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I’m a Celebrity 2020
The 2020 series of I’m a Celebrity is another in a growing list of reality entertainment shows that are going ahead despite the restrictions of Coronavirus. The changes required for this series, however, are profound, and some might even say it challenges the series very raison d’etre.
Throughout its history I’m a Celebrity has been set in the Australian outback. This setting served a dual purpose. First, it created a nice winter break for the English members of the crew. Second, it was a sufficiently exotic as a destination to add to the trials and tribulations of the cast. We all know about the lethality of Australian wildlife, which added the occasional frisson of excitement when something wondered into the camp. But the flora and fauna had a perfect mix of being unfamiliar, ugly and unprotected enough that multiple series of entertainment could be made simply from the spectacle of celebrities having to touch, sit in or eat the wildlife.
But they were more innocent times and in an age of coronavirus the Australian outback is not an option. Where, instead, can the celebrities be challenged when they are not allowed to go anywhere? The answer, it turns out, is North Wales.
Quite what the producers have in store for the contestants is largely being kept under wraps. Given the lack of exotic wildlife and the country’s animal protection laws it’s unlikely that there will be a Welsh version of the outback challenges. It has been revealed that part of the show will be filmed at Manorafon Farm Park. While there are some more exotic animals there, they boast a reptile house, given the venues usual life as a family-friendly attraction it seems unlikely they would risk their reputation with any of the more extreme challenges.
The climate will also change the dynamic, an outdoor camp is not a viable option for North Wales in November and the series will, instead be centred on Gwrych Castle. It has been hinted that the castle will form part of the challenges, with references to alleged hauntings. While this makes for a good tourist tale it’s hard to see how much this can be spun out as a challenge. Given that ghosts don’t exist but kangaroo testicles are very much real it seems that a rational celebrity may not find Gwrych Castle much of a challenge when compared to the outback. Of course, if celebrity television has taught us anything it is that many celebrities are not rational and their reactions are usually anything but proportionate.
Coronavirus may prove to the series’ saviour. What makes a show like I’m a Celebrity is the quality of celebrities they get. The names are still under wraps (although they are all in quarantine ahead of the show’s start) but many names have been hinted. One advantage, apparently, of a pandemic shutting down much of the normal economy is that because celebrity work is harder to come by — there is no competition from panto this year, for a start — many of the names who have played hard to get in the past are now very keen to be involved. It looks like we are in for a memorable year of I’m a Celebrity, even if it might be for the wrong reasons.