"You don't have a show if I don't crash."
What can I say. I don't watch TV but I can't stop watching Breaking Bonaduce. Of course, I'm a year late to the show. From last season, Slate looks at the two schools of thought on the appeal of the VH1 reality series, which follows a not-so-ordinary but not-so-unordinary celebrity (or at least notorious) family through the land of addiction and trauma.
Some critics hold that the show unforgivably cheapens the real-life traumas of addiction and domestic violence (though Bonaduce never, to our knowledge, hits his wife, he torments and bullies her incessantly). Other viewers, including many in the show's growing cult of fans, claim that the show has gone beyond exploitation to become a raw and moving documentary of one family's collapse. I started out in the former category, and now, six episodes in, have migrated uneasily over to the latter. If there's a more dramatically compelling show than Breaking Bonaduce currently on television, I don't want to know about it. No, seriously, I don't. Watching this one—much less liking it as much as I do—feels morally compromising enough.
You want to root or Bonaduce. At least I do. Been through the darkness. Familiar with the endlessness of feeling so bad. I can't help but hope he makes it through the landmines his father left for him.
In addition to being a recovering alcoholic and former crack addict who once lived in his car behind Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, he admits to being addicted to sex, exercise, and steroids (in Episode 2, we see him shoot up some 'roids before heading to the gym to pump iron). His impulse control is near nil, and his judgment is terrible; in last week's episode, he freely admitted he was too drunk to drive before getting behind the wheel anyway, telling his producers, "You don't have a show if I don't crash." (In the end, the cameras were turned off while the producers wrested the keys away.)
And yet he tries. As hard and haggard as his face is, as insane as his antics seem, as manic as his smile is, it's his eyes that get me. Eyes looking fiercely for the love he never got. Looking, stop looking. Looking, stop looking.
I tell ya, I got some tears invested in this one. What can I say.
[Hey, if you need a t-shirt or want a book, I see they have a website. Imagine wearing one of those to the next bloggercon. ;-)]