Ex-Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Metropolitan Police. No, you haven’t stumbled across a job vacancy, these six words are Brian Paddick’s claim to fame and ITV’s feeble attempt to provide a jungle full of recognisable faces. And joining him are such memorable figures as Joe Swash, David Van Day and Nicola McLean.
Would you really know if I had invented one of these names myself? And would you care? The real question is not how famous each celebrity would like to think they are but in fact why we need celebrities at all. Humiliation does not differentiate between the privileged and the public. The idea of stealing eggs in a pen full of ostriches is just as entertaining no matter who is foolish enough to attempt it.
Classic game-shows such as ‘Family Fortunes’, ‘Play Your Cards Right’ and ‘The Generation Game’ never needed celebrities to be popular. And wasn’t it more fun to watch Julie from Leeds gamble all her money to eventually lose and go home with nothing but a ‘Blankety Blank’ cheque-book and pen? While ‘I’m a Celebrity’ has a fairly entertaining premise, it is not justifiable to pay each personality a small fortune when less money could be used as a cash prize for contestants from the Great British public to humiliate themselves in the same way.
Not to mention that a parent, schoolteacher or brick-layers might benefit slightly more from the £40,000 that Dani Behr is reputed to have collected for entering the jungle. Perhaps the problem of Saturday night television is not simply our craving for celebrity but our cultural insistence on something for nothing.
Children no longer want to be musicians or actors but simply famous, the vehicle to that status being no longer important. It is now the case that a whole career can be made from selling one's story of heartbreak or of sickness to the media. Invent your own fragrance, market your own jeans and when your career threatens to slump into a quiet lull, flash your delicates while stepping out of a taxi.