TV Viewpoint: I’m a Celebrity and The Crown

It’s anyone’s guess who’ll be crowned king or queen of the jungle, but it may pay to take a punt

Imagine signing up for something because it’s a seemingly easy route to losing five stone while gaining a nation’s heart, by way of time in a luxury hotel in the Australian tropics, and then being told that you’re not going to the tropics, but to the back of beyond in Wales. In the depths of winter.

The good sports signing on to this year’s I’m a Celebrity, get Me Out of Here! will probably be better known in aeons to come as the crew that Covid forgot. Those who came before, bathed under tepid Australian waterfalls and camped under the stars, all the while in itty bitty teeny-weeny little outfits that managed to show off the pounds they were shedding thanks to the diet of animal unmentionables and the sauna like natural habitat.

Not even the most persuasive of producers could convince this year’s batch that all would be business as usual, even if they lied through their teeth that there would be space heaters tucked behind walls and cunningly disguised stage hands dressed in camouflage ready and waiting to surreptitiously hand out flasks filled with medicinal brandy.

This year’s gang

This is what it is to be an I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! 20th Season contestant. The likes of soap stars, Olympians and a mummy blogger who is the wife of a former popstar join reality stars and radio personalities by being either helicoptered in to the outskirts of the castle or required to abseil into the camp.

The celebs have prepared for all the matey hugging and bonding they must do by quarantining for two weeks, and hug and bond they do as soon as they are dropped off and left to fend for themselves.

Hosts Ant and Dec are on hand, to maintain a modicum of normality, and soon the ruins of the castle are more or less indistinguishable from the Australian jungle, since it really is just a set, not a very comfortable set, but a set just the same.

All the top notes are hit; Ant and Dec convivially joshing with the contestants, celebs letting their nerves get the better of them, the older women being shoved into the role of camp school marm. But that’s the fun of it, being able to predict what’s going to happen next, and joining as a viewing conglomerate in judging these ten people, and crowning one the best. And what’s a little light torture between friends, jungle or no?

All that is small potatoes compared with pledging your entire life to the real-life obstacle course that’s sinisterly referred to as The Firm. Previous seasons of The Crown that have led up to this one have had a semblance of removal for viewers because of the time that has elapsed; it began to much acclaim, of course, with a bright-eyed and bushy tailed newly-crowned queen trying to find her footing in the man’s world of the 1950s.

Subsequent iconic episodes like Winston Churchill’s premiership and Princess Margaret’s love life took place far back enough ago to be able to view impersonally, like gazing idly over the bodies of the bog men in the Natural History Museum before moving on with magpie eyes to the shiny goodness of the Tara Brooch.

The Tara Brooch of The Crown is, of course Lady Diana Spencer, the nineteen-year-old kindergarten assistant who became the Princess of Wales. The entire fifth season made its regal way to Netflix on Sunday last, with Olivia Colman returning as Elizabeth II and Emma Corrin making her first appearance as the aristocrat fatally bound to a prince.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer

Gillian Anderson also pops up as the Iron Lady herself, Margaret Thatcher. Anderson is exquisite in the part, even managing to raise sympathy (though not for long), when she and her husband are invited to a baptism of fire at Balmoral.

Emma Corrin as Diana is simply breath-taking, perfectly encapsulating the doomed “Duch”, as she was known by her family and friends.

The first episode kicked off with the killing of Louis Mountbatten and three others by the IRA, but The Troubles aren’t lingered on for too long; the Windsor’s insular bubble is more concerned with who to curtsy to first. That’s what The Crown is about, this weird little family and their funny little ways, and that’s what the show has done, and continues to do well.  

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 18 11 20

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