Returning home just now, I found my husband watching television. This isn’t particularly striking or unusual; rather, it was the image of Jason Donovan trying to breathe through a bowl of bugs which caught my immediate attetion. I stopped, stared, put down my shopping. After a moment, a snake was added to the mix. It’s worth noting that the bowl was actually on his head, like a giant glass diving-helmet, and as this new length of pululating reptile was dropped into the already-seething mixture of moths, cockroaches and other such anthropodian delights, Donovan physically staggered, lurching about the jungle clearing like a panic-stricken wildebeast.
After a minute, the bowl was removed. Gasping, spluttering, Donovan brushed frantically at his face and clothing, sending a cascade of insects scuttling away into layers of leaf litter (the snake, miraculously, vanished without trace). One ear was bleeding. Laughing uproariously, two hosts – this being, after all, reality TV – congratulated him on surviving such a thoroughly gross experience. Dazed and more cheerful than is perhaps reasonable, Donovan staggered off, shortly to be replaced by a slender woman singing karaoke in a glass box. Once during every song, buckets of oil, straw, cockroaches, dung, moths and/or pollen were tipped on her from above, the purpose of which – the hosts gleefully announced – was to distract her from singing. (The less said about this, the better.)
The show, for those who are morbidly curious, is called I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!. Even were one to ignore the fact that it airs on Channel 10 in the middle of Sunday afternoon, it dosn’t take more than a half-second of viewing for the words ‘downswing of a mediocre career’ to come to mind.
After an ad break, Donovan was interviewed about his reasons for coming on the show. ‘Well, you know,’ he said, ‘I think it’s good for my kids to see their dad doing something….interesting.’
‘Very interesting,’ said the hosts, not without irony.
All of which begs the question: is this a step down from Neighbours, or – just maybe – a step up?