“Sometimes you’ve just got to get balls deep in the shit,” says Bobby Norris, bespectacled realitybot and one of the eight city-dwelling protagonists of Celebs on the Farm (20 August, 10pm, Channel 5).
Norris and his teammates, Charlotte Dawson (gobshite spawn of Les) and Sandi Bogle (her off Gogglebox), have just completed an orienteering challenge that required them to walk from one field to another deciphering the kind of word-based puzzles that even a sheep could crack. Having limped in last, their forfeit involves the removal of several inches of compacted straw and effluent from the cowshed. As Dawson, unfazed despite pristine hair and nails, gets stuck in with a pitchfork, Bogle screams blue murder and Norris staggers off in a fit of dry heaving.
A rehash of The Farm, the early-00s chumps-out-of-water show that saw ex-famouses introduced to the agricultural grind, Celebs on the Farm stands as proof that, in plundering its own short-lived back catalogue, reality TV is slowly eating itself. Of all the programmes to exhume, this is nonetheless a bold choice, famed as The Farm was for multiple walkouts among its contestants and the roar of disapproval that accompanied Rebecca Loos giving a pedigree pig a handjob. As turd-polishing exercises go, this is certainly among the more challenging.
If, during the show’s 2004 incarnation, the nation felt a collective stab of melancholy at witnessing the waning dignity of the likes of Stan Collymore, Paul Daniels and Vanilla Ice, this time around we are left squinting quizzically and muttering: “Who?” It is now par for the course that a show with “celeb” in the title will be inhabited by obscure, orange-hued numbnuts known only to readers of OK! Magazine. And so it is with Celebs on the Farm, which, along with the usual Towie and Gogglebox suspects, features human overspill from Strictly Come Dancing, Ex on the Beach, Celebs Go Dating and Dancing on Ice as well as a judo champion called Ashley.
The early signs of their suitability for agricultural life aren’t good. A full 15 minutes of the opening episode is devoted to the arrival of our would-be farmers, all of them dressed in varying shades of stupid, and their efforts to transport themselves and their luggage to their motorhome lodgings before they meet “Farmer Chris”, the poor sap tasked with putting them to work. While country singer and Ex on the Beach fixture Megan McKenna arrives in pale pink blouse and matching overcoat, Dawson totters up in see-through white trousers and six-inch diamante-studded heels, leading her to sink helplessly into the ground like Artax in The NeverEnding Story’s Swamp of Sadness.
If Dawson has anything to do with it, the cows will be fully manicured and vajazzled before the series is out. I also predict that Farmer Chris, ruing the day that he ever let this rabble near his livestock, will throw himself into the grain silo in despair. In the meantime, pity the poor animals that must endure the hysterical shrieks of low-rent celebs should they so much as look in their direction. The future of reality TV is here, looking resolutely backwards and up to its knees in crap.