By Katie Archer
I’m A Celebrity 2020 is about to launch its 20th series in unthinkable circumstances – it’s not in the jungle.
The hit ITV reality show heads for Gwrych Castle in Abergele, North Wales, a victim of COVID-19 filming restrictions that made a jaunt Down Under impossible.
Initially, that seemed more horrifying than a rat-infested cave with Paul Burrell’s hand rummaging around inside of it, but now we reckon it could be time to get out of the jungle for good.
I’m A Celeb without the jungle is like fish without chips, tea without biscuits, Dec without… actually, that one has already happened and it worked out OK, proving the show’s stable enough to survive big changes.
Let’s be honest, this probably wasn’t the 20-series celebration of I’m A Celebrity that ITV had planned. But it might just have been the best thing that could have happened to the show.
It’s being forced to refresh, rethink, and not fall back on the same scenes that viewers have been tuning in to for nearly two decades. Much as we love a skydive jungle entry, a Celebrity Cyclone trial, and watching the drama unfold during campfire chats, 20 series in seems a good time to give things a little shake up.
Without the pandemic, ITV bosses may have thought: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But couldn’t the reality contest could get a new lease of life by changing location each year?
Australia’s I’m A Celebrity films in South Africa and the short-lived US version spent a season in Costa Rica, so why not be open to the idea that our beloved UK show could go global rather than returning to its old stomping ground?
Instead, celebrity campmates could be sent to a mountain range, a desert island or a snowy landscape. Be brave, keep the I’m A Celebrity 2020 line-up on their toes!
After all, classic scenes such as the Katie Price/Peter Andre romance, or Gillian McKeith’s dodgy faint would have been just as entertaining whatever the backdrop of camp.
While we’re taking a wrecking ball to the format, could leaving the jungle be the moment the show finally takes notice of Chris Packham’s perennial plea to stop animals and insects being used in trials?
He has had some success since his open letter to Ant and Dec – you’ll no longer see celebs biting into live creatures during the Bushtucker Trials – but a change of location brings with it different animal and filming protocols. This could herald huge changes for the usually critter-stuffed trials.
Abergele’s Manorafon Farm Park has been booked for the series, but 2020’s new-look contest is an opportunity to break the expectation that every trial will be crawling with creatures.
No doubt Australia’s cockroaches would be relieved not to risk getting stuck up Fatima Whitbread’s nose, and snakes can roam freely along the jungle floor without being removed from camp by brave wardens.
Perhaps some were glad of the chance to stay a little closer to home than the other side of the world, or relieved that they wouldn’t have to spend the series in a swimsuit? Say goodbye to lingering shots of scantily-clad campmates in the shower, and hello to stormproof layers guarding against Welsh winter weather.
Of course, we’ll miss the Australian jungle – Ant and Dec bellowing “Get me out of here!” from the treetop bridge, Medic Bob, Kiosk Keith, and a dose of Aussie sunshine on cold, dark nights.
But the show’s heart stays the same whatever continent they’re on, and as any fan will tell you, it’s really the Ant and Dec double-act that makes it must-see telly, although even that wasn’t shaken by Holly Willoughby’s one-series star turn.
With a trophy cabinet of NTAs and BAFTAs, and a loyal following of millions of viewers behind it, if ever a show was strong enough to withstand a bold redesign it’s I’m A Celebrity.
As ITV Studios Director of Entertainment Richard Cowles said: “While it will certainly be different producing the show from the UK, the same tone and feel will remain.
“Our celebrities will probably have to swap shorts for thermals but they can still look forward to a basic diet of rice and beans and plenty of thrills and surprises along the way.”
Sounds good to us, see you in camp.
I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! starts on Sunday, November 15 at 9pm on ITV. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.