15 of the most memorable celebrity reality TV contestants of all time

As we finally welcome some of our best-loved British TV back to our screens – albeit in Covid-curtailed forms – Michael Hogan selects the most unforgettable famous people to appear in our favourite reality TV shows – and their most iconic moments.

Ann Widdecombe (Strictly Come Dancing, 2010)

The galumphing Tory MP didn’t so much dance as get dragged around the ballroom floor. Long-suffering pro Anton du Beke looked like he was trying to trip the light fantastic with a heavy antique wardrobe. Despite never scoring more than 21 points for her lumpen routines (and getting a lowly ‘1’ from Craig Revel Horwood for her rumba), Widdy somehow survived until the quarter-final.

Paul Burrell (I’m A Celebrity, 2004)

A Bushtucker Trial called ‘Hellish Hole’” seemed simple – just reach into a tree trunk filled with critters and retrieve a star. Ant and Dec could barely conceal their glee when Princess Diana’s butler gurned, whimpered and hyperventilated all the way through. Imagine the kerfuffle at Kensington Palace if Di ever asked him to remove a spider.

Robert Webb (Let’s Dance For Comic Relief, 2009)

The Peep Show comedian took the nation by surprise in this BBC contest, which saw celebs recreate famous dance routines for charity. Webb donned a curly Jennifer Beals wig, squeezed into a shiny leotard and delivered such a vigorous rendition of What A Feelin’ from Flashdance, it was like someone had plugged him into the mains. He pranced! He hip-thrusted! He won! What a feeling.

Jackie Stallone (Celebrity Big Brother, 2005)

Sylvester’s mom made the greatest Big Brother entrance ever. Introduced as queen of the house, she was confronted by shocked ex-daughter-in-law Brigitte Neilsen, who exclaimed: ‘Oh my God, Jackie!’ ’Yeah, Jackie,’ she drawled in reply. Continuing to act like royalty, she demanded champagne and called the house ‘a dump’. Bow down.

Katie Price (I’m A Celebrity, 2004)

It was once the greatest TV love story ever told. Former glamour model Jordan’s bare-faced beauty and culturally appropriated cornrows won over jungle campmate Peter Andre. The pair went on to marry, have two children, then divorce – most of it captured by ITV2 fly-on-the-wall shows.

Paul Danan (Celebrity Love Island, 2005)

Long before the current ITV2 hit came the short-lived celeb incarnation. It saw C-list singletons like Abi Titmuss, Lady Victoria Hervey, Calum Best and Beppe from EastEnders dumped on a tropical island in the hope that sparks would fly. And they did, mainly from one-man drama machine Paul “Dangerous” Danan – an ex-Hollyoaks actor who could start an argument in an empty room. At one point, he was removed by security guards for a ‘cooling off period’. Spoiler: he didn’t cool off.

Gemma Collins (Dancing On Ice, 2019)

The TOWIE diva has gifted us many memorable TV moments. The GC trotted around the Celeb Big Brother garden with a Shetland pony. She quit the I’m A Celeb jungle after six days, moaning that prisoners were treated better and claiming she had malaria. But her rows with skating judge Jason Gardiner and icy face-plant take the prize.

Gillian McKeith (I’m A Celebrity, 2010)

Many assumed the tough-talking food “doctor” would be hard as nails. How wrong they were. She screamed and wept throughout every Bushtucker Trial so hysterically that she was given oxygen by medics. The final straw came when the nutritionist was nominated for what would have been her seventh trial and promptly fainted live on-air. Several camp mates later claimed she’d faked it.

George Galloway (Celebrity Big Brother, 2006)

‘Would you like me to be the cat?’ With those creepy words, uttered during a bizarre pet role-play with actress Rula Lenska, the moustachioed Scottish politician entered reality TV folklore. He even purred and pretended to lap milk from Rula’s cupped hands. Another task saw him robo-dancing in a skintight red leotard – and was met with widespread mockery from the media. Miaow.

Amanda Barrie (Hell’s Kitchen, 2004)

Shouty chef Gordon Ramsay will soon bring back his celebrity-run restaurant, but its standout moment remains the time veteran actress Amanda Barrie took a swing at him. During an explosive row, Alma from Corrie tried to slap Ramsay’s face but he grabbed her wrist. She was removed from the show but El Gordo took it in his stride, telling the 68-year-old: ‘Can I just say, it was a b****y good shot’.

Sinitta (Celebrity MasterChef, 2016)

The Eighties pop diva (and Simon Cowell’s perennial plus-one) was unlucky enough on Dancing On Ice when she sliced a hole in her partner’s trousers with her skate and got sent home in the first week. She didn’t fare much better in the MasterChef kitchen. Her offerings of raw mince and raw aubergine, followed by raw pastry and more raw mince, proved too unappetising for judges John and Gregg to eat.

Ed Balls (Strictly Come Dancing, 2016)

Oppa Ed Balls Style! Previously best known for tweeting his own name, the former Labour Shadow Chancellor became a firm ballroom favourite for his comedy routines with pro partner Katya Jones. His pony-riding Gangnam salsa is the dance that Strictly viewers can never unsee. Heeeey sexy lady!

Todd Carty (Dancing On Ice, 2009)

The former Grange Hill, EastEnders and The Bill actor was like Bambi on skates but his plucky efforts saw him survive for five weeks, despite being stuck at the bottom of the scoreboard. The undoubted highlight was when clumsy Carty lost control and stumbled right off the set, vanishing from view and leaving his pro partner to complete their routine alone. Aptly, it was set to Beatles hit Help!.

James Acaster (The Great Celebrity Bake Off, 2019)

‘Started baking. Had a breakdown. Bon appétit!’ That’s how Acaster introduced his flapjacks to the judges. He’d never baked before in his life and frankly, it showed as the quirky comic had an hour-long existential crisis in the tent. Opening the oven, he took one look at what he’d made and announced: ‘I wish I were dead.’ He followed his flapjacks with a ‘deconstructed’ cream horn which resembled scrambled egg and an abstract, strangely salty meringue rendition of Kettering’s premiere theme park. Paul Hollywood’s verdict? ‘Great flavour, terribly executed.’ ‘Story of my life,’ replied Acaster – the best worst baker ever.

Lady Colin Campbell (I’m A Celebrity, 2015)

Lady C wasn’t exactly popular among her campmates but she was great value for viewers. The socialite and royal biographer spat out withering one-liners in her cut-glass accent. Choice insults included ‘vain old goat’ – directed at Duncan Bannatyne – and calling Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley a ‘chippy oik’, as well as branding all of her campmates ‘absolute tossers’. Brilliantly, she quit after claiming *they* were bullying *her.