FRANKIE didn’t go to Hollywood then.

She went up the A55, turned left on to the North Wales Expressway for Gwrych Castle and sat there, freezing her whatsits off, until Storm Arwen arrived and she had to be evacuated to her Covid bubble.

There she waited and waited and waited while probably contemplating a Saturdays reunion tour and her role in one of the year’s biggest TV disasters.

Series 21 of I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here! (The Crystal Maze years). A show I’ve grown old and grumpy waiting for it to be as brilliant as it was back in the Noughties, when they used to fill it with genuine sociopaths like David Van Day, Janice Dickinson, Darren Day, Rhona Cameron, Nigel Benn and John Lydon.

I gave up on this run, however, way back in August, when ITV announced they weren’t returning to Australia.

Just the wrong side of creepy

That should also have been the moment, of course, the network told their accountants to get lost and mothballed the show until they could provide Ant & Dec with the backdrop their performance actually deserves.

They didn’t, though, and in fairness to ITV, without the incentive of a free week at the Versace hotel in Surfers Paradise, they still managed to come up with a few recognisable and decent bookings in the shape of Richard Madeley, who lasted all of five days, footballer David Ginola, soap veterans Adam Woodyatt and Simon Gregson, and Arlene Phillips, who really has struggled to adapt to her new sleeping arrangement. As would you if you’d spent the previous 78 years hanging upside down in a cave.

There was a lot of the usual flotsam as well, like Frankie Bridge, Emmerdale’s Danny Miller, Louise Minchin, who arrived wearing her 21st birthday present (a “1970” jumper), Tom Daley’s mate, who’s been so anonymous I’ve genuinely forgotten his name and a character calling himself Naughty Boy, who was last spotted volunteering to produce Gemma Collins’s single, on Diva Forever.

So he was clearly prepared to do absolutely ANYTHING to be on TV.

🔵 Read our I'm A Celeb 2021 live blog for the latest updates

To my huge surprise, though, Naughty has been the closest thing this s**t storm’s actually got to a money shot. For not only does he have a flexible relationship with the truth (he’s 40 not “36”), Naughty’s also just the wrong side of creepy and has a nasty habit of threatening to quit the show and throwing his toys out of the pram whenever anything doesn’t go his way.

In the right setting, and with equally combustible company, he might have become a proper I’m A Celeb legend but, just at that point the self-pitying little berk was really picking up a head of steam, Storm Arwen arrived and blew them all away. If I’d been in charge of ITV, I think I’d have taken the hint, called it quits and invited Richard and Naughty Boy back to Oz ASAP.

It might have enraged the advertisers but it wouldn’t have been nearly as self-destructive as their decision to screen two consecutive nights of old I’m A Celeb highlights which merely reminded everyone how important the beautiful jungle setting was to the show’s success.

What also became apparent, watching these compilations, was that ITV’s either too stupid or self-interested to make the most of this show, because we saw lots of network employees, like Stacey Solomon and Anne Hegerty, but nothing of anyone from series one or other really important characters like Lydon and David Gest.

It’s not entirely ITV’s fault the show often disappoints, of course. It reached a crossroads in 2010, when the voting public had a final choice of Solomon or Shaun Ryder to win. And they chose badly wrong. As a result, she’s now ordering them to “Sort Your Life Out”, every Thursday and there’s always at least one passenger on I’m A Celeb who looks like they’re auditioning for Loose Women.

Thanks almost entirely to the hosts, whose links are better than any of the action, I’ll probably never give up on I’m A Celebrity or the possibility it’ll one day be as good again as it used to be.

But I feel exactly the same way about this current series as I did about Dannii Minogue on The X Factor in 2010.

The sooner it’s back in Australia the better.

Best Ed for the TV exit

ON the last Who Do You Think You Are? of the series, BBC1 sent ex-politician and ardent Norwich City fan Ed Balls looking for ancestors in Norfolk.

Not exactly a needle in a haystack task, in that part of the world.

Like all middle-class Labour grandees, though, Ed was desperately hoping to find a horny-handed son of toil, somewhere up his East Anglian family ladder, who’d cancel out his private school education and all the other wonderful advantages in life capitalism had bestowed upon him.

Instead, however . . .

