What have Carol Thatcher, Germaine Greer and Jenni Bond got in common? Aside from the fact they are all feisty older women, by next week all three will have appeared in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here.
ITV yesterday confirmed speculation that Baroness Thatcher's writer and broadcaster daughter would be starring opposite the permatanned antiques expert David Dickinson and the wine buff Jilly Goolden in the fifth series of its hit reality television series set in the Australian rain forest, which begins on Sunday.
In keeping with previous series, which pitted Janet Street Porter against Paul Burrell and Tara Palmer Tompkinson against Christine Hamilton, ITV's casting department has chosen contestants from very different walks of life.
This year's "celebrities" include Donny Osmond's little brother Jimmy, the former boy and girl-band members Anthony Costa from Blue and Jenny Frost from Atomic Kitten, and a smattering of soap stars - ex-EastEnders actors Elaine Lordan and Sid Owen (aka "Rickaay"), and Emmerdale's Sheree Murphy.
Nigel Pickard, head of ITV1, insisted the new series would match the success of its predecessors. "It's a year since we've done it. There's an appetite for it. It's still seen as the granddaddy of all these shows. It's a great cast list. It's about the interface between the characters. There's a really good mix of feisty ones and quiet ones and of all age groups. There's a warmth to this series."
Mr Pickard said that there was no danger of the audience growing tired of the hosts Ant and Dec, who have their own show, Saturday Night Takeaway. "I think they're still the biggest entertainment artists in the UK," he said.
Since its launch in 2002, I'm A Celebrity... has proved a consistent ratings winner. The third series of the jungle-based show starring the glamour model Jordan, who went on to marry her pop singer co-star Peter Andre, averaged more than 11 million viewers.
But one person who won't be watching the contestants eat live bugs in "bush-tucker trials" this time round, is Baroness Thatcher. Her daughter confessed: "I haven't told my mother. I think she'll think, 'rather her than me'. She wouldn't like to give up that hairdo and power heels to be in I'm A Celebrity... I think she'll probably be very critical - I can't say it's her sort of show so I might just tell her I've done it when I get back." ITV unveiled a winter schedule yesterday that relies on new twists on tested formats to sustain the audience boost it has received this autumn from shows including The X-Factor. Under its new director of television, Simon Shaps, ITV is falling back on the staples of populist drama and brassy entertainment shows, following a disastrous summer with flops including Celebrity Wrestling and the critically panned Celebrity Love Island.
Mr Shaps promised the new season would be "classic ITV - big names, big shows", including a Strictly Come Dancing on ice hosted by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and an Inspector Morse spin-off about the Oxford policeman's sidekick, Lewis.
ITV also announced that it has poached the BBC's head of children's programming, Alison Sharman, to oversee its factual and daytime schedule. She is one of a number of high-profile programme-makers ITV is attempting to snare, cashing in on insecurity over job losses at the BBC.Reuse content