Last year, the relatives of dead frontline workers given the wrong PPE had to endure the knowledge that the man responsible was having his image dry-cleaned by ITV. Now every person impacted by the disastrous fallout from Brexit has to sit by and watch (or not watch) as the entitled millionaire who helped to enable the current mess hunkers down by a campfire to play “man of the people”.
Rumours suggest Nigel Farage is using the anus-eating show to get back onto the political agenda for another assault on the House of Commons.
In the cold and dark of British winter, these shows are designed to provide cheer and comfort, not to remind us of the awful things we’re trying to escape. When the makers of these shows put their callousness on screen by casting real villains, even the matey badinage of Ant and Dec isn’t enough to take away the bad taste.
They’re laying out their cynicism for all to see, even apparently planting stories in the press that Nigel Farage was paid £1.5m to rile up the viewers before displaying the number to text if you want to see him shove his face in a tank of electric eels.
He’ll gamely take on the challenges, we’ll feel like we have allowed him redemption and the advertisers can count their money.
Broadcasters are worried about tanking advertising revenues. ITV needs those viewer eyeballs more than ever before. I’m not naive about their reasoning.
But when they choose to move outside the bounds of entertainment’s usual panto villains – the washed-up comedians and pop stars in recovery – and directly on to people who have done irreparable damage to this country, things change. It all changes.
Ant and Dec act as the chorus. They’re the best in the business at standing next to a cynical thing and making it seem inclusive. When they roll their eyes and crack their jokes, they’re a direct conduit to us. Remember when they winked at the camera and name-checked Boris Johnson during Partygate? “Evening, prime minister.” It was thrilling.
We talked about it at home and now they were talking about it too, because they’re just like us. We all agreed. Boris Johnson and his toxic populism were a bad thing.
But Farage will use all of the same tactics, shoehorning himself back into the political arena by appearing to be “a nice guy”.
We’ll flatter ourselves that we’ve made up our own minds and, actually, the way he ate those toad testes when he didn’t have to really does mark him out as a good chap who is willing to muck in.
I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here is a game show. A bit of fun.
We watch stupid game shows to forget the hard reality of the world. We pretend not to notice all the behind-the-scenes manipulating and heavy formatting of reality TV if they promise to take our mind off things.
No one, apart from Nigel Farage, is having a good time in Brexit Britain. No one he knows, anyway. The legacy of his pathetic, xenophobic crusade is food banks, rocketing homelessness, a mental health crisis, the poor getting poorer, psychotic home secretaries stirring up hatred, drug shortages, the squashing of our right to protest and god knows what else.
And ITV thinks he’s fair game because they’ve already featured someone with an actual body count and that seemed to go OK.
We sign up for the benign con of ambient television, soothing us while storms rage outside the window. But we didn’t agree to this new twist where manipulative profiteers are given free rein to lay out their market stalls when we’re trying to relax.
What does the jungle have to offer now except the constant reminder of everything that is wrong?