The production team unearthed only the horny and handed bits in the shape of his three-times great-grandfather William Dunbar, an assistant surgeon on HMS Victory, long after Nelson was killed. Dunbar then became a sex pest at his local workhouse, in Kent, where he’d “taken improper liberties” with the governor’s 16-year-old daughter. 

At a subsequent inquiry, we learned, William had confessed to “kissing her several times and pulling her about”, but strenuously denied he’d “exposed his person to her”.

Which was all very well, but the news still left Ed ashen-faced and swaying on his feet.

In fact, it took him a good few seconds to recover his right-on sensibilities and the power of speech as he struggled to find the correct expression to sum up this hideous turn of events, before he eventually spluttered: “It’s a rollercoaster.”

No, Ed, it’s a cock and Balls story.

Random TV irritations

ITV’S I’m A Celeb fillers reminding us Matthew Wright is an 11-year-old boy trapped inside the body of a 56-year- old t**t.

 The overwhelming desperation to be famous of Owain Wyn Evans, the drumming Welsh weatherman.

 BBC1’s Doctor Who reaching the “not fit for ­broadcast” stage of incomprehensibility.

 TV presenters who insist “We don’t talk about mental health”, even though they talk about almost nothing else these days.

 And the uneasy feeling I get, whenever he appears on TV, that BBC1 reporter Amol Rajan is ­trying to sell me something.

 ­Himself mainly.

ON the final episode of ­Miriam And Alan: Lost In ­Scotland, Channel 4’s multi-millionaire luvvie traveloguers boldly declared: “We hate golf.”

An “edgy” position to take, obviously, but why so much venom?

Well, New York-based Alan Cumming said: “I’ve got many issues with golf, to do with class, economy and things like that.”

Which is odd, given that golf contributes well over half a billion pounds annually to Scotland’s economy and keeps 12,380 people in employment.

While Miriam Margolyes declared it was because your: “Tits get in the way.”

Which is even odder, given Colin Montgomerie topped the European Order of Merit seven years running.

AFTER all the torment and misery of the past two years, didn’t you think it was just brilliant to see BBC2’s Giles Coren staying in Amazing Hotels again?

No, I thought not.

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

TIPPING Point, Ben Shephard: “In 2017 the TV series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel was released on the ­streaming service of which live retailer in the UK?”

Eileen: “Greggs.”

Mastermind, Clive Myrie: “Which 19th Century UK Prime Minister had the nickname Dizzy?”

Kathryn: “Dizzy Gillespie.”

Ben Shephard: “The classic 1980s arcade game Pole Position was based on which sport?”

Jody: “Tennis.”

Great sporting insights

PAUL MERSON: “I guarantee Conte will get the best out of these players. And if he doesn’t, they’ll be gone.”

Wilfried Zaha: “I’ve discovered things are easier when they’re simplified.” Chris Sutton: “It’s the Jurgen Klopp derby. The real Klopp ­versus the Jurgen Klopp of Ralph Hasenhuttl.”

 (Compiled by Graham Wray)

SHOCK admission of the week. I’m A Celeb, Frankie Bridge: “I never thought I’d see Adam Woodyatt face-first in a bowl full of testicles.”

Then you, my dear, haven’t watched EastEnders recently.

TV Gold

PADDY and Christine McGuinness demystifying autism, with the help of Paul Scholes, on BBC1. Jonny Owen’s beautiful ­Netflix tribute (I Believe In Miracles) to the great Nottingham Forest team of 1978-80, who, at their peak, were very nearly as good as Aberdeen’s 1983 team.

 And This Morning’s Dermot O’Leary squirming in discomfort as he was congratulated for his “bravery in coming out” by Barry Humphries who, at the age of 87, is funnier and more unpredictable and dangerous than Frankie Boyle, Adam Hills and all the other woke warriors, currently infesting BBC1 and Channel 4, will ever be in their dreams.

SURVEYING this week’s motley collection of regulars and guest panellists, Have I Got News For You host Jack Dee asked: “What food stuff would you compare yourself to? I’d say a beef Wellington for Ian Hislop.”

And I’d say a packet of Bernard Matthews Turkey Dinosaurs (best before September 1997).

Lookalike of the week

THIS week’s winner is Boris Johnson and the Abominable Snowman from the Papa John’s Christmas advert.

Emailed in by Karen Michele. 

Picture research: AMY READING

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