THE COUCH POTATO: Mad Nad leads the way in ITV’s Jungle Book

DOWN UNDER: The Honourable Member in the jungle

DOWN UNDER: The Honourable Member in the jungle

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

BEFORE abandoning her Parliamentary duties and entering the Queensland jungle, Nadine Dorries MP insisted her noble intention was to bring politics to the masses.

“The majority of people don’t look to Westminster. They surf the net, watch popular TV and engage with reality shows.

“If that is where 16 million people are, it’s where politicians need to be too.”

And how, exactly, is the Honourable Member for Mid-Bedfordshire engaging with the masses? By tucking into an ostrich anus and sheep’s testicle in an eating competition against the lass who played Rosie Webster in Coronation Street, that’s how.

We’re in the clearing for I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! of course, which after the first week is showing real promise that it’s shaping up to be a classic, in no small part because of only the second sitting MP ever to appear on a reality TV show.

From the moment she stepped out of that giant sparkly letter “C” on the beach, which I’m certain stands for “Conservative” although David Cameron may have other ideas, Mad Nad has been great box office.

She takes no prisoners in that camp, tramples over the feeble, and has the hide of a hippo, the bedside manner of Hannibal Lecter and, crucially, the boneheaded thickness to agree to go on this programme in the first place.

But there is something of an ensemble performance with this year’s series, thanks to some terrific casting.

We have Eric Bristow who “lives by nobody’s rules”, limp lettuce Made In Chelsea ‘star’ Hugo Taylor, self-proclaimed “Fuhrer of fun” Brian Conley who’s the bloke who isn’t Bradley Walsh, heavyweight alpha male David Haye, and superheavyweight VHS-era Doctor Who actor Colin Baker who says: “I’m a breakfast man.”

He’s a breakfast, elevenses, lunch, snack time, tea, dinner, supper, and midnight feast man, by the looks.

There are some inevitable wastes of space, like Ashley Roberts and Charlie Brooks who, like her EastEnders character Janine, appears to be pretending to be someone she isn’t.

But even this year’s token WAG, consistently the character who costs ITV the most money and gives zero entertainment in return, is great value.

She’s vain Corrie star Helen Flanagan, a child actress turned footballer’s girlfriend who has never been exposed to the real world and announced: “I’m going to be champion jungle warrior princess”, but squeals when a fly lands on her arm or a twig gets caught in her hair, and is the public’s serial victim for the Bushtucker Trials.

There have been some subtle changes to the format, such as the Dingo Dollar Challenge replacing the Celebrity Chest, but that’s the beauty of this show.

It knows its audience (bleeping out the worst curses despite it being post-watershed), sticks to a winning formula, and it starts and ends with Ant and Dec who are better than ever, most notably for me when they said on Tuesday: “It’s moving day here in the jungle.

The Pickfords van has just pulled up, the bubble wrap is out, and the removal men are looking at Colin Baker and thinking, ‘We’re going to need a bigger van’.”

Their script is brilliant, their timing perfect, and their secret is making it all look so effortless.

So when they opened the series by announcing: “You’re cold, it’s dark, and the heating’s on full. But admit it, you’ve got a smile on your face,” I wasn’t alone in nodding in agreement.

And with the long, slow, death rattle emanating from The X Factor, didn’t ITV and the rest of us need this series to be great.

Nadine Dorries talked a lot of claptrap before the show started.

But one thing she said is turning out to be spot on.

I’m A Celebrity is once again engaging the majority of us with reality TV.

Spudulike awards

● The return of winter sports on Eurosport.

● Ant and Dec on I’m A Celebrity, and the show’s producers playing My Heart Will Go On as Team Snake Rock’s boat sank en route to camp.

● Pointless Celebrities host Alexander Armstrong getting my Saturday night off to a flyer by telling the Cheeky Girls they’re as popular as the Krays.

● ITV1’s laughably atrocious new daytime semi-improvised police drama Crime Stories, with guest stars Darren Day, Dean Gaffney, Paul Danan, and Bobby Davro, which just about sneaks into the so-bad-it’s-good category.

● Strictly Come Dancing minus Bruce Forsyth. Strictly’s costume department wiping the smugness off Brendan Cole’s face by dressing him as a bellboy.

● Kevin Bacon’s Frank Carson impression on whatever the hell advert he’s in. It’s a cracker.

Spuduhate awards

● ITV shunting I’m A Celebrity for a meaningless football friendly in Stockholm just as it was bubbling nicely.

● Every television presenter who thinks it’s amusing to illustrate the “/”sign in a website address with an overdramatic slashing motion with their hand.

● Claudia Winkleman managing to say “iconic” twice in the first five minutes of Strictly.

● Noel Edmonds, on Golden Rules of TV, describing the Deal Or No Deal boxes as “iconic”.

● Yet another historically inaccurate BBC drama, this time The Hour, imposing the corporation’s 21st-century morals on a bygone age (come on, tabloid sensationalism? In the 1950s?).

● Marcus Brigstocke crowbarring three stupid political “jokes” into one short section about physics on BBC2's Dara’s Science Club.

● I’m A Celebrity’s Limahl revealing: “I have not been camping.”

You could have fooled me.

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