I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV) and 100 Worst Britons (Channel 4)
It's that time of year again when reality TV hits the screens. Big Brother is back next week, but in the meantime we've had the delights of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! The small advantage of these shows is that, unlike Fame Academy or Pop Idol, the participants don't sing. Well, not much, anyway.
Two and a half million votes were counted in the final of I'm A Celebrity. I reckon that must be about the same as the number of votes for the Scottish Parliament. It cost 25p a go to choose whether an ex-cricketer, an ex-footballer or a DIY design guru should be King (or Queen) of the Jungle. The bookies were set to lose thousands if the favourite, Phil Tufnell, failed to win (he won). But why did anyone care?
Well, there is a fair amount of amusement value to be had from celebrities you never liked much anyway having to do gruesome tasks involving creepy-crawly insects, snakes and rats in order to win their daily rations. But it's curious that we now accept that this is prime-time, big channel viewing. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was just the sort of thing everyone used to laugh at in a superior sort of way when Clive James showed clips of Japanese TV doing it. We'd never have that trash on British telly, surely?
Unlike Big Brother, which was fascinating largely because for weeks very little happened, Celebrity was carefully edited into clearly-labelled narratives to make it easy for the viewer. We had the "model is bitchy" story, the "recovering addict can't cope" story and the "terrible trio stay up late drinking, are a bit cliquey and annoy the other campers" story. This made the programme nice and easy for the audience to follow, which was useful if you'd been out drinking after work, rolled in and collapsed on the sofa. It was noticeable that the one quiet, unassuming bloke, Chris (from Corrie, I think), who everyone else seemed to get on with, got no attention from the producers at all.
TV's obsession with micro-celebrities showed up, too, in Channel 4's 100 Worst Britons, almost all of whom were a similar variety of tabloid-fodder. It was interesting to note which non-C-listers managed to penetrate the programme: namely, in the top ten, the Queen, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Between Tony Blair, who topped the poll, and Thatcher at number three, was Daily Star favourite Jordan. I'm glad to see objections to Blair top objections to tabloid tackiness, but, really, Jordan ahead of Thatcher? You're saying a few breast enlargement operations are worse than eleven years of Maggie? TV should get real.
Reviewer: Nicole Ashford