Ant and Dec told campmates “things are going to be a bit different this year” as the latest series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here launched on Sunday.
This year’s series is taking place in Gwrych Castle in North Wales instead of the Australian jungle due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Sir Mo Farah, Vernon Kay and Beverley Callard are among the new campmates.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are to see you all here together finally,” said Dec. “Welcome to the castle.”
“Things are going to be a bit different this year,” continued Ant. “There’s no jungle obviously, there’s no dunny, there’s a privy [toilet] and I can guarantee you there’s absolutely no chance of sunbathing.”
Dec added: “Some things will stay exactly the same. Some things will be reassuringly familiar. So you will live on a diet of rice and beans and you’ll do trials to win food for the camp.”
Sunday’s launch episode drew an average audience of 10.9 million, almost two million more than the audience that tuned into the Strictly Come Dancing results show on BBC One earlier that evening.
That was more than the overnight audience of 10 million recorded for last year’s launch episode – though that figure rose to 13.17 million once on-demand and catch-up views were taken into account.
The other campmates this series include former EastEnders star Shane Richie, Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold, and journalist Victoria Derbyshire.
Actress Jessica Plummer, Radio 1 DJ Jordan North, podcaster Giovanna Fletcher and former Strictly pro dancer AJ Pritchard complete the line-up.
The episode opened with the 10 celebrities split into two groups of five, with one group meeting at the top of a cliff and the other at the bottom.
Those at the top then had to start abseiling down the cliff to collect the team’s rucksacks, which were padlocked half way down the cliff side.
North was so nervous about the challenge he was sick before it began. “I’ve only been here 5 minutes and I’m puking up already,” he said.
Later in the episode, the 10 celebrities were told they would all take part in the first trial of the series, titled The Gates To Hell.
The challenge saw each of the campmates locked in 10 adjacent chambers. The team then had to pass gold stars, each worth a meal for the camp, from one end to the other – while having cockroaches, maggots and crickets dropped on them.
The group managed to move seven of the 10 gold stars to the end of the line.
Derbyshire said she felt “ecstatic that we got so many stars and that it’s all over”, but North described the experience as “absolutely horrific”.
After the challenge was over, Callard discovered there were still critters in her pockets and said: “Oh my god this is my worst nightmare!”
The campmates were also seen exploring their new home, with several of them less than impressed by the castle’s washroom.
“Its minging, it needs a really good clean. Well I’m sorry but no. My hair. I will look like I’ve had Donald Trump’s hairdresser,” joked Callard.
Reflecting on the new location, Kay said: “There are certain things that Australia would’ve provided that Wales doesn’t – a tan, and the opportunity to wear budgie smugglers.”
‘Better in Wales’
On social media, viewers enjoyed poking fun at the latest round of celebrities and their reactions to the first challenges.
Several Twitter users made light of Arnold introducing herself as “Hollie Arnold MBE” when she met her fellow campmates.
Others enjoyed Plummer’s struggle to remember where her group Neon Jungle’s single had charted, confusing the Scottish singles chart with the overall UK chart.
Giovanna Fletcher’s husband Tom, from the band McFly, got particularly nervous watching the opening challenge, tweeting: “Did Shane Richie just drop my wife off a cliff?!”
The new setting broadly went down well with viewers, with TV critic Emma Bullimore writing: “Wales looks gorgeous, it’s a great group of celebs and Ant and Dec are on good form. I’d be happy for them never to go back to Australia.”
Radio 1 DJ Greg James agreed: “I think it’s gonna be better in Wales and won’t ever go back to Australia.”
“It wasn’t what ITV bosses had planned but the early signs for this revamped, relocated series were promising,” wrote Michael Hogan in the Telegraph. “The new castle setting was telegenic and atmospheric.”
“Who needs the Australian jungle when you’ve a draughty tower in Wales?” wrote The Independent’s Ed Power. “Despite the new location and the fact it’s being shot in winter, I’m A Celeb 2020 was exceedingly I’m A Celebrity.”
North’s reaction to the first challenge led several viewers to suggest the public would inevitably vote for him to do the majority of the trials this series.
And, sure enough, the episode concluded with North and Richie finding out they would face the next bushtucker trial.
This series will run for three weeks, with one winner ultimately being crowned the king or queen of the castle – instead of jungle.