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‘Bonaduce’ is addicted to being on television

Former child star proud to hit rock bottom for cameras
/ Source: contributor

VH1’s “Breaking Bonaduce” (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET) opens with Danny Bonaduce, saying, “I’m a car crash, man. And you have every right to slow down and watch the car crash.” This isn’t a reluctant admission — it’s a fairly gleeful dare.

While the show studies Bonaduce’s well-documented addictions and his marital problems, it’s this incongruous swagger that makes him unsettling.

When he gets to rehab, a doctor asks how many drinks he can hold. Bonaduce spits out a script-ready line: “How many you got?” If he’s unhappy about being an addict, he’s certainly overjoyed to be an addict with his own show.

Genuine rehabilitation seems unlikely in this phony environment. One of Bonaduce’s doctors even admits dressing up because of the cameras. So the show Bonaduce thinks he’s making — the one about the magnificent car crash — isn’t very convincing.

But producers sometimes seem to be making an entirely different show. Not a show about drinking, but a show about celebrity itself.

Consider the moment when the crew tries to get a drunken Bonaduce out from behind the wheel of his car. He spits back, “You don’t have a show if I don’t crash.”

Is he that cynical, or is being that cynical part of his act? Can jaded lines about being good TV just be another way of being good TV? What he’s doing is obviously self-conscious, but it is a self-conscious portrayal of Danny Bonaduce, Messed-Up Alcoholic? Or is it a self-conscious portrayal of Danny Bonaduce, Messed-Up Camera Hog?

“Breaking Bonaduce” isn’t brilliant, but it often plays as an intriguing standoff between a professional celebrity making a show about his spectacular addiction to alcohol and a team of producers making a show about his spectacular addiction to being on television.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.