It’s the law of the jungle on 'I’m a Celebrity'

From smelly participants to a special bug-breeding farm, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes on I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here, writes Susan Griffin.

It’s the law of the jungle on 'I’m a Celebrity'

TV’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! first aired in 2002 and we’re still tuning into the reality TV show in our millions to watch famous faces, and a few unknowns, forage around the ‘jungle’ in Australia and chomp down on exotic delights — like juicy witchetty grubs — in a bid to win viewers’ votes. The set-up seems simple, but hundreds of people, and months of work, are required to stage the show. Here are a few facts:

When the show launched, executive producer and co-creator, Richard Cowles, dealt with irate celebs furious about having to change on camera.

Cowles didn’t want to build a dressing room, so the art department created the ‘modesty smock’ — a sheet to be worn and which has an opening for your head, and they’ve used it ever since. But the celebs are not so modest when waterfall posing, however: this year, Kendra Wilkinson, Nadia Forde, and ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard have been flashing the flesh.

The first series was filmed in Mission Beach, near Cairns, in Queensland. When the site was being excavated, bones were discovered and the crew thought they’d found an Aboriginal graveyard.

Disturbing a traditional burial ground isn’t allowed, so they were relieved the bones had belonged to ostriches.

In that first season, there wasn’t a shower and deodorant was banned. But the smell was so bad that the camera crew complained and, from series two, the celebs were more fragrant.

Following the success of series one, the show moved to Dungay Creek, 20 minutes from Queensland’s Gold Coast, and it’s been filmed there since. Celebs such as Michael Burke, Melanie Sykes and Tinchy Stryder will be hosted at the lavish Palazzo Versace hotel when they’re booted off, although most of the crew stay in the nearby holiday resort of Coolangatta.

Ahead of series one, Mark Busk-Cowley, one of the show’s writers and co-creator, was tasked with ordering bugs for the trials. Fast-forward to 2014, and there’s now a dedicated bug-breeding factory on site. For the last series, 250,000 cockroaches, 153,000 crickets, 2.5m meal worms, 400 spiders, 500 rats and 30 snakes were bred.

There’s a limited crew on-site throughout the year, but activity revs up four months before the first live episode and, by the time the show is in full-swing, there’s a crew of 500 people working around the clock — and boy can they eat! During production last year, they scoffed 8,500 meals, chomping through 15kg of bacon and 540 eggs daily.

Medic Bob works five days a week for three months, looking after the crew as they prepare for the show, and then, just before the celebs arrive, he works every day for seven weeks.Arriving on set at 6am, he and his nurse will go over the day’s trials and stay on set while they’re recorded. The medical staff also look after the crew, treating an average of 30 cases a day in the clinic.

This can be anything from tick bites and cuts to ongoing health issues. Bob also works on the German version show, Ich Bin Ein Star — Holt Mich Hier Raus!

Celebrities are chaperoned from the UK and put up in various hotels, so they don’t meet each other before the programme starts.

When they arrive in Australia, they’re on lockdown, which means their phones and laptops are confiscated. There are meetings with health-and-safety and with the wardrobe teams (according to casting executive David Harvey, most celebs will lie about their size).

Then, when they exit the camp, the first thing they do is see the show’s psychiatrist and check in with Medic Bob.

Presenters Ant and Dec usually arrive at the site at 2.30am to do voiceovers and sit down with the show’s executives, writers and director to talk through the script. At around 4am, they, and the writers, will watch all the VTs, before make-up and wardrobe at 5.30am.

They then travel to the studio and rehearse the show, before it goes live at 7am. After the programme’s aired, they’ll record the bushtucker trial and then the rest of the day is their own.

The team that works on the bushtucker trials can arrive in Australia as early as July, to start setting them up. When the show’s running, they’ll arrive on site at about 4am, keeping a close eye on voting, so they know, as early as possible, which celebrity’s about to be nominated.

They also rehearse every trial, several times, before the celeb does it. Apparently, the stench at the trials clearing area is overwhelming.

The dunny — that innocuous, wooden structure, which houses a seat with a hole in it and a bucket underneath — has caused all sorts of trouble, not only for the celebs, but for the crew.

There was a debate between the art department and site management as to who would be responsible for disposing of the waste.

If the dunny was declared an on-screen item, the responsibility would be the art department’s, but if it was an off-screen item, it would be site management’s responsibility.

The latter drew the short (stinky) straw.

  • I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! continues on UTV and 3e. The book, I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! The Inside Story, by Mark Busk-Cowley, is published in hardback by Bantam Press

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