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Celebrities, Spiders and Snakes: A British 'Reality' Hit Maroons B-List Names

September 06, 2002|From Associated Press

LONDON — A boxer, a socialite, a lesbian comedian and psychic Uri Geller sit in a jungle clearing. It sounds like a joke. But it's a moment from Britain's latest unscripted, staged TV hit.

"I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here" strands eight publicity-hungry personalities in the Australian jungle, where they must survive on rice and water, contend with spiders and snakes--and wait to be voted off, one by one, by the viewing public.

Like their counterparts around the world, British viewers have embraced staged, unscripted TV, to the chagrin of some cultural commentators who see it as voyeurism run amok. "Big Brother," in which a group of strangers shares a house under constant surveillance, has gone through three hit series and spawned a celebrity spinoff.

Among the "celebrities" on "I'm a Celebrity" are former world middleweight boxing champion Nigel Benn; Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, a socialite famous for her partying and drug woes; and Christine Hamilton, wife of bankrupt former politician Neil Hamilton.

"Let's be honest: You're not going to get A-list celebrities to spend two weeks in the middle of the Australian jungle," said Will Smith of London Weekend Television. "The success of the format doesn't depend on whether people are A-list, B-list or whatever, but that you have a group of characters that people recognize and have an opinion about."

Though it has been called "Celebrity Survivor," the show lacks the "Survivor" emphasis on competition. There is no prize money, and most of the money raised from the telephone voting lines will be donated to charity. The final show is to be broadcast Sunday.

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