Pick of the news

The dangers of going onto reality TV…

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To celebrities hoping to raise their profile, a show like I’m a Celebrity can seem a lifeline with little risk. After all, what’s so hard about sitting around for a few weeks with some other celebrities – and getting paid well to boot? Pick of the news

But earlier this week we all learned contestant Brian Conley has left the show. He was reportedly ‘in a bad way’ after starring in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity. The comedian’s wife Anne-Marie who flew out to be with him in Australia, was subsequently quoted as being upset that the show’s bosses didn’t notice he was unwell earlier.

According to reports Brian, 51, who has spoken previously about a battle with depression, hoped going on I’m a Celebrity would revive his career. Brian Conley, I'm a Celebrity 2012

But a show ‘source’ claimed: Anne-Marie couldn’t believe how much he’d changed after ten days in the jungle. He looks really unwell and vulnerable.”

For a long time now when interviewees at Featureworld are asked to go onto reality TV we have given them a booklet.

It is titled: Going on television – the truth and we hope it encourages them to make an informed decision. This is because although many of our interviewees’ stories have appeared in print, and they might also have been on a chat show such as ITV This Morning, they have little conception of how gruelling and invasive reality TV (and documentaries) can be.

The fact is it can often take tens of hours of intrusive filming to fill what is essentially just minutes on TV. And then if you happen to say something you wish you hadn’t said, it looks far worse being spoken by you than if it appears in print.

But of course we are talking about ordinary people who find themselves in the spotlight – not a seasoned celebrity with years of experience appearing in front of a camera.

So we don’t understand how ITV producers could possibly get the blame because a celebrity finds the I’m a Celebrity experience more challenging than they thought it would be.

Apparently contestants must speak to a psychologist first. But there’s surely only so much any producer can possibly check.

After all, no-one forces these people to go into the jungle and they are paid (quite a lot it would seem.) They can then capitalise on their experience and use it to further their career, making more money from selling their story or appearing in adverts and so on.

And the format of I’m a Celebrity, a show that has been on our screens every Autumn, has been there for everyone to see for years. Celebrities are often expected to sleep on the jungle floor, eat creepy crawlies and survive on meagre rations of rice and beans. Every year celebrities fall out, break down, miss their family, feel ravenously hungry – and go through some horrible trials with lots of bugs that many of us sat at home would never contemplate (unless we were paid too…)

If these celebrities were not really going through the hunger and hardship and instead actually popping off to a restaurant for a three course meal and a bottle of wine after filming, what sort of show would it be? A fraudulent one of course.

But it would seem that one of the joys of I’m a Celebrity is it’s a genuine show with real hardships. Surely those hardships and how everyone copes, is what makes I’m a Celebrity both fascinating and entertaining.

If as a celebrity you don’t want to do a Bushtucker trial you only have to say. If you want to get up and leave, you can do. Perhaps you might lose money by leaving early – I don’t know what the deals are – but every celebrity has the choice.

The celebrities are not children on a school trip. I would imagine they realise there are dangers in going on a show like this. There are risks with everything in life – they are in a jungle for a start and as with any ‘holiday abroad’ anyone can suffer a fall out with another ‘holidaymaker’, a tummy bug or an allergic reaction to an insect bite. However, they are adults who have not only considered all these issues but presumably after consultation with their agents and families, have decided to go ahead.

Fortunately, Mr Conley’s ‘medical reasons’ have now been resolved and he’s been released from hospital.

But it would be great shame if ITV I’m a Celebrity producers were ‘blamed’ in any way for his leaving. Surely, any celebrity who signs up for such a show has only themselves to blame if it doesn’t live up to their expectations.

UPDATE: In an interview Brian Conley has since revealed he stopped taking prescribed antidepressants whilst he was on I’m a Celebrity. Producers told him he could not continue with the show if he didn’t take them. He eventually quit after suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion but is well now.

Catch up on the latest news from the I’m a Celebrity website

What do you think? Can I’m a Celebrity be held responsible in any way?

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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