Although the campfire has yet to be lit and the dunny has not yet been declared open for business, this year’s I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! has already been grabbing the headlines. It’s all thanks to one man, of course: Nigel Farage.
With a reported £1.5m pay cheque — take that, Coutts! — tucked away in the back pocket of his smart casual EasyFit trousers, Farage is by far the most expensive booking in the reality show’s 21 year history.
But could he turn out to be ITV’s greatest mistake? Will he say or do something in camp which will irreparably tarnish the brand? Will Ant & Dec be forced to open the show one night with a “Firstly, are you OK?” apology?
Farage is a divisive figure for sure. To some he is the devil incarnate; so-called 'poundshop Enoch Powell', who has done more damage to the UK than any other politician in recent history.
Viewer boycotts have already been announced and online pitchforks and placards are already being waved in the direction of companies who dare to advertise during the show.
To others he is simply Nige, a dear old lovable rogue who adores his country almost as much as he loves a pint of British ale and a bag of beautiful British fish and chips. Their view is that if someone like Matt Hancock can be given a spot in the jungle then why should Nige be denied one. After all, it's not like's he's an actual sitting MP who should be at work.
It’s a big gamble on ITV’s part, but the network will be hoping that despite their differences both sides will ultimately want to see the same thing: Farage munching on a kangaroo’s backside, while a pair of middle-aged Geordie schoolboys giggle away in the background.
That would be ratings gold which — at the end of the day — is all that ITV really cares about.
Conflict can bring the viewers in as well, of course. I see little chance of that though. Look what happened to the campmates who tried to take Hancock to task last year — he beat them all in the public vote. This year’s hopefuls will have been strongly advised against making the same mistake.
Farage isn’t stupid either. He is fully aware that I’m A Celebrity is a show where if you are savvy enough you can control the narrative. It’s no accident that he chose to do this show rather than the more uncontrollable Celebrity Big Brother. Anyway, as light relief is in such short supply these days, I’m actually starting to think that three weeks of Farage’s antics in Australia is exactly what we all need.
I do have one major problem with his presence on the show though. ITV clearly blew the budget on him.
Let’s be honest, the rest of the line-up would struggle to make first reserve on Dancing On Ice or a second page on Wikipedia.
Britney Spears’s estranged sister (so Britney said 'no' to ITV, then). One of the blokes from Gordon, Gino and Fred who hasn’t done the show before (so Gordon said 'no', then). A guy from Made In Chelsea whose girlfriend just flopped on Strictly Come Dancing. Two part-time This Morning presenters (so Holly said 'no', then). A food critic who is best known for making Channel 5 documentaries about baking connoisseurs Greggs. Plus, the obligatory soap star or two and a social media influencer who your kids may have heard of.
Rumours also abound that ITV has a couple of recently-retired sportsmen primed to make a late arrival — but before you get too excited, I’m afraid it’s not David Beckham and Roy Keane.
One of them is a boxer though, so you never know what might happen if Nige gets a bit too mouthy one night down the Jungle Arms…
I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! starts on ITV at 9pm on Sunday, 19 November.
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