"It's so exciting," said Paul Burrell. Viewers suffering from an overpowering sense of déjà vu might not have agreed as I'm a Celebrity reached the end of its latest series - but then they hadn't spent 16 days in the Australian outback, malnourished and subject to incessant savaging by Janet Street-Porter - the sort of thing that might leave anyone in a weakened and febrile state.
In any case enough of the British public had been stimulated to make ITV a small fortune in call charges and to produce the closest ever vote in the programme's history. Despite the bookie's predictions of an easy win for Joe Pasquale, the comedian was only narrowly voted the King of the Jungle, with Burrell in second place and Fran Cosgrove in third.
No ballot was necessary for Drama Queen of the Jungle. After Natalie Appleton abdicated half way through the run, Paul Burrell succeeded to her title with a performance of matchless histrionics. "I lived in a pantomime," he explained when talking about his time as a royal butler, and everything we saw here suggested that he had never left the stage.
"You will see clean surfaces and knives just so," he said, after Janet Street-Porter's departure on Sunday allowed him back into the jungle camp's kitchen. "I'm a little bit anal ... but that's me."
He drew the short straw for the final ordeal - sitting down to a five-course meal which began with night crawlers, included a palate-cleansing course of "vomit fruit" and concluded with a kangaroo testicle - an object Burrell consumed with such a thrashing rictus of disgust that it looked as if he'd accidentally bitten into one of the lighting cables.
Joe Pasquale wasn't required to consume gonads, just to offer his own up as hors d'ouevres for a sackful of damp rats, who had joined him in a blacked out, water-filled coffin. "They're on me Jacob's," he cried, using his favourite bit of rhyming slang (and now the nation's) for the final time.
But although his quiet understated manner and gentle way with an emu had probably served him well with the electorate, they never made quite as compelling a spectacle as Burrell's emotional self-exposure. Quivering and tearful, Diana, Princess of Wales's former butler announced that the experience had restored his "faith in the British public and human nature". What he feared might turn into the first interactive lynching had instead resulted in a sort of public pardon.
Anyone disappointed that their favourite did not win will not have long to wait before they are enfranchised once more; this weekend offers the public two more opportunities to needlessly jack up their telephone bill with the finals of the BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing and ITV1's The X Factor , by which time Pasquale's coronation will be old history.
In the meantime, though, he marked his ascent to the throne by issuing his first regal decree: "I want a bit of porcelain under me bum as soon as you can manage it."Reuse content