Never mind gaudy decorations, Slade on a loop in department stores, or the arrival of the John Lewis advert, the real proof that Christmas is just around the corner is the arrival on our TV screens of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Forget the fact that some of the celebrities in recent years have been more ‘legends in their own lunch times’ than ‘household names’, the reality TV phenomenon is as entertaining and toe-curling so far this year as it ever has been. Part of the appeal of the format is seeing the unlikely alliances that emerge as celebrities from very different generations and aspects of public life are thrown together in an Australian rain forest and forced to survive on too little food and undertake increasingly bizarre challenges. Tonight, for example, two DJs are eating such evocative delicacies as fish eye trifle, pig’s uterus, and (my favourite so far) tiramispew! It’s cringey and hysterical in equal measure to watch, and I absolutely love it.
What’s also good about the programme, though, is the way that it encourages consideration of wider social issues as part of the mix of people who are recruited. This year, Caitlyn Jenner is one of the participants, leading to some interesting conversations so far on the issues of sex, gender and transitioning. In previous years, celebrities have opened up about issues of race and sex discrimination, mental health, and the pressures of living in the media spotlight. It is the conversations about these social issues within the wider context of the reality gameshow format that heightens their impact (and certainly, the audience for the programme is significantly greater than for a comparable documentary dedicated to those same issues).
It’s also good this year to see Ant back presenting the programme after some time out last year while he underwent treatment for alcohol dependency. The dynamic between Ant and Dec is particularly effective in the I’m a Celebrity format, and there’s always the sense that they are having far too much fun. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and its great to see them back sparking off one another again. And when this run of the franchise comes to an end in a couple of weeks’ time, Christmas will be almost upon us!