enough money to produce quality programmes sound more hollow than ever.