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Oh, Danny Boy

Breaking Bonaduce, last year’s must-gape reality series — how low can you go, Danny Partridge? — has returned for a second season. The opening episode got awfully meta and self-referential when it showed a newly sober Danny Bonaduce hawking the VH-1 pinnacle of self-destructive behavior (a hit for the network, of course) on a publicity tour in Latin America. At one point he sits in on a recording session while an actor dubs one of Bonaduce’s scary-drunk, wiggy-angry, first-season meltdowns into Spanish. It’s the reality-show version of the hall of mirrors from The Lady From Shanghai.

We watch Bonaduce watch actors play him as they watch a screen, which he’s also watching, because Bonaduce claims not to have caught any of the first season. Initially you think he’d be too embarrassed by who he was that year to relive it. And then you wonder, shouldn’t he check it out as a reminder never to slip up like that again? But at the recording studio, when he catches the footage of his wife having a male-stripper, girls-night-out hotel-room party — crosscut with him wasted and flipping out about it — the barking, aggrieved-husband psycho-Danny suddenly re-emerges.

Cut to a new therapy session where the couple agree that things started to go south again in the marriage after that. It was like the Cheaters moment — what each episode of that junky guilty pleasure thrives on — where the host pulls the suspicious party aside and shows him/her the fruits of the show’s surveillance-camera labor, which inevitably unleashes the hurt, angry, sometimes-physical confrontation scene at the end between broken lovers. Last year in these pages I bemoaned, with tongue firmly in cheek, that to enjoy something like Breaking Bonaduce, you may want everything to work out, but you’re there for the bonkers moments. Now I’m worried VH-1 is in for Round 2 only because it’s found the wind-up key in a tortured guy’s back.

—Robert Abele


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