Aussie critters can rest easy for another 12 months. Former Made In Chelsea star Sam Thompson was crowned King of the Jungle in the all-male final of I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here last night, bringing down the curtain on the 23nd season.
Tiggerish Sam was relentlessly optimistic for almost all of the 23 days, even as he had to chow down on a camel penis in a stomach-churning final challenge, still saying it was his dream to be there.
Ex-boxer and gentle giant Tony Bellew came a valiant second, while Nigel Farage was third, to the dismay of some of his fans, who demanded a recount. The final episode had showcased the blossoming bromance between Tony and Sam – with Tony even inviting the younger man to come and spend Christmas with his family once they’d both had a shower.
But what else will the series be remembered for? And will it prove to be the boost to Nigel Farage’s political career that he hoped?
While the inclusion of Farage was the focus of all the early press, this series hit the headlines for a series of culture war arguments between campmates, often of different generations. YouTuber Nella Rose was at the centre of several, often taking on Farage. She accused him of being racist, claiming black people don’t like him, and he defended himself. The pair later had a disagreement about cultural appropriation, and whether wearing costume of other cultures is offensive.
Nella had also sparred with Fred Sirieux from Channel 4's First Dates, accusing him of being insensitive about her dead father. Their interaction garnered 800 complaints to Ofcom, and Nella received some negative responses online for being unfair – she was often picked to do challenges afterwards. They weren’t the only arguments: Fred and Nigel clashed over Brexit, too.
Did Nigel Farage boost his political career?
ITV signed up Farage for a reported £1.5m fee, one of the highest ever, leading the former UKIP leader to joke that was why he had said yes. But he also wanted to get some positive coverage for his political career – saying he wanted to do the bushtucker trials, as that would give him more air time, and floating the rumour he might be Tory leader one day soon.
Initially, Nigel had struggled, as he was rarely picked to do the challenges – leading supporters and colleagues from the rival station GB News to claim there was a conspiracy against him. He showed a more uptight side, often railing against other campmates’s uncleanliness, and sometimes overegging his political persona with lines about "snakes" in the European Parliament.
However, Farage with his guard down seemed a fairly benign presence, who got along with others well enough. He demonstrated bravery, as seen in the final, where he lay in an underground compartment surrounded by snakes. At 59, he was the eldest, and proved he has physical endurance too. Farage’s partner Laure was waiting for him as he left – while his daughter came to visit him. He will feel that the show, particularly an exit interview where he was able to talk about the importance of civil debate, was good for his political career.
Having said all that, it’s hard to tell – Matt Hancock came third last year, and it hasn’t hugely helped his image.
Who were the real winners?
Sam Thompson won, and has surely got the most out of the series too. He went from being a relative unknown, among faces like Frankie Dettori and Marvin Humes from JLS, to be the clear favourite even before the final, and presenting and other work is likely to come rolling in.
Other stars have massively raised their profile as well. While she was controversial, Nella Rose reached a whole new audience, doubling her Instagram followers to over 1 million. Josie Gibson also upped her profile hugely, making her more likely to get a permanent berth on ITV’s This Morning – up to now she has only been an occasional host.
There were some surprises. At first, the slightly mysterious Jamie-Lynn Spears, known only for her more famous big sister, cried constantly about missing her kids. But she later cheered up, claiming she’d “made friends for life”. Meanwhile, Sirieux was an elegant camp elder statesman, but let slip a spikier side when patronising Sam, telling him to go and “play with his toys”.
Is the show still relevant?
I’m a Celebrity… remains a seriously high profile show for ITV, getting some of its biggest audiences of the year. It has a real shock factor, as some of the bushtucker trials are still genuinely spine-crawling. (In fact, parts of the show were arguably too gruelling – both food critic Grace Dent and Spears left early for medical reasons).
But I’m a Celeb… has slipped down the rankings a little bit this year. The first episode was watched by 7 million viewers, down from 9.1 million last year. The series as a whole seems to have lost viewers too, over a million an episode. That’s partly down to viewers turning off terrestrial television altogether, but also perhaps a sign that the behemoth may be slowly losing its lustre. Until next time…