Since confirming she'd be temporarily standing in for Ant McPartlin, I'm a Celebrity presenter Holly Willoughby's been the subject of an awful lot of nonsense. First, there was the misogynistic faux concern over who could possibly look after her children while Willoughby worked on the show; then came scrutiny over her supposed squeamishness, and her chemistry with (long term friend) Declan Donnelly. Reports began to circulate that she was facing replacement before the end of the series, stoked by the bookies slashing their odds on the possibility. So is Holly Willoughby quitting I'm a Celebrity?
Thankfully, ITV's stepped in to quash the rumours, calling them "absolute rubbish," as Digital Spy reports. "We are very happy with Holly presenting alongside Dec," a spokesperson added.
ITV announced that Willoughby would be taking up the I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! role back in August, in order to allow for Ant's further recovery from issues with addiction. In a statement, she said, "I couldn’t be more excited to have been asked to stand alongside Dec for the next jungle adventure. I love Ant and want to send him my best wishes and support for a continued recovery. These are big shoes, not to fill, but just to keep warm for a little bit..."
Ant also confirmed the news in a statement, explaining, "My recovery is going very well and for that to continue having spoken to Dec and ITV, I have made the decision to take the rest of the year off." When the news broke, Willoughby was promptly hit with a wave of sexist criticism, accusing her of abandoning her children to take the job (when, in fact, they're in Australia with her).
On Monday, the day after Willoughby's I'm a Celebrity debut, the Sun reported that bookmaker Paddy Power was already beginning to anticipate her departure, dropping their odds from 25/1 to 16/1. The favourite to replace her, with odds of 20/1, was former Queen of the Jungle Scarlett Moffatt.
A Paddy Power spokesperson told the paper, "It’s early days, but watching Dec without Ant just doesn’t quite feel right, and Holly’s already taken some flak for her debut jungle performance. So much so that we’ve slashed the likelihood of her bowing out before the series is over, and returning to our screens alongside Phillip Schofield."
Supposed reasons for Willoughby's potential departure include her fear of the show's array of critters, after she reacted with horror to Emily Atack's Bushtucker Trial, as well as her purported inability to match Ant's chemistry with Dec — an odd criticism, considering her decade-long friendship with the presenters.
As Digital Spy notes, some fans on social media did struggle with Ant's absence — unsurprisingly, considering he's one of the most beloved figures on British TV. But Willoughby also received a lot of praise from viewers for her performance; what's more, 11 million people tuned in to watch her debut show, according to Digital Spy. That might be down to curiosity, of course, as it's the first series of I'm a Celebrity not presented by Ant, but it's still a pretty promising start.
Willoughby's already made it clear she won't be continuing the gig after the series, but will instead return hosting duties to Ant once he makes his TV comeback. So here's a thought: could we perhaps wait until she's got a little more than two shows under her belt before speculating about her exit? Or better yet, just give her a break altogether?