I’m A Celebrity: A curious comment from Andrew Maxwell proves an early talking point

Review: Caitlyn Jenner is the star, though the competition’s hardly mind-blowing

For as long as British celebrities have been parachuting into jungles or faking a passion for ballroom dancing, UK commissioning editors have taken care to bung in the occasional token Irish person.

All the way back to Anna Nolan on Big Brother, via Jennifer Zamparelli on The Apprentice and Jedward on X Factor (actually that was a collective hallucination brought on by the recession), the novelty Celt has featured as a staple of the genre. There's even a Dubliner on this year's Apprentice, not that anyone has noticed because it's this year's Apprentice.

As it machetes its way back to prime time, I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here (Virgin Media One) cleaves to that heroic tradition. And how: it brings us not one but two Irish contestants in comedian Andrew Maxwell and former Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle.

Both are good value as the saga kicks off. Maxwell provides an early talking point during a segment atop a skyscraper as he is paired with Good Morning Britain's Kate Garraway. The task involves walking a plank from the roof amid gale-force gusts.

READ MORE

Most of the celebs are game for it. Garraway very sensibly suffers an existential and psychological meltdown. “I can’t do it … I can’t do it,” she screams – which, oddly, was exactly my response when they told me I had watch I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! for work.

“Go on my love,” says Maxwell – a curious way to address someone you’ve only just met (try it with your bus driver this morning as he’s trying to overtake a cyclist). You can tell you’ve created a splash when hosts Ant and Dec are quoting you before the second ad-break.

Coyle is … less weird. And it seems she will be a reliable furnisher of tears this year, at least judging by her hurricane of blubbing during a parachuting challenge. Heavens knows how she will respond when required to eat scorpion brain while suspended over a river of maggots. It's got be at least 70 per cent as traumatising as sharing a taxi with Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole.

The biggest talking point as the stomach-turning perennial pitches up in its traditional pre-Christmas slot is, however, the return of Ant McPartlin. He was in recovery last year following a drink-driving controversy, leaving Holly Willoughby to fill that tricky job of standing next to Dec and pretend laughing at his short-guy jokes.

Well he’s back, complete with alarming new tattoos, which social media immediacy picked up on and was aghast by. He and Dec have a spring in their stride,with gags about Prince Andrew and his sweat glands and jokey rebuttal of newspaper claims that Caitlyn Jenner is to receive £500,000 for her appearance this season.

Whatever they’re paying her, Jenner is unquestionably the star. True, the competition is not quite mind-blowing. There’s Ian Wright, purveyor of endless quantities of “top banter”, plus the aforementioned Garraway, and the usual sprinkling of radio presenters, retired sportspeople and famous-because-my-dad-is-famous types (ie, the son of Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp).

One slightly alarming aspect thus far is how fabulously the internees all seem to get along. I’m A Celeb wouldn’t be I’m a Celeb without at least one sociopath in their midst. Who is this year’s candidate? It is unclear.

The Irish contestants have already done well in drawing attention to themselves (crucial when survival will be ultimately determined by public vote). Maxwell with that weird “go on my love” patter; Coyle for the way she had at least five simultaneously meltdowns at the sight of a parachute. This is, for now, the sort of jungle fever we can all get behind.