In Danny Bonaduce, VH1 has found the epitome of train-wreck TV -- a narcissist with anger-management problems who attempted suicide by slitting his wrists (off camera, mercifully) during production.
In Danny Bonaduce, VH1 has found the epitome of train-wreck TV — a narcissist with anger-management problems who attempted suicide by slitting his wrists (off camera, mercifully) during production. With that kind of raw material, this heavily produced “reality” show delivers its share of compelling moments, which doesn’t address the ethical considerations in giving someone with serious issues, to be polite, this kind of self-incriminating showcase. Bonaduce talks a lot in the show about loving his children, but his career-climbing preoccupation has exposed their father to a very harsh light.
So much for the new wave of “feel good” reality. The onetime “Partridge Family” child star’s pathetic plight, and that of his wife, Gretchen, represents another in the seemingly endless parade of celebritcoms and near-celebs enlisting for their shot at an unscripted series. Few, however, have been so obliging when it comes to going the extra image-deflating mile to deliver drama.
Danny and Gretchen have allowed their marital counseling to be featured as a central component of the program. The impetus is his admitted extramarital affair, which he disclosed on his radio program, clearly lacking the filtering mechanism to keep any of his life shielded from public view. (Bonaduce recently lost his hosting gig at L.A.’s Star 98.7, which followed a stint in rehab.)
The first installment finds Danny making a trip alone to Vegas, where he wrestles with temptations to drink and cheat. In the third half-hour, he chafes over Gretchen’s involvement in a band, leading to a nagging sense throughout that he might haul off and pound somebody.
There’s not much depth in the sessions with Dr. Garry Corgiat, who tends to chide Danny and empathize with Gretchen. At one point, Danny vaguely threatens him, warning, “Cross the line with (discussing) my children and we’ll have difficulties.” At this point, it might have been a good idea to page Dr. Phil.
With Bonaduce’s nails-on-a-chalkboard voice, his employment in radio has always been something of a mystery. Yet the notion that the excesses chronicled here cost him that position only adds a level of melancholy to this already rather sad exercise — even allowing for the level of stage management that goes with the Bonaduces being credited among the show’s nine exec producers.
For all of that, Bonaduce’s personal implosion has generated the kind of advance publicity that can easily render such a program a hit by basic cable’s less exhausting ratings standards. Not only should the curiosity factor be high, but the series joins an all-has-been night that includes the new “My Fair Brady” and original episodes of VH1’s transplanted hit “The Surreal Life.”
Dealing in sur-reality has surely been beneficial to VH1, which doesn’t absolve those responsible for “Breaking Bonaduce” from their complicity in his self-immolation. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a shower long enough to wash away the experience of simply viewing the show, much less having produced, programmed or participated in it.