Danny, Danny, Danny. And Gretchen, Gretchen, Gretchen. Danny and Gretchen, together. Danny and Gretchen apart. With all the Tv time spent on these two lovestruck midlifers, the roiling romance of this rest home Romeo and Juliet, something seems eerily forgotten. Somehow, their parents' self-absorption shuffle has pulled this entire show into lockstep with it. What has been overlooked in this story? Oh, yes...they have children - a girl, and a boy. Watching their parents flirt with divorce and disaster, while being left out of the mix. Glimpses are what we've seen of these children, but they exist. Two growing individuals, ages 12 and 5, hardly acknowledged. We've heard about every aspect of their parents' marital spats. But we're left to ask and imagine...what about the children?
So far in Season 2 of Breaking Bonaduce, we’ve followed the melodramatic Mr. and Mrs. B's antics. Currently, Gretchen has moved Danny into a bachelor apartment. She needed a break. And it suits her. Sitting in counselor Dr. Garry Corgiat's office, he looks as if she’s stepped into some wayback machine; she's sartorially attempted to turn back the clock. Hair smoothed, makeup carefully applied, Gretchen wears a low-strap, bare-shouldered outfit of raw charmeuse silk, with matching stripes of shadow on her eyes. The 'look' is reminiscent of Bondage Princess Leia. (Does this make Dr. G Jabba the Hut?) Gretchen leans over with arms crossed. It must be to keep her cleavage in. She once again looks rested (but who is she rocked out for?). Also more vibrant. Gretchen feels stronger without Danny evidently, and this seems reflected in her wardrobe and styling choices. She gets barer and strappier every episode. Her hair gets stranger, and shinier. I fully expect her to show up at her next counseling session dressed like Aeon Flux.
Dr. Garry asks Gretchen how things went at Harvard. Last episode, in case you didn’t see it, Gretchen and Danny traveled to Harvard where Danny accepted his Hasty Pudding pot in the nude. Later that night, he ranted and berated Gretchen for not consummating the occasion. (And what woman could resist such a courtship?) Gretchen briefs Dr. Garry on all this, summing it up by saying that she had to put a stop to Danny’s verbal abuse, but that she’s threatened divorce so many times Danny does not believe her any more. Dr. Gar nods smugly. Gretchen sounds more resolute than in prior sessions: “I will divorce (him). It’s just a piece of paper that I have to file now”, she spits out. Garry professes surprise, but his heavy-lidded bored look gives him away. If we’ve heard this before, how many times has he?
Dr. G tells Gretchen she has raised the ante, and “these are very high stakes”. And Deal or No Deal begins! No, the black, white and grey video intro for Breaking Bonaduce begins. Danny on a rooftop. Next, this episode starts: establishing shots of Hollywood, and - car scene! Danny is driving on the 101 Freeway in his red Pontiac convertible. He goes into an expository monologue: He updates us on his various current fears.
“There’s the fear of my children being maladjusted from being from a divorced home,” (is that why, Danny?) “There’s the fear of not being with my wife who I love,” he continues; and last he offers up, “There’s the fear of being alone, because by far, I need Gretchen more than she needs me”. ...These two still have not been to a Codependents Anonymous meeting, eh? “I don’t know that Gretchen needs me, at all” Danny concludes. Well, I guess they haven’t, then.
Just Cos I’m Wearin’ A Newscap Don’t Mean I Want Your Story
Presumably while Danny is out talking to
himselfthe camera in his convertible, Gretchen meets a friend for lunch at a place called Cuba Central. Now I’m sure that parenting two children while their father’s away must wear on her somehow; but we never see the hows or whys in this series. Instead, every time she gets a break from Danny, we see her going to spas or lunching. It might seem as if this whole separation thing isn't bothering her at all. Anyway, today she’s meeting a friend to kvetch to. We see in the chiron text that Kristin is the friend’s name. “Gretchen’s Friend” is her given title, actually. I’m sure she does more in life than that, but this is all we’ll know of her. Blond Kristin does wear a newsboy cap, though. Maybe that’s some sort of emblem of Gretchen’s girl posse. Sort of a Pink Ladies, Midlife edition. (Well, it would fit - the movie Grease featured middle aged posers pretending to be teenagers, too.) Is this some sort of Gretchen-gang symbol? Gretchen wore a dark newsboy cap last episode. Then again those were pretty popular in L.A. around the time this season taped. Okay, no matter - back to their lunch.
