ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity. . .Get Me Out Of Here’ is, mercilessly, the shortest of the reality TV formats, being over in three-weeks. However it’s showing all the signs of its wearied sibling (Big Brother). At first it was all about ‘the jungle’ but with each season, the so-called bush-tucker trials become increasingly further removed from ‘the real world’. What started off as fun show has now become grotesquely masochistic. . .with contestants willing to do almost anything ‘for the team’. Of course, they are all paid handsomely to brave all and resurrect their careers. Much has been written about bullying on reality TV but what of the people the other side of the camera. – the viewers? In Great British tradition we rejoice in celebrity denigration. We put them on their pedestals and when we decide that they are getting ‘too big for their boots’ we delight in bringing them back to earth. However the bush tucker trials have become nothing more than ritual humiliation. And the public are happy to pay to vote in the hope that their least favourite celebrity is covered in slime, fish guts, locked in a coffin, shat on by rats and nosh down on raw animal genitals. This year the ‘honour’ falls on Katie Price (a.k.a Jordan) for four trials in a row. The Great British public has voted.
Not a stranger to the media spotlight, Price is on record as saying she is returning to the jungle to get away from it all. . .in front of ten cameras, 24 hours a day. The public have now voted for her to undertake four bush tucker trials in succession and her fear of water induced a panic attack on one trial that seemed genuine enough. And yet the next night, she’s the celebrity in a bottle and the night after voted to dip her face in worms , get bitten by ants and retch after taking a sip of some loathsome cocktail of insects. There’s no doubt that Katie Price is an expert media player. It’s possible that she’s re-entered the jungle (after six years) as a PR exercise and in response to the handsome fee that the producers are paying her to rescue this sorry programme from its death throes. But what of the mob mentality these shows instil? Is it not just a kind of remote-controlled bullying? You pay your money and you watch you celebrity squirm, from the comfort of your own home.
What is reality TV really saying about real life? What does it say about us? TV schedules are swamped with this kind of ‘bedlam’ TV. They are the most popular programmes on TV. Is it just harmless fun or aren’t we just over-dosing on Schadenfreude? Is our pleasure in the misfortune of others becoming our greatest pleasure in life?