Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rocky Road to Reality Ruin ... Television

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rocky Road to Reality Ruin ... Television

Article excerpt


My Reality TV Breakdown, VH1

I USED to think nostalgia was a pleasurable experience, until I recently watched an archive edition of Junior Showtime.

"Algia" means pain, and that's what I was in as this Seventies lack-of-talent show for kids unfurled itself before my anguished eyes, with legions of prepubescent stage-school rejects doing strange and unentertaining things in leotards, the whole debacle fronted by Bonnie Langford (at 10, already living proof of the evils of Tartrazine), and produced by the avuncular Jess Yates (supposed "father" of Paula, and dubbed "the TV bishop" until tales of sexual impropriety led to his sacking as presenter of Stars on Sunday).

Since watching it, I've had a recurring nightmare in which the Pixie of Pop and I are on the set of Junior Showtime, she's yelling at me to "Put your tap shoes on, because we're on in 30 seconds," and I'm attempting to explain to her that I suffer from brittlebone syndrome. Then the music starts up, I try to hoof it up a little, and the dream ends with the caretaker vacuuming me off the stage in powdered form to great applause from the studio audience, who think it's all part of the act.

Of course, grotesquely pushy parents frog-marching reluctant Shirley Temple clones into the limelight in which they themselves failed to bask when they were children is an integral part of this wonderful business we call "the show".

Indeed, that was the central premise of The Partridge Family back in the early Seventies, and the then 10-year-old Danny Bonaduce (who played the role of band organiser) is now continuing the proud tradition on VH1, by dragging his own daughter Isabella along to auditions as part of My Reality TV Breakdown.

"I'm a car crash, man," the semi-reformed drunk junkie told us, "and you have every right to slow down and watch the car crash," as he introduced us to his Los Angelesbased clan, who are collectively more Addams than Partridge, with a soupcon of Manson thrown in.

And although much of the "reality TV" that followed seemed as choreographed as a bout of professional wrestling, enough of his genuinely self-destructive personality shone through to remind us all of the truth of that famous Larkin phrase. No, not "perfick". I was thinking of the one about your mum and dad.

A glimpse into the former child star's somewhat unstructured lifestyle came early on, when he recalled how he'd wed his wife Gretchen. "I married her seven hours into our first date ... I was incredibly drunk," he revealed, "next morning, I said: 'Listen lady, I had a lot to drink last night, I don't even remember your name,' and she said: 'It's Mrs Bonaduce, try not to forget it.'" Truly, this was a marriage made in hell, as he frequently admits on his radio talk show, a sort of Frasier-in-reverse where he confesses his sins and problems, and amateur therapists in his audience ring in with advice. …

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