More than 30 years ago, an on-screen divorce helped give birth to reality television when Pat Loud left Bill Loud as part of the PBS/WNET series An American Family. This year, after Danny Bonaduce’s wife asked him for a divorce–although not in the presence of the VH1 cameras that were filming them for an upcoming series–he tried to kill himself. The series is called Breaking Bonaduce, and it debuts Sept. 11 at 10:30 p.m.
According to the New York Times, Gretchen “Bonaduce had asked the cameras to leave, so her husband’s suicidal gesture and subsequent hospitalization were not filmed. But the events that led up to them were: when as he drank himself into a rage, when he yelled at the television production crew (‘I will cripple him for the rest of his life!’ he says about a producer) and when he made threats toward his wife (‘If she doesn’t get on the phone right now,’ he says at one point, ‘there will be no stopping me.’).”
The couple “agreed to allow the network to chronicle their marital counseling,” but after cameras arrived, the Times reports that Danny “Bonaduce fell off the wagon. Not only did he binge drink — viewers will see him downing an entire bottle of vodka in a single guzzle at one point — but he also started taking Vicodin and, as part of an obsessive exercise regimen, injecting steroids.”
Why did the cameras stick around? VH1 execs say they wanted to stop production immediately after his suicide attempt, but Gretchen “really begged us to keep filming,” a producer says. Gretchen Bonaduce–who’s still with her husband–says, “I wanted to use every leverage that I could to get him to get help. Because Danny loves to be on TV. I expected them to say, ‘You know what, you guys are just too crazy and we don’t want any part of this.’ And when they didn’t, I literally started to cry because I couldn’t believe they didn’t cut us loose. They stuck around. It was amazing to me.”
As for Danny, he says, “My behavior is humiliating. Right now, I’m embarrassed in front of a crew of 20, 1 doctor and 1 wife. Sept. 12, I will be embarrassed in front of millions.”