ITV unveils its summer of celebrities and more celebrities to lure viewers
First, there were celebrities in the jungle. Then there were celebrities in the kitchen. Now, ITV is trying to trounce
Big Brother in the ratings by sending celebrities to a tropical island, hoping couples fall in love.
First, there were celebrities in the jungle. Then there were celebrities in the kitchen. Now, ITV is trying to trounce Big Brother in the ratings by sending celebrities to a tropical island, hoping couples fall in love.
Yesterday, ITV unveiled a schedule of programmes for spring and summer laden with celebrity and reality television shows, which critics fear could alienate viewers. Heading the bill is Celebrity Love Island, a show ITV hopes will challenge the dominance of Channel 4's Big Brother, which enters its sixth series this summer.
In the prime-time show, 10 good-looking, young, single celebrities will be packed off to a tropical island, where viewers will be able to participate in the matchmaking process by voting.
The word "celebrity" looms large in the ITV line-up. Celebrity Shark Bait brings four celebrities face to face with great whites in South Africa's Shark Alley, a one-off special to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the horror film Jaws.
In Celebrity Wrestling, 12 famous faces are trained to combat in wrestling bouts, and Celebrities Under Pressure sets stars challenges that involve learning new skills. Other highlights include the return of Hell's Kitchen, in which Jean Christophe Novelli and Gary Rhodes will take the place of Gordon Ramsay to turn celebrities into restaurant chefs.
Hit Me Baby One More Time, will revive pop acts from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - including Gloria Gaynor, Howard Jones, Sinita and Limahl from Kajagoogoo - to perform their original hits as well as modern songs. Viewers will vote for the winners every week.
As part of a new-look daytime schedule, Philip Schofield hosts Have I Been Here Before?, which will take celebrities back to past lives.
The former ITV chief executive Stuart Prebble believes the network risks alienating sections of its audience with an excess of celebrity shows. He said: "There is a public appetite for celebrity, but what I lament is the narrowing of the ITV audience. If you're doing an enormous amount of celebrity, some sections of the audience won't come to ITV. It still does one or two worthwhile documentaries, but because people who want to see serious programmes don't expect to see them on ITV, they don't go to ITV."
But Nigel Pickard, ITV's director of programmes, denied the summer schedule was dominated by celebrity and insisted the new programmes were a response to increased competition. "This is a time of year when we face increasingly strong competition from our commercial rivals," he said. " Big Brother has done big business for Channel 4. This year we are not going to take it lying down."
In the first two months of the year, ITV1's viewing figures fell by nearly 10 per cent. The channel blamed the decline on the success the previous year of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, in which two contestants - Katie Price aka Jordan and the faded pop star Peter André - became a couple. ITV hopes to recreate that success with Celebrity Love Island.
Mr Pickard said: "The idea was out there before, but when we saw the Peter André/Jordan thing happening we just realised what great television that was. This is not a bonking marathon. It's not a shag-fest."
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Hit Me Baby
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