Entertainment & Arts

How did Holly fare on I'm a Celeb debut?

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Media captionHolly Willoughby took Ant McPartlin's place alongside Declan Donnelly in the jungle

Holly Willoughby made her I'm A Celeb debut in classic style... by making jokes about co-host Dec's height.

Standing literally in Ant McPartlin's place - always on the left of Dec - she coined the catchphrase: "He's loads of fun and he's five foot one...".

Declan Donnelly was equally full of humour, with the pair having a laugh during the live segments of the show.

It was announced Ant would not present the show alongside Dec after he was convicted of drink driving in April.

It is the first time Ant and Dec have not presented I'm A Celeb together since it started in 2002.

This didn't deter viewers, as the show received its highest viewing figures since 2013.

There were 11 million viewers, up 700,000 on last year according to overnight ratings.

That made it the biggest overnight audience for any show this year, excluding the World Cup.

Holly's opening joke picked up on the running gag about Dec's height which was a highlight of the 2017 series when ex-footballer Dennis Wise was frequently labelled a "very, very small man" by Dec - to Ant's growing incredulity during the series.

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Image caption I'm A Celebrity line-up: John Barrowman, Harry Redknapp, Rita Simons, Fleur East, James McVey, Sair Khan, Nick Knowles, Anne Hegerty, Malique Thompson-Dwyer, Emily Atack

Although he is not in Australia this year, Ant did wish the new presenting team good luck ahead of the show - and slipped in another dig at Dec's lack of inches.

He tweeted: "All the very best of luck to the little fella and @hollywills for the show tonight. Lots of love from the big fella!! A"

Dec wasted no time in turning the introduction of his new co-host into an opportunity for comedy.

"The more eagle-eyed viewers among you will notice a big change to this year's show" he said.

"One of the most gorgeous presenters on British television.... has been joined by Holly Willoughby!"

It was more a case of Holly setting up jokes for Dec on the night, meaning a few double entendres made their way into the live sections.

"I've never done it with with a girl. Always with a bloke. Every night. And the people watching seemed to enjoy it," Dec said.

"Shall we just get on with it?" Holly said, deflecting away from the sort of joke she'd regularly hear as a panellist on Celebrity Juice.

Speaking after the show on ITV2's Extra Camp, Holly said: "It's so overwhelming, this show, watching this was part of my life for years and it's surreal being here."

Dec also added that the first time he showed Holly round the camp she "looked up with little tears in her eyes and said 'it's beautiful'".

There was plenty of reaction on social media to the This Morning star's debut, with some fans commenting on the chemistry [or lack of] between Dec and Holly.

Paul tweeted: "Dec is doing his best, bless his little cotton socks, but I'm not feeling much comedy return from poor Holly.

"Hope she settles down and drops the morning TV feel."

But others said it was too early to judge how Holly would fare on the show.

TV Zone tweeted: "Holly was never going to be as good as or better than Ant. In fact, it would be worrying if she was.

"She was Dec's choice and it's only for one series. She's doing fine in my opinion."

Sean O'Grady at The Independent wasn't sure of the pairing, writing: "To be more honest than I ought to be, I've never been quite sure who Holly Willoughby is and, thanks to the recent troubled story of Ant McPartlin, I now know, by elimination, who Dec is.

"Anyhow, Dec and Holly lack a certain chemistry, like a couple who've finally decided to get married, but realise a few months in that they might have made a terrible mistake, and miss their exes. (They being Ant and Philip Schofield, who should probably do a sort of wife swap gig presenting This Morning. A sobering thought)."

Radio Times' Paul Jones was a little bit more complimentary adding: "Holly herself is likeable as always and the basic chemistry between Hol and Dec is good. If it's not instantly as good as Ant and Dec's, it's hardly a criticism - those two have been working together for nearly 30 years, and Ant has done 300-odd days of I'm a Celebrity.

"This is day one for Holly, and she's already looking good - even alongside one of the most gorgeous presenters on British television."

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Image caption Harry Redknapp proved to be an early hit with fans

As ever, Holly and Dec are only ever intended to be the sideshow to the main "jungle action" of I'm A Celeb, featuring 10 brave or foolhardy celebrities.

In this year's series, former Torchwood actor John Barrowman, ex-EastEnder Rita Simons, Coronation Street's Sair Khan and The Vamps guitarist James McVey were the first celebrities to be thrown into the mix.

They were quickly joined by former football manager Harry Redknapp and X Factor singer Fleur East.

Then the growing group was further boosted by TV presenter Nick Knowles, The Chase quizmaster Anne Hegerty, and actors Malique Thompson-Dwyer and Emily Atack, best known for Hollyoaks and The Inbetweeners respectively.

Harry provided an early indication of what sort of campmate he would be, joking about how he expected bacon sandwiches to be presented to him on arrival.

He also later went on to tell contestants Nick, John and Sair about how he once ran over his wife... while the quartet were taking part in a driving challenge.

Fans were also keen to point out Nick's potential contribution to construction duties in the camp because of his work on DIY SOS, whilst John's theatrical behaviour also got an honourable mention.

Viewers voted for Emily to take part in the first Bush Tucker trial, not-so-mysteriously named Viper Pit. It was revealed during the voting process that Anne would be exempt from the challenge on medical grounds.

The Chase presenter, 60, has autism, and said in footage filmed before entering the camp "that I've had to learn a lot about what I can and can't do and what I can and can't cope with."

As always there are usually one or two late arrivals who get dropped into camp later - with TV and radio legend Noel Edmonds widely rumoured to be among those yet to be unveiled.

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