Dom Joly: Holding back the years

Dom Joly in the jungle. Pic: ITV Pictures

Dom Joly in the jungle. Pic: ITV Pictures - Credit: ITV Pictures

‘Reality TV shows love it when either somebody doesn’t understand the concept or doesn’t understand themselves’

As we finally start getting used to writing 2020 when putting a date on something, I am already facing enforced nostalgia for the last decade. Did we ever settle on what to call them? 'The Teens', 'The Brexit Years?', 'Armageddon?' Whatever. Now they are over, my Facebook algorithm has decided that I should be constantly reminded of them.

Every day it flicks up a photo from eight, nine, ten years ago and lets you know that this is what you were doing then. I've never asked Facebook to do this for me. The only thing I've ever asked them to do is to stop spying on everybody and to pay some taxes. But, like my repeated attempts to get them to stop replaying my life to me, they just ignore me.

Granted, it is occasionally nice to see a photo that you'd forgotten about, but more often than not it simply serves to mark the inexorable quick march of time. It's basically a none-too subtle way of saying "You'll be dead soon."

Yesterday I got a photograph of me on the set of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. "It's been nearly ten years" whispered Facebook. TEN YEARS! How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday that I was flown to Australia, bundled into a helicopter and deposited in the middle of a Queensland rain-forest with a bunch of other famous faces. It was the most random group: The actor Nigel Havers, ex-Bond-Girl Britt Ekland, music bad-boy Shaun Ryder, comedienne Jenni Éclair… to name but a few.

Twenty-two days I stayed in there, surviving on rice and beans and smoke-infested water. It was supposed to be a testing time, but I loved every second of it. I lost two stone in weight, had a complete technology detox and made a couple of great friends to boot. I even got paid for the experience - normally, for this kind of shock therapy boot-camp, you are the one paying through the nose. Nice work if you can get it.

Not everybody enjoyed it all as much as I did. Reality TV shows love it when either somebody doesn't understand the concept or doesn't understand themselves. We certainly had plenty of the latter, primarily in the shape of a woman called Gillian McKeith, a TV 'doctor' mainly famous for analysing celebrity faeces. She rapidly became the show baddy and the public duly sentenced her to undergo a multitude of trials that she failed spectacularly but somehow manged to blame on the rest of us. Her apex was the infamous fake fainting scene in the live trial so that she might avoid having to do anything. I was pleased to see that this made most people's list of the best TV moments of the last decade.

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My favourite person in the jungle however, was Nigel Havers. He had never seen the show and quickly realised that he had made a terrible mistake. The presenters would announce that someone would face the tunnel of doom the following day and he would turn to me in panic and say, "What do you think it is, old boy?" I would tell him that I assumed somebody would soon be underground being covered in insects (the show producers are not massively unpredictable). Havers would look at me with a thousand-yard stare and mutter "This is madness" to himself.

He eventually cracked when we were all put in a jungle courtroom scenario with 'electrodes' attached to us. I surreptitiously detached one of mine immediately and then just pretended to feel the pain. Havers, however, went crazy. He stormed off set and we all stood in the dock giggling and listening to him screaming at a producer that this was "inhuman; I will not stand for it." He didn't last very much longer on the show. The curious world of reality TV is not for everyone.

I now wonder what I will be looking back on ten years from now. What awaits us in the roaring Twenties? If it's anything like the 1920s, then it's too much jazz, alcohol being made illegal and then a spectacular financial crash as a finalé. Let's hope it's better this time round, otherwise I might just have to go back into the jungle.

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