Plump the cushions, tear the polythene off a pack of chicken zingy sliders and settle down for another series of “I’ll eat crocodile cock for a pantomime gig in Bradford”.
Every year Ant and Dec gamely try to pretend that they’ve assembled a spectacular array of grade A stars, when we all know that this is basically Celebrity Rehab with rope bridges. “What a line-up we’ve got for you,” the one on the right teases. What a line-up indeed. A snooker player, the one that did the Tom Jones dance for eight years on Fresh Prince, and someone who fell out with Katie Price. Admittedly, that’s not narrowing it down too much. But don’t worry, we’ll get to the other cast-members eventually. The fact is, this show is all about one man – Joey Essex. Apparently he does have a proper surname, but since he has to check the label in his boxers to remind himself what it is, the rest of us are off the hook too.
Thicker than a bucket of hippo cum, Joey is all set to be the star of this series. He’s already favourite to win and he’s only gone through one pair of shorts. With those ridiculous Daffy Duck teeth that are bright enough to attract moths, he’s the gift that keeps on giving. When he’s not talking about the situations where he’d consider “confrontating,” he’s fretting about the dangers of going three weeks without hair product and straighteners. “My ‘air gets well curly” he intones gravely. As the contestants begin their contrived and needlessly complicated journey to the jungle, they’re bundled into a helicopter: “I’m a bit baffled at the moment, but I’m guessing we’re going somewhere,” he theorises, clearly making a play for the spot left open by Poirot’s recent demise.
Joey’s joined for the first leg of the journey by Steve Davis, who’s still making hay long after the sun set, with that hilarious “Interesting” gag. He’s wearing his best Burton casuals, and looks a lot like Gollum on a caravanning holiday. Lucy Pargeter is a pile of facial filler with a fringe – apparently she’s on Emmerdale and abhors the word ‘celebrity’. Thankfully, I don’t imagine it’s something she hears too often, so we can all breathe easy. The final member of this fledgling foursome is Alfonso Ribeiro, who spent eight years trying to make Will Smith look like a towering titan of heterosexuality, and then wondered what happened to his career. He seems perfectly likeable, if a little over-sincere. Give him three days in sleeping bag with Joey, and I’m sure that agreeable mask will slip.
Time to inject a little drama into proceedings, since that honking klaxon from the Inception soundtrack can only add so much to the atmosphere. The four contestants are split into two pairs and taken off in helicopters. From there, they’ll be parachuting to an island which they’ll then have to race across, in order to gather up the rest of their respective teams. Unsurprisingly, they’re all bricking it about freefalling over the Gold Coast. I suppose we’re supposed to be feeling sorry for them, but all of my sympathy is reserved for the professional skydiver who has to plummet to earth pressed into Joey’s rectum. Steve goes first and handles it well, but as he paces the beach below, he wonders whether Joey’s got what it takes. “I don’t think he’ll bottle it…” he concludes, “he’d be the laughing stock of Essex.” I’m sorry, what is he now - Basildon’s poet laureate?
As the two pairs make their way across the island, carefully avoiding the production runners who keep ambling into shot, we’re treated to loads of great wildlife stock footage. Spiders, lizards, snakes – it’s like one of those old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, but with a set of Geordie cruet providing a running commentary.
The first pair of celebrities to get mopped up by the tsunami of shite sweeping its way across the island, comprises Kian from Westlife and Rebecca Adlington. He seems likeable enough, even though the promise of “It’s a chance for people to get to know me as a person” seems needlessly generous, and Rebecca is appealingly self-deprecating. Offering a refreshing counterpoint to all that likeability are Amy Willerton, who foolishly thought that Katie Price would take any interest in her career when she won that ridiculous modeling show, and Matthew Wright. If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to explain who Matthew is, or why the entire country is already pounding their handsets to dust, voting for him to face every single Bushtucker Trial. It is worth pointing out, however, how much he looks like a confused photofit that might be produced if Jeremy Kyle and Frank Skinner robbed a jewellers.
There’s just enough room for two more ‘celebrities’ – so give it up for David Emanuel and Laila Morse. David is the celebrated ‘Royal Couturier,’ who accidentally disses the Queen of Hearts by saying “I’ve dressed some of the most beautiful women in the world, and Princess Diana.” Laila, on the other hand, is more salt of the Earth. Best known as Big Mo, she says “I don’t mind eating testicles, penises…” and suddenly Iceland has found its new celebrity spokesperson.
After an excruciating round of puns to accompany the voting numbers, we see the contestants set off in yet another helicopter to make their way to the camps. David declares that insects are his worst nightmare, Lucy worries about something disappearing up her nunny (No Joey, she doesn’t mean you), and Steve thinks the Gold Coast looks just like Southend. Maybe if viewed from space.
Someone comments that it’s like the opening of Jurassic Park, but Laila’s quick to correct them with ‘Nah, it’s King Kong.’ And you just know she’s fondly remembering the Willis O’Brien version. By the time they land in the jungle, Joey’s expressing confusion yet again, which is hardly surprising, since he’d have an aneurysm trying to operate a tin opener. As the contestants make their way into a clearing, Steve observes: “There’s Ant and Dec and you know what that means - there’s gonna be something horrible at the end of it.” Looks like someone’s not a fan of their neo-Music Hall double act.
The contestants are all strapped onto a giant roulette wheel, and Matthew is crying already, pretty much guaranteeing he’ll be facing every single challenge for the next fortnight. Laila and David get 10,000 cockroaches poured on them. It’s an absolutely revolting sight – those poor cockroaches deserve better. After that, it’s Matthew’s turn. As his box is filled with pythons, the animal handler attempts to coach him through it, chanting “They’ve no interest in you whatsoever.” To be honest, the snakes aren’t alone in their indifference. Rebecca and Kian get the rats, and Kian does the job with a minimum of fuss. They both seem so well grounded and reasonable, it’s hard to understand why they even agreed to appear on the show. With the yellow team romping ahead, Lucy does the noble thing and lies perfectly still, arguing that the red team deserve the chance to win a meal. Unfortunately, that means she has to lie in a box full of lizards, while Joey Essex solves a geometric puzzle. This could take a while. “They’re trying to eat my trousers,” he yelps, like a homeless man on hallucinogens.
The yellow team have won the task, so they get the nicer of the two camps. “It’s almost like a real Disneyworld,” comments David nonsensically. Poor old red team are stuck in a more desolate environment and are struggling to light a fire. Joey attempts to lead them all in prayer, but it sounds more like a reverse charges call to Nanny Pat. By the time Rebecca offers to set fire to her tampon, ITV is already well on its way to another quality broadcaster award. Still, at least we were spared the indignities of Joey asking “What is that?” Then again, he’s too distracted by the freak hailstorm that batters the camp overnight. “That’s literally the biggest storm I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” he concludes, but he’s hardly Alan Whicker, is he? Remember back at the beginning, when he expressed concern about his hair – well, he already looks like Monica in the Bahamas, so this is going to be hilarious.
After a delicious dinner of crocodile meat (called a ‘filet’ by Alfonso because, you know, America), the teams are ready to face the next Bushtucker Trial. Unsurprisingly, it’s Matthew and Joey who’ll be eating the gonads. Tune in tonight for so much more of the same.