By Lily Riley
It is again that time of year when the familiar faces of our favourite Geordie duo seem to be everywhere. Following hard upon the heels of Britain’s Got Talent, the season of Ant and Dec continues this month with the latest series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! This year however, the format is slightly different owing to the oh-so-slightly influential factor of a global pandemic, which has forced the show to film outside of Australia for the first time in its 18-year history. This year the campmates have been installed in Gwrych Castle, a sprawling 19th-century country house in Abergele, North Wales: a far cry from the patch of dirt and a few hammocks that previous contestants have been faced with.
There has been some dispute as to whether North Wales can quite live up to the Australian Bush
For me, I’m A Celeb has always represented the start of the lead up to the festive season; it is part of my roster of familiar shows that I eagerly anticipate each year, speculating over the contestants for months prior to the start date, making wagers with my family as to which B-list celeb will be the first to crack under the pressure. This year in particular, I do not think I am alone in feeling a particular excitement for the show’s return as it promises viewers an hour of innocuous frivolity away from the pandemic culture of lockdowns, R-rates and daily briefings.
The camp’s displacement from Australia to North Wales has obviously necessitated some alterations to the format of the show and the jury still seems to be out with the British public as to whether the new setting has the same level of back-to-basics grittiness that we’re used to. Whilst the first episode boasted it’s biggest ever launch, with 14.3 million of us entertainment-starved Brits tuning in to the opening show, there has been some dispute as to whether North Wales can quite live up to the Australian Bush. In fact, it could not be more of a u-turn in terms of environment as the contestants face not sweltering Aussie temperatures but the drizzle and persistent cold of a Welsh winter. The more familiar climes of the Welsh countryside have given rise to claims that this year’s instalment of I’m A Celeb is ‘too easy’ with the rumour-mill even speculating that the celebs have access to central heating in the castle.
It is oddly exciting that I’m A Celeb is taking place closer to home this year
As per usual, the show is dogged by ethical concerns of animal welfare with one Twitter user ranting, ‘Another reason #ImACeleb is increasingly irrelevant. Aside from releasing non-native species (& questionable ethics), isn’t it time we stop perpetuating hysterical fear of wildlife?’ Having promptly responded to these accusations with fatigued assurances of all proper precaution, the ITV staple has induced a similar buzz of social media speculation and engagement that we find year upon year.
Personally, as I find myself in the throes of trying to write a dissertation and umpteen essays within the confines of a second lockdown, I am relishing the return of one of my favourite shows. The location especially holds special significance for one whose childhood was spent on the beaches of Rhyl, Talacre and Prestatyn which are just a stone’s throw from the castle. It is oddly exciting that I’m A Celeb is taking place closer to home this year, demonstrating that it is the general anticipation of the trials and tribulations of celebrities under the microscope that give the show it’s unique draw, as opposed to the odd appearance of a snake in camp (although Shane Richie may be fulfilling that role quite comfortably if Twitter is anything to go by). Whilst the format may be a little different, watching celebrities get covered in various unspeakable substances, bicker about discrepancies in pot-washing and divulge potentially career-threatening stories in an effort at one-upmanship never gets old.