Jack Kibble-White
19/11/2010 13:35 | By Jack Kibble-White, columnist, MSN TV

How to cast I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

The secret of a great reality show is all in the casting, believes MSN columnist Jack Kibble-White.

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Brian Harvey

I'm A Celebrity's Gillian McKeith (© ITV)

I'm A Celebrity's Gillian McKeith

At the time of writing, TV nutritionist Gillian McKeith is being administered oxygen after having passed out at the prospect of sharing the same space with an insect.

If she's still in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! by the time you read this, I fear for her sanity.

Heck, I also fear for the sanity of the celebs stuck with her.

But issues of mental health aside, McKeith has already made for some brilliantly entertaining television, not to mention providing a cathartic experience for those poor podgy people she bullied on countless episodes of her Channel 4 diet show You Are What You Eat.

It's all in the casting

Gillian McKeith's inclusion in the jungle is a masterstroke of casting, and highlights just how important the right mix

"Gillian McKeith's inclusion in the jungle is a masterstroke of casting"

of people is to the success of such programmes.

Take a look at last year's Strictly Come Dancing for example, which suffered in the ratings because the selection of famous faces just wasn't right.

Conversely, this year's well-cast crop are chalking up excellent viewing figures.

Now on its 10th series, I'm A Celebrity has developed a full-proof casting formula to ensure the show produces the kind of romances, ructions and really funny moments that we've come to know and love.

But how do you concoct the perfect I'm A Celeb cast? Here's the secret recipe...

Mr or Mrs Scared of Everything

"Gillian McKeith, this year's fraidycat, is just the latest in a long and undistinguished line"

Let's face it, there are few things funnier than watching a usually-pampered celeb jump out of their makeshift bed at the sight of a hairy, unidentified arachnid.

Gillian McKeith, this year's fraidycat, is just the latest in a long and undistinguished line that also includes Paul Burrell (whose plaintive and hilarious Bushtucker Trial-simpering saw him bag runners-up spot in the 2004 series), Dean Gaffney (whose live Bushtucker Trial was as fine a piece of physical comedy as TV has ever seen) and Natalie Appleton (she was scared of trees!).

The bad boy
This year it's Shaun Ryder, but I'm A Celebrity has often dallied with the dark side in order to generate a bit of media interest.

Sometimes it's worked a treat (Darren Day's series one spats with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson sealed the show's early success). However, there have been times when the production team have bitten off more than they can chew (Johnny Rotten effing and blinding and using the C word during a live broadcast did not go down well).

The nice boy
For every ying, there must be a yang, and where there is a bad boy, we also need someone young and polite. EastEnders' Joe Swash, Hollyoaks actor Stuart Manning and boyband alumni Antony Costa all charmed in their respective camps and proved to TV viewers that the younger generation aren't that bad, after all (just dull in the case of the latter two).

The eccentric, old dear
This year it's Britt Ekland, but she has some big shoes to fill. Carol Thatcher, Jennie Bond and Christine Hamilton

"This year it's Britt Ekland, but she has some big shoes to fill"

(to name but three) have all become I'm A Celebrity legends.

This is mainly due to their maternal instincts, plucky attitude and all round dottiness. In a reality show, it's an almost unbeatable combination.

Looks good in a bikini
In programme-making circles they call them "something for the dads". Sadly, the likes of Kayla Collins, Gemma Atkinson and Nell McAndrew don't command much screen-time unless they happen to be wearing a bikini and standing under a trickle of water.

However, Myleene Klass - who was definitely cast to fill this particular gap in the 2006 series - demonstrated that with a strong personality you can be more on a Reality TV show than just a pretty face.

The naughty elder statesman
Just as bad boys bring publicity, so too do those older chaps who've courted a bit of public controversy in their time.

Lembit Opik is this year's entrant although arguably, he has yet to attain such a dim view in the public eye as previous contestants Robert Kilroy-Silk and Lord Brocket.

However, he still makes you want to tune in, even if it's just to see if another member of camp will take him down a peg or two.

The nice elder statesman
And once again, if you've got a controversial old fella in your midst, you're best to offset that with a loveable old bloke. The 2007 I'm A Celebrity line-up included Christopher Biggins, the panto king (or queen or dame, as the case may be).

Previous series of this reality show have been enhanced by the inclusion of lovely-but-dim Tony Blackburn (the show's first ever monarch of the jungle), and the nicest man in the world - Star Trek's George Takei.

The American

"It took a few years for I'm A Celebrity to realise the value of chucking an American into the mix"

It took a few years for I'm A Celebrity to realise the value of chucking an American into the mix.

With fragile egos at stake, Janice Dickinson, Antonio Fargas or Jimmy Osmond not knowing who the hell you are is a great way to create some instant inter-camp friction.

Just plain nuts
While the show's major storylines usually revolve around the younger, more photogenic and more amorous members of the camp, a token out-and-out eccentric provides welcome comic relief.

So let's hear it for David Gest, David Van Day, Uri Geller and Timmy Mallett who all made their I'm A Celebrity experience something uniquely theirs.

Of the moment
Good old Stacey Solomon is a welcome inclusion in this year's I'm A Celebrity. But let's be honest, if she hadn't made the line-up in 2010, there's no way she would be digging out her passport to make the journey next year.

There are some star names that shine eternal, but Stacey - and previous campers Katie Hopkins and Fran Cosgrave - have to make the most of their fleeting moments of fame.

Making up the numbers
And finally, you can have too much of a good thing. For every drama, you need an audience - people to simply stand around, watch the action unfolding in front of them and not do very much about it. Yes, I mean you Aggro Santos (who?).

So step forward Chris Bisson, Mike Read, Alex Best, Scott Henshall, Rodney Marsh and Lucy Benjamin. Apparently you all appeared on I'm A Celebrity at one point or another, although I can't remember when.

Get the mix of stars right for shows like these and you've got a show that keeps the public talking and the ratings high. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the holy grail.

The views in this column are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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