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Chachi Loves... Chachi?

Before I headed over to the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood last weekend to enter cineaste summer camp — two days for eight episodes or 12 and a half hours of Jacques Rivette’s rarely screened 1971 dissolution-of-the-Left opus Out 1 — I sat down for what I thought was an appropriately odd media appetizer before a feast of improvisational filmmaking: VH-1’s new celebreality series starring Scott Baio. (Rivette and Scott Baio in the same sentence: a first?) But even though I read in these pages last week that Rivette doesn’t even own a television, I had a nagging suspicion this French New Wave titan would find dialectical fascination in the strange conspiratorial admixture of life and fiction that makes up an artificial artifact for our times like Scott Baio Is 45 ... and Single. As the weekend went on, Baio became some kind of oppositional force to Rivette’s liberating ways with the vagaries of a childlike, lying cinema. Supposedly on the Baio show we’re being given the documented story of how the Happy Days actor worked out his relationship issues, but nothing about this series has the whiff of revelation. Baio hires a life coach, golfs with his friends, visits a now-married ex-squeeze, pities himself, autographs glossies with former Joanie Loves Chachi co-star Erin Moran, and as far as I could tell everybody consulted cue cards just off-camera. The show is like a videotape of a show-biz contract. This doesn’t make it “bad,” just a nagging provocation about what we want from a docu-reality show: unfettered life or imposed structure? If a masterpiece like the unscripted, joyously peculiar Out 1 is a paean to the possibilities of humans at play, Scott Baio Is 45... and Single is a shining example of the ability of humans to format life until it has no spontaneity. Meanwhile, I’ve got to stop combining my junk TV and arthouse excursions.


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