Grace Dent on Television: I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, ITV1
There's no pleasure in watching other people suffer – not even when it's Nadine Dorries
A12th series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. Or '"IACGMOOH" as fans refer to it. Well, fans, plus many of the casual ITV1 viewing demographic for whom long, guttural grunts like "BAHAHGH" or "KFFFFH", throwing a shoe or belching are favoured communication devices. Let's be frank, I'm a Celeb, love or hate it, is far from a deluxe viewing experience. It is a puerile venture into starvation, televised constipation and animal cruelty, abbreviated by ads for Iceland £1 curries.
One could only cheapen the I'm a Celeb viewing experience further by watching Nadine Dorries's antics through the window of Currys, while wearing a heavily stained Kappa tracksuit and camping out for the Next sale in the hope of saving 50p on ankle socks. Or by having someone called Tevin in the JMC Holidays Lanzarote check-in queue recount highlights of Helen Flanagan soaping her tits, while festooning one with scratchcard scrapings. I snap my blinds firmly shut before settling down to watch I'm a Celeb, in fear that the theme tune alone devalues my property.
Yet, invariably, I do watch. The buzz about contestants such as the Tory MP Nadine Dorries becomes so heady that it's quite impossible not to take a peek, to see if she has been locked in a coffin and gnawed by rats. She has, incidentally. It troubled her little. Nadine is the sort of person who can calmly stand up in Westminster and insist that women going for an abortion shouldn't be allowed counselling within the same building. Nadine relishes moments like this where she can share her crystal clarity on how women should be treated on possibly the crappest day of their lives, as she KNOWS she's right. Nadine also believes she's right to go into the jungle so she can share her views on politics with a wider audience.
This bewilders me because anyone who has watched a reality show in the past five years – and that includes Tevin the JMC scratchcard man and the Next-sale campers – knows that due to editing, tone and advertisers' concerns, this will never happen. I'm amazed that vain, itchy-footed politicians still heave out this lame, factual impossibility and that it's still entertained as viable. Nadine also claims that she signed up for I'm a Celeb without ever having seen it, relying solely on a tape sent to her by a researcher. This is the amount of independent research and eye for detail that Nadine showers on something as potentially career- and reputation-wrecking as I'm a Celeb. And when she flies home she'll shift her fine focus back to matters of my uterus. It's both beguiling and terrifying to see how high people like her can ascend in public life without being thwarted.
Other jungle-goers include the boxer David Haye, one of those "say what you see" incessant twaddlers, the sort of man who can start a brawl with himself at a deserted rural bus-stop. Also, Colin Baker from Dr Who, who due to his age and physical shape looks to me to be the contestant most likely to die from exposure to the elements. This may sound heartless but, by day 11, Ashley from the Pussycat Dolls and Eric "The Crafty Cockney" Bristow will be so hungry and doolally they'll eat Colin's ribs with a plate of harissa and beans quicker than you can say, "STFU about the Tardis, Colin!". Elsewhere in the camp, Hugo from Made in Chelsea has been put into the jungle so that he can be roundly despised by the nation for being posh, while fellow whipping post Helen Flanagan (Rosie Webster from Corrie) is there in the hope that capriciousness, idiocy and ownership of large breasts will provoke viewers to spend money making her vomit up dried wallaby ball-sack. Oh what a world we live in.
The problem is, Hugo and Helen both seem wholly sweet people. I glean no pleasure from watching them suffer. Neither do I feel short-changed and furious like some viewers when contestants refuse to be proper team players and relish having a tarantula on their face or being hoisted above a ravine while they gather stars. In the same way as I'll wait and stick an arm around a lost child in a supermarket or give a quid to a tramp or take in a one-eared cat with a manky tail, I am happier when other things are happy. It's a revolutionary, knit-your-own-yoghurt, wooden-jewellery sort of thought and I don't think I am alone.
I bet that cheeky, twinkle-eyed comedian Brian Conley agrees with me. He seems like a salt-of-the-earth sort. Despite my sniffiness about I'm a Celeb and its dearth of intellect, I should admit that Conley in his 1990s Saturday-night sketch show, ripping off Philip Schofield, simply sitting in a mock broom-cupboard, wrestling with a bedraggled gopher, shouting, "it's a puuuupppppet", made me vaguely hysterical week in and out and still does now, just remembering it. We all need our big dumb fun somewhere.
Grace's marmalade dropper...
Last Monday's Newsnight, which discussed the previous Friday's Newsnight's coverage of the Friday before that's Newsnight. Make it stop.
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