As the clock ticks down to tonight’s I’m A Celebrity finale, the big question on everyone’s lips is surely this: Will Britain’s leading betting and bingo advertiser count the cost of his own huge gamble?
In other words, will the latest king of the jungle, ITV’s £1.5m hit, Nigel Farage, manage to defy the odds and the haters? So-called ‘Pound shop Enoch Powell’ as ITV’s new smiling face. You can just imagine the panicked faces in head office.
At this stage in the proceedings, you’d have to say Big Nige has more than a puncher’s chance – not least because his trusted swinger has the weight of a very well-organized social media voting campaign behind him. For Farage fans and mischief-makers alike, it’s another Rage Against The Machine vs. Simon Cowell moment.
The fact that Nigel dispatched one of the pre-show favorites Josie Gibson in the final eviction battle on Saturday night was the clearest sign yet of his title credentials. Of course someone at ITV will know how well Farage is doing in the polls.
So right now they might be pretty relaxed; secure in the knowledge that Nigel is so far behind Sam Thompson and Tony Bellew that he will need a huge upset to grab the crown. Or they may feel completely powerless, pacing up and down like Fred Sirieks at bean fry night.
If Nigel triumphs, it will serve ITV right. And as Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous meme (almost) goes, “I’ll love it and I think they’ll deserve it.”
At the start of it all, the producers and executives at ITV were probably on their own because they dropped a 100 megaton stink bomb into a packed lift and jumped out just as the doors were closing.
We can’t be sure of the exact moment they realized they’d forgotten to block the vents, but the sight of Ant & Dec effectively banning politicians from the show for the foreseeable future was a big clue that ITV knew they’d messed up a lot .
To be honest, Nigel was acting exactly as I expected him to be at camp. He was charming and polite, treating the whole process like a drinks reception at a Home Counties golf club. He was (admirably) up for most of the challenges thrown at him. And, to no one’s surprise, Pint Man was absolutely in his element at The Jungle Arms. He even recreated the I’m Too Sexy strip routine he first performed on his GB News show in front of an approving audience – which, ghostly omen fans – included former jungle king Harry Redknapp.
Most importantly, Nigel has so far stubbornly failed to deliver the producers any of the explosive content they were hoping for. And that’s because he’s five times smarter than they think they are. Apparently “I wasn’t as terrible as many people expected me to be” would be an odd reason for someone to win TV’s biggest popularity contest.
Unfortunately, we are where we are. 2023 is not vintage. You can lay some of the blame for that at Nigel’s door, but not all of it.
Unless something amazing happens tonight, this year’s highlight package will be a few rounds of passive-aggression around the pot between the doorman of First Dates and the festive coverage of This Morning. And yes, this looks even less compelling written than it did on a TV screen.
As ITV’s restless PR people never tire of reminding us, I’m A Celebrity is almost certain to be the most-watched entertainment show of the year.
However, they have been reluctant to publicize the fact that ratings have dropped significantly and that outside of the contractual bubble of ITV Daytime there is very little buzz around the show. However, I’m a Celebrity has bounced back from bad years before, so I’m sure 2024 will be dynamite.
As for tonight, if Nigel does win, I hope his victory speech is a little more like that.
“When I first came here 22 days ago, Ant and Dec laughed at me and GB News that we had no viewers. Well, now you’re not laughing. Cheers Keith and Linda – this is for you.’
The finale of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! will air at 9pm Sunday on ITV1.