San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Reality Show to Pit Celebs Against C.R. Jungle

Sitting in a tank of leeches. Wading through a snake-filled swamp. Wearing pants inhabited by worms and rats.

These are some of the trials and challenges that may await contestants on NBC’s “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” – a reality show being filmed in Costa Rica starting next month.

The show is an adaptation of an “extremely successful” and “massively popular” version in Great Britain, says Chris Brogden, one of the show’s executive producers. While previous British iterations and a 2003 version by ABC took place in the Australian jungle, the show’s producers decided Costa Rica would be a better fit for the North American market.

“We wanted something Americans would recognize as a reasonably exotic, rain forest environment,” Brogden says.

The producers also wanted a location that was in the same time zone as the United States, as the show will be broadcast live. It will debut June 1, and will air Monday through Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time for four weeks. While most reality shows usually broadcast once or twice a week, the unique live format of “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” made for a scheduling change.

That’s largely because “viewers will vote and shape the action,” Brogden says. Similar to “Survivor” and “Fear Factor,” the cast of 10 celebrities will be dropped off in the jungle and forced to rely on survival skills, competing in a series of tasks and challenges for food, supplies and other amenities. With voting open to the viewing pubic, “America decides who gets to participate in the challenges, and also who stays and who goes,” Brogden says.

The final winner will be crowned “King or Queen of the Jungle” and will take home a cash prize for his or her favorite charity.

So far, the network has announced seven of the 10 celebrity cast members, including spouses Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt of MTV’s “The Hills,” former NBA basketball player turned TV personality John Salley, model Janice Dickinson, former “American Idol” contestant Sanjaya Malakar, actor Stephen Baldwin and professional wrestler Torrie Wilson.

Rod Blagojevich, the indicted governor of the U.S. state of Illinois, had sought a role on the show before a U.S. district judge last month denied the former Democratic governor’s bid to travel outside the country. Blagojevich, however, has still appeared in promotional material for the show and has told multiple media outlets he intends to be involved in the show in one form or another.

Additional contestants and the show’s hosts will be announced soon, according to NBC, which is partnering with MTV to broadcast repeat showings of “I’m a Celebrity” on weekends.

Brogden will not tip his hand as to what exactly is in store for the show’s contestants, but does say the show will “use as much as the local wildlife and environment as possible” and “use the rain forest location as much as (it) can.”

He did, however, hint at “using spiders, snakes, insects to scare people or, in some cases, be eaten.”

Because the show is being filmed live, the network will not say where exactly production will take place. All signs, however, point to the Sarapiquí region in the northern Caribbean lowlands.

Sarapiquí’s Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve has been in negotiations with the network to house some of the cast or crew, a reservations supervisor told The Tico Times, while the daily La Nación reported that nearby Sueño Azul Resort will serve as headquarters for the production. The resort would not comment when contacted by The Tico Times.

According to Brogden, a 300-person crew will be coming to Costa Rica to film the show, with some workers already here to help prepare for production. Along with workers from Great Britain, Australia and the United States, the producers “employ as many Costa Ricans as we can,” Brogden says.

“I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” is not the first reality show to be filmed in Costa Rica. It follows in the footsteps of FOX’s “TemptationIsland,” the second season of which was filmed at Playa Tambor on northwestern Costa Rica’s NicoyaPeninsula.

Brogden says it is too early to tell if the show will be back in Costa Rica a second time around.

“I have no idea at this point,” he says. “Let’s just see how this all goes.”


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