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I’m A Celebrity – but should I appear on a reality show?

Denise Van Outen in Strictly Come Dancing. Photo: BBC/Guy Levy
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Question: You’re a relatively successful performer looking to boost your profile and put a bit of extra cash in the bank.

Do you:

a) sleep with/bribe producers into seeing you for parts that you’re clearly too young/too old/too fat/too skinny for (delete as appropriate)

b) agree to appear in a commercial for something you really don’t believe in, even if it does involve talking to animated animals or promoting car insurance when you don’t drive yourself

c) get yourself onto a reality TV show such as Strictly Come Dancing or I’m A Celebrity

Increasingly, it seems to me, actors and performers are looking to shows such as Strictly or I’m A Celebrity to boost their careers, often turning down other projects for the chance to appear on them.

This year, on I’m A Celebrity, you have performers/actors such as Brian Conley, Colin Baker, Charlie Brooks and Linda Robson. Over on Strictly, you have the likes of Lisa Riley, Denise Van Outen and Dani Harmer.

But is it ever wise for people like this to take part in these shows, if their aim is to be taken seriously afterwards?

Charlie Brooks, better known as Janine from Eastenders. BBC/Adam Pensotti

My opinion is, I’m A Celebrity, no. Strictly, yes. And the reason for this is because of the differences between the shows’ formats.

On Strictly, the contestants are required to demonstrate, week after week, a range of skills, their dedication to learning new routines and their discipline. Strictly, you see, is about performance and hard work. And for those who excel at it, the rewards can be amazing. It can open producers’ eyes to a talent some contestants have that they never knew existed before.

I’m A Celebrity, on the other hand, can make a mockery of those who take part. Unlike Strictly, where very little of the contestant’s true personality is revealed, I’m A Celebrity shows the contestants bickering, scrubbing their genitals in cold water, eating a kangaroo’s balls and talking nonsense to a camera in a diary room.

The problem with I’m A Celebrity, for the contestants who are from a performing/acting background, is that too much of their personality is on display. And any of them seriously hoping to find serious acting parts or performance-related roles afterwards may end up being disappointed. Can you seriously cast someone in a play or TV production when your last image of them is munching on a crocodile’s penis?

Last year’s series featured Lorraine Chase, for example, who had previously been in Emmerdale. Her appearance doesn’t seem to have done anything major for her career. Singer Kerry Katona won in 2004, and the highlight of her career since seems to have been an Iceland advert.

True, Jason Donovan appeared on the show in 2006, and he went on to appear in the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. But he also went on to appear on Strictly a few years later, perhaps recognising it could open even more doors to him.

Many Strictly contestants do seem to enjoy tremendous success following their appearances on the series, whether they win or not.

Jill Halfpenny won the second series and has since been in Legally Blonde and Abigail’s Party, while Tom Chambers, best known for Holby City before joining the sixth series of Strictly, is currently enjoying success in Top Hat, which marks his West End debut. Then you have Kara Tointon, who, since winning series eight, has been cast in plays such as Pygmalion and will soon be appearing in Relatively Speaking, alongside Felicity Kendal, another Strictly contestant I might add.

And for people who haven’t traditionally been associated with theatre work, the show has been brilliant too. Russell Grant was a little bit of a laughing stock on the series, but he has since gone on to appear in The Wizard of Oz and Grease. I am not saying I approve of that casting, but it’s interesting to note.

So I can see why, given the success previous contestants have had, agents may push their clients towards taking part in Strictly over others. The rewards, it seems, can be great.  But what would you do, given the choice?

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