TV review: I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!; Nation’s Best Am Dram

Nation's Best Am Dram Judges Miriam Margolyes, Bill Kenwright and Quentin Letts. Photo: Jon Hall/Sky Arts

When I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! first hit our screens it was fresh, fun, original and compulsive viewing. Ten years on and the very jungle screams with the tedium of it all. Or perhaps I’m just hearing the plaintive cries of all the kangaroos that have paid with their penises to provide the bush tucker trials with its never-changing menu.

If hosts Ant and Dec are as bored with it as I am, they do a very good job of hiding the fact. Consummate professionals, their winning blend of effortless charm, blokey jocularity and avuncular concern still carries the show, like a pair of jolly swagmen lugging the decomposing corpse of a once great mate across the Outback.

I managed a 70% recognition level with this year’s crop of celebrity intakes, which is relatively high. Yet almost all their job descriptions are qualified by the word ‘former’ – former Doctor Who star, former boxing champion, former Pussycat Doll, and possibly former Tory MP. Only Brian Conley enjoys ongoing status as a comedian, and some would contest the accuracy of that.

By and large they’re a pretty uninspiring bunch, with no obvious irritant to stir things up and give the camp its edge. I do confidently predict, however, that the contestants will be fighting for the chance of being buried alive in a coffin full of scorpions if it means avoiding having to engage Eric Bristow in conversation. The darts legend takes dull to a whole new, stratospheric level.

[pullquote]Ant and Dec still carry the show, like a pair of jolly swagmen lugging the decomposing corpse of a once great mate across the Outback[/pullquote]

Thumbs down also to the politician with the mania for self-publicity, whom I refuse to name on principle. Amoebic dysentery could carry her off, Freddie Starr-style, and the show would be none the worse for it.

The only one of the so-called celebrities I like is ex-Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts. I know she’s only there to be filmed taking a shower in a skimpy bikini, but Roberts brings a much-needed sense of humour to proceedings, as well as a stubborn refusal to take all the idiocy around her seriously.

Most feeble prize goes to soap star Helen Flanagan, who wept in terror at the prospect of traversing a ravine via a rickety jungle bridge complete with strategic gaps.

Every series, the contestants are presented with this self-same challenge, and every series somebody collapses into a meltdown of terror, despite the worst-case scenario being to dangle in mid-air from a safety harness until a couple of Aussie floor managers clamber to the rescue.

Competition of a very different kind is over on Sky Arts 1, which is looking to find the Nation’s Best Am Dram.

I have seen the future, thanks to preview DVDs, and I can heartily recommend this series. Not only are the companies involved a revelation, but the creative process produces as many offstage dramas as on. It really is terrific.

Not that you’d have guessed it from episode one, which placed far too much emphasis on the three judges, as they compiled their shortlist from the tens of thousands of videos submitted. Impresario Bill Kenwright’s enthusiasm was palpable, but actor Miriam Margolyes’ and critic Quentin Letts’ focus was on their reactions to the plays, rather than the performances themselves. Letts, glowing with self-satisfaction, was clearly more excited about being on television than any of the amdram groups involved.

I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, ITV1, Sunday, November 11, 9pm
Nation’s Best Am Dram, Sky Arts 1, Wednesday, November 14, 9pm