Tune in, switch off - An anus horribilis

Ray Tarleton

It was a choice between humiliation and humiliation: watching celebrities swallowing raw kangaroo anus or a Royal celebrity experiencing her "annus horribilis". I began with Ant and Dec in Australia who looked like a couple of convict throwbacks in the outback, inflicting tortures on jungle-hungry contestants in I'm a Celebrity... Get me Out of Here (ITV1).

Down to five with the ejection of Sabrina, Romeo (in this case, Stuart Manning) had lost his Juliet. The nation had voted to starve young love. For Sabrina there was the tempting prospect of a hot shower and a decent meal; for the rest the chance of a farewell fumble.

Interior designer Justin poured gallons of curdling, stinking yoghurt and buckets of mushy, maggoty strawberries over Chef (Gino) who was seated in a supermarket trolley. This was meals on wheels for dysentery lovers. As treasure seekers, they had to hunt for the hidden metal stars in the teeming rot and grot.

And that was just for hors d'oeuvres. The main course, hardly in Gino's repertoire, was fly-blown fish and offal, marinaded in E. coli sauce. And if the maggots didn't get Gino, the cockroaches would: "Somebody's nipping my willy," he cried.

I was more concerned about the appetite of the nation than about the state of Gino's genitals. By the final he was chewing crocodile tongue and downing worm stew. These were dishes straight from Macbeth's witches' cauldron. But Gino's reward was being crowned King of the Jungle. All that education and this is what we watch in our spare time.

Meanwhile, the Monarch experienced humiliation by the decade in a week of The Queen (Channel 4). Barbara Flynn portrayed the wounded woman behind the caricature when, in 1992, Princess Di leaked her story to Andrew Morton, turning the Royal Family into a living soap opera. We had believed the marriage was a fairytale. Ironically it was, but not one with a happy ending.

There was a lot of old footage, recent commentary and too-brief, dramatic re-constructions with delightful humiliations: Charles squirmed at the taped telephone conversations with Camilla in which his lurid tampon fantasies were exposed. He was in the wrong programme: Ant and Dec could have sorted it for him in the outback.

But Charles was brave enough to take an ice pick to his emotionally frozen "mummy", the glacial Queen, with the rebuke that Diana's redeeming feature was the amount of time she spent with her children, compared with his own mater.

Ten years on, in the final episode, Diana Quick played the present Queen, grieving for the loss of her sister and mother. They had gone, but Camilla hadn't. There was enough frost to prevent an ice cap melting; perhaps someone should tell the climate change campaigners.

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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Ray Tarleton

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