As Kristin digs determinedly into her food, (I can’t quite tell just what either woman has on her plate, and no, that’s not a metaphor. Well, maybe.) Gretchen describes how much fun she and Danny had in Boston on their recent trip. “Together, or separate(ly)?” Kristin inquires without even raising an eyebrow. I can’t tell if Special K is snarking but it’s a pretty funny question. “Together” Gretchen says, so eager to tell her tale of woe that she doesn’t notice or even pause. Gretchen continues right along: “He was such an a**h*le during most of it, that it was just a wash”. Kristin just keeps eating, absolutely no expression on her face. Boredom or Botox, no way to tell. Gretchen tells the story of Danny’s “rampage” and while Kristin keeps chewing, states “If he can’t change, I don’t wanna be in that situation any more”. Gretchen, girl who cried wolf. Mean anything to you?
99 and 44/100 Percent Clean
I’m playing along with the smoother editing this episode - Danny’s out of his car and entering a medical plaza now. So I’ll assume that’s where he was driving to. Danny enters the office of the doctor who administered his drug test a couple of episodes ago. Danny addresses the doctor as “DC” (Washington? Chiropractor? Comic books?) and has a seat in the doctor’s office. The silver-haired, Marcus Welby M.D. type doctor smiles. His hand rests on Danny’s medical file, on the desktop. The two men stare at each other, smiling. This scene seems so over-rehearsed. I’m not saying the doctor is an actor, but he does look straight out of Central Casting. He also seems very easy-going, able to put up with shooting delays no doubt. It’s a bizarre little scene, having a canned feel not unlike a school filmstrip. “So doc, do you have my drug test results?” Danny says. And just when we think we know how this one will turn out (it’s a filmstrip, so a cackling skeleton should dance across the screen and talk about the dangers of drink and drugs - what, you didn’t have that filmstrip?) the doctor replies:
“Well...you are absolutely clean.”
What? Aren’t we supposed to see shocking still photos of car accidents, or corpses with needles still in their arms, or ‘hopheads’ cackling with large eyes while a kaleidoscope effect plays over them? And then isn’t the “doctor” supposed to gravely read statistics as he warns Little Danny about the dangers of drug use? I’m a bit baffled - until I remember that Danny bragged on a Vh1 ‘extras’ clip that he knows how to rig a drug test. Dr. Kildare is pleased and happy, though, as he gives Danny his Good Drugtesting Seal of Approval. “You’re clean,” he announces. There is just the hint of a smile on Danny’s face. “You know what - I knew that...I’ll tell you what...” Danny babbles. And then overdoes it.
Talking a mile a minute while the doc plasters on a polite smile, Danny launches into a monologue about how he’ll be glad to have these results “in my hot little hand” because of the behavior he’s “unleashed on some of the people I love, and that work on this show”. I’m not sure self-vindication is part of a 12 step program, but okay. Danny gains momentum, claiming to see others’ side of this: “It’s fair for them to think ‘that guy must be on drugs’. Which do you think is worse - that I’m not, and behave that way?” Danny keeps up his high-speed monologue. (It’s okay, Danny; the doc’s not going to demand a do-over. You can stop ‘selling’ now.) Doctor “DC” just leans his head and flashes a sardonic look. Ahh, there it is, doctor. Thanks for that.
Car scene! Danny continues his “It’s OK people think I’m on drugs” speech behind the wheel of his Dude Car. Surprise, he’s rambling a bit. Basically, he says that he can see why people think he’s on drugs. But that once someone’s seen him behave “a certain way” a dozen times they should realise he’s crazy, and stop making him “pee in jars”. He asks that in future, they find a “lunatic drug strip” and administer that to him instead. Danny, shh. Only active addicts and salesmen talk this much. And you’re trying to convince us you’re neither.
Danny and Dr. Kumar Don’t Go To White Castle
Thank you, unchoppy editing. Again Danny has landed someplace, and this time, he sits in Dr. Kumar’s office. From the exterior shots, I take it this is located somewhere in Hollywood. I like this office; it doesn’t seem to have suffered an interior decorator. Plain, mismatched furniture; a bad, fake wood coffee table; a few scattered votive candles and a plain lamp. There is even a guitar inexplicably leaning up against one chair. I can’t help imagining Danny stumbling in just as Dr. K finished knocking off some amateur ballad. There’s an eclectic but unpretentious feel about the place. It’s very low key and seen it all; not set-dressed for success. So far, so different from Dr. Jazz Hands.
Dr. Kumar (no second name visible) is apparently the “M.D. psychiatrist” Dr. Garry Corgiat (Ph.d) requested, no, insisted Danny see as part of his therapy. This is a sound requirement, and standard practise with a patient who is taking prescription medication to help stabilise mental illness. There is really no other way to monitor the dosage. Dr. K has my respect the minute he doesn’t laugh or otherwise respond to Danny’s first quip. (Not taking the bait - Dr. Kumar, could you teach Dr. Garry that?) The Doc has asked Danny how Gretchen is, and Danny replies with “If you asked me what the perfect marriage would be, it’d be me with my own apartment and a platinum card”. Dr. K just nods, waiting for Danny to open up.
Either editing or common sense convinces Dr. Kumar that’s not about to happen soon; so he simply asks, “Are you taking the Camprol?”. Danny asks what that is. I guess that’s a “No”, then. Dr. K patiently explains that Camprol takes away cravings for alcohol. “Find me a pill that takes away cravings for women,” Danny quips. Again, Dr. K doesn’t bite; no laughter, no anger. He's so laid back, he's nearly asleep. So far, I like this guy. “That’s what I gave you the Prozac for,” he informs Danny. Danny finally listens. Dr. Kumar warns Danny that Prozac can also make him more manic, and both agree that isn’t good. “That’s why we have the Lithium on board,” Dr. K informs an attentive Danny. Then he says that the goal with Lithium is balance, “so that you can function as Danny, who will not go for dangerous things”. That point seems to have lost Danny, whose face morphs into a mixture of defiance and sadness. Clearly Danny’s used to his ‘highs’. But, if this is truly the first time his bipolar disorder has been properly medicated, he hasn’t had a chance yet to see who he is. All he knows of himself are his manic highs and lows.
We’re to believe Danny’s giving this medication a serious try, as we see Danny washing down pills with bottled water. (How is that different from last season? Okay, sorry.) A brief shot of Danny driving (well you dont have to be that literal, editors!) and now we’re in Dr. Garry’s office. Either he’s sunburned, or is fond of Stila’s new blush, but I digress. Dr. Gar congratulates Danny on having followed through with his promises (to take a drug test and to see an “M.D. psychiatrist”). He reassures Danny two or three times in a row, that his primary goal is “to save your marriage”. Dr. G seems already to be catering to Danny, albeit in the form of avoiding a possible explosion, but, if it avoids our having to see another tantrum, then please and thank you for that, Dr. G.
Danny starts off his part of the talk therapy by apologising to Dr. G and to the crew. “To my great surprise, there is a limit to what people will take from me” Danny says. I’m surprised he didn’t learn that after last season’s stint in rehab, but, okay. Better late than never. Danny does seem lucid as he continues, this time (for once) telling things from Gretchen’s point of view. “She’s exhausted,” Danny breathes out. “Fifteen years with me? And you take this guy, who’s manic and bipolar and this and that, and thinks he’s so smart and thinks he’s so tough, and add that to a cheater. Why wouldn’t she leave?” Dr. Garry just listens, poker-faced, while Danny continues. With his best plea, or line reading, either one...(really, I can’t tell any more) Danny begs, “I will listen this time. I gotta get home to my family”.
Say It With Flowers
Back at the Bonaduce Hilltop Manse, the doorbell rings, and Gretchen, in a velvet top and green flowing skirt, accepts a delivery of flowers. We never get a good look at them; she doesn’t even remove them from the plastic protective wrap. Then again, she’s probably gotten more than one “I’m sorry” bouquet during their 15 yr. relationship. She does however say “they’re beautiful” and giggles at the card. Danny, not surprisingly behind the wheel of his car (is this show sponsored by Midas?), pauses while stopped in traffic to chant his new, self-made mantra, “Don’t lie, don’t lust, don’t lie, don’t lust” - with his eyes shut tight for extra-special wishing power. Gretchen, behind the wheel of her car (note to world: Californians do not actually live in their cars, honest!) answers her cell phone. It’s Danny, checking on how she liked the flowers. Gretchen clearly does not want to talk; she’s looking back and forth trying to move through an intersection. The sad, pleading tone in Danny’s voice as he obviously hopes to wring a tiny bit of praise is rather pathetic. Gretchen really isn’t listening at all. Danny’s telling her how hard it is to be away from home.
He switches tactics, and begins praising Gretchen. Suddenly, she’s listening. “It was really smart. You said ‘I’m just so tired’. I can see it.” Gretchen listens, smiling. But, as soon as Danny begins to go into his own behavior, Gretch cuts him off. “That’s a conversation for another time, ‘kay?” she says in her ‘mommy’ voice. Danny obediently gets off the phone. Back to Car B, Danny is talking to thin air again, telling us that no matter what his feelings are about being out of the house, “an able-bodied human being has been out of that house for 30 days”. Nice exposition, Danny. So he’s been gone 30 days now. “Gretchen has had to carry that load for thirty days.” Well, Gretchen and staff, it seems to me. But if he’s talking about decision making and emotional support, maybe. Fair enough - No staff member can replace a parent when it comes to those things. On the other hand, I see no reason Danny can’t provide those things even from his new apartment. How often has he been seeing the children? We’re not told. But the two awkward scenes coming up next give a clue.
The Kids Aren’t Alright
Danny picks 5 yr. old Dante up from his day care center. He sets up a child seat in the back of his Pontiac, as if he’s never tried to put one together before. Dante, a moppet with pale Botticelli curls, sucks stoicly on a lollipop while Danny keeps his comic riff going. “I’m putting that in and hoping for the best” Danny says as he gives up and puts Dante into the half-assembled seat. “I’m gonna go with ‘we should definitely not crash’,” he jokes to Dante, who just sits silently, waiting. “Okay, good enough!” Danny continues (tip your waitress! try the veal!) and they take off driving. As the wind whips through Dante’s hair in the open-top vintage convertible, he shouts out the ‘ABC song’. Danny grins, watching in his rear-view mirror. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m sure Darling Dante will end up on some commercial or Tv show, and Round 2 of the Bonaduce legacy will begin. For now, he’s just adorable, and he provides a rare light-hearted moment on this devastating show.
Continuing the (thank you, VH1) comic relief for a blessed few minutes, Danny and Dante’s next stop is a parked train car on Ventura Blvd., in the San Fernando Valley. This is Carney’s Express, and they’re well known for their delicious hot dogs and chili dogs. They have burgers, fries, soda, all the usual kid stuff. I've been there; it’s good, cheap food. I don’t really eat red meat, but I can tell you the place smells amazing. I’m surprised these two don’t drift in there like cartoon dogs, on the scent wafting out. Just as I’m wondering whether Danny takes his kids here often, he asks “Is this how we get into this place?”, demonstrating the answer as a firm “No”. It’s a fun, casual type of place, and a place you can get in and out of quickly. If Danny chose this place, how much time does he really spend with his kids? Or, maybe...want to? “I don’t know how mommy does this,” Danny gripes as he loads up their cardboard trays. Does what - feed her children? Danny, you can’t get much easier than fast food. Suck it up, fella!
Anyway, they get their hot dogs, fries and sodas and go outside to eat. Under a canopied patio table, father and son watch the pigeons flap around and lurk, waiting for a bite. “Flying wat!” Dante points out a pigeon in an adorable lisp. “Flying rat!” Danny echoes. Dante garbles something else out, and Danny repeats it (for our understanding?) as he’s been repeating everything. (Is this a father son visit, or a Meisner acting exercise?) “Good thing we are under an umbrella,” Danny translates from the Dante-an dialect. Appropriate to his age, Dante next (and oddly, very clearly) says “It’s gonna poop on you!!”. “Is it gonna poop on me?” Danny says. Dante next calls the pigeon a “bastard”, and Danny repeats that too: “The little bastard was lining up his sphincter with my head”. Lovely, Danny. Dante says “Bastard!” a few more times - hilariously adding Danny’s patented finger-point. Dante points at all the pigeons flying nearby. I highly doubt he realises what he’s really saying, but kids that age do what gets a reaction. Danny doesn’t react, though. So Dante stuffs a good portion of the hot dog in his mouth (think he's seen Danny eat a Flat Patty hamburger?). Danny corrects Dante’s manners, and warns him against choking. Danny adds that “On the other hand - I’ll look really cool saving your life, so if you choke give me a heads-up, because I will Heimlich your little butt in two seconds”. So now that Danny’s wished a fiery death on his wife and suffocation on his son, I vote Harvard brings him back again for Family Man of the Year. Seconded?
The good thing is that this has all gone over little Dante’s head and past his understanding. Instead, Dante dissolves into a fit of giggles; he thinks his daddy has said “I will lick your butt!”. It’s the silly type of scatalogical humor kids find hilarious. Thank heavens for that. “I’ll lick your butt!” Dante shouts, pointing his finger at Danny. Still clueless, Danny corrects him. “No, not ‘I’ll lick your butt’ - I’ll Heimlich you!” Danny emphasizes. Thank heavens for little Dante’s innocent translation of this...at five, he’s still impervious to his father’s twisted view of things. The fact Danny's just wished choking on Dante (even in jest) has whooshed right past the tot's understanding. “You’ll lick my butt?” Dante lisps yet again, stifling a giggle. Danny finally gives up and laughs too. He can’t just stop there, though. He adds, “I thought you saying ‘Bastard’ was bad”. Dante of course, immediately starts that up again: “Bastard!” he screams, pointing at Danny. Dante giggles. Well, what can I say? Out of the mouths of Babes?
Jaclyn, the same assistant Gretchen had arrange the separation apartment for Danny, suddenly walks