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Camp as celebs return to the jungle, the wild animals are runing scared

There are two very good reasons why I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here, which starts a new run on TV3 and ITV tomorrow, is the only celebrity/reality TV series worth watching.

First, it usually features some genuine celebrities, as in people who have enjoyed legitimate careers, lining up alongside the Z-listers who are famous for being famous. Second, in most cases they were genuine celebrities quite a long time ago, usually the 1970s, when being on television actually meant something.

It's these old-timers, teleported not just from a different era but practically a different universe, who are usually at the root of I'm a Celebrity's most explosive personality clashes, and its most entertaining moments.

Think back to 2008's series and what sticks in your mind is not the fact that Christopher Biggins ended up the winner, but the behaviour of former footballer and Sky Sports pundit Rodney Marsh, who ruffled every woman in the camp (though not in the way he might have liked to) with his sexist, unreconstructed remarks, which seemed to have been festering in a sweaty dressing-room locker since 1975.

And how about the following year's series? Is it Joe Swash's affectionate, odd-couple friendship with charming Star Trek star George Takei you remember, or washed-up '70s pop star David Van Day's endless baiting of dim Page 3 model Nicola McLean?

On first sight, the line-up for this year's series isn't particularly promising. The requirement to have at least one lingering shot of a nubile, bikini-clad totty showering under I'm a Celebrity's artificial waterfall is filled by Jessica-Jane Clement, actress, glamour model and co-presenter of BBC3's The Real Hustle.

In the "No, me neither" category comes Mark Wright, a lump of buffed, blank-faced muscle tissue from The Only Way is Essex, followed by Dougie Poynter of featherweight pop band McFly.

There's a soap actor but an unusual one, in that Antony Cotton, aka Coronation Street's camp knicker-stitcher Sean Tully, is still a member of the core cast.

After that, though, they have decided to fill their corner of the Australian jungle with a celebrity species most of us had thought extinct. Stick insect-thin Lorraine Chase might be familiar to some from her role in Emmerdale, but for me she'll always be the ditzy Cockney bimbo in a series of comical ads for Campari in the 1970s.

Faded Hollywood glamour is provided by Stefanie Powers, who starred with Robert Wagner in the TV series Hart to Hart. There are two former sports stars: Fatima Whitbread, which sounds like a brand of low-calorie loaf but is, in fact, an Olympic medal-winning javelin thrower, and legendary jockey Willie Carson.

But wait, what's that elemental presence crashing through the foliage? Why, it's comedian Freddie Starr, who prompted UK tabloid The Sun's most famous ever headline, "Freddie Starr ate my hamster" (no, it wasn't true), and whose unpredictability made him a television pariah for years.

Starr (67) had quadruple heart bypass surgery last year and has probably calmed down. But if he rediscovers some of his old madness, this could be the sparkiest I'm a Celebrity yet. I can feel the witchetty grubs shivering already.

>busted So Frankie Cocozza has been booted off The X Factor for breaking the series' "golden rule": he was caught backstage boasting his empty little head off about having a coke-fuelled sex session. Nice to see Simon Cowell is so concerned about morals and protecting the sensibilities of the shrinking audience for his karaoke contest. I mean, imagine if Cocozza had been dumped because he's a vain, brainless, tone-deaf, irksome little toe-rag with no talent and legs like pipe cleaners. That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

>murphy's law A Facebook campaign to have the Muppets host the live Oscars TV show after Eddie Murphy pulled out fell on deaf ears and Billy Crystal has stepped into the breach. Oddly, none of the coverage has focused on why Murphy withdrew.

Brett Ratner, the overbearing hack director of the Rush Hour series, had previously stepped down as the show's producer after he was excoriated for saying "rehearsing is for fags" in a radio interview. So did Murphy, whose stand-up shows in the 1980s featured lots of homophobic material, side with Hollywood's aggrieved gay community?

Nope. He quit because Ratner directed his latest movie, Tower Heist, and Murphy didn't fancy working without his "creative partner". Maybe they should have hired the Muppets in the first place.

>SHORT SHRIFT Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's new comedy Life's Too Short stars dwarf actor Warwick Davis as an exaggerated version of himself and features the inevitable big-star cameos.

The general consensus among critics was, "A lot like The Office and Extras, but not as funny."

Mmm, maybe; let's just wait and see. One thing's for sure, though: it's 10 times funnier than most other BBC comedy shows.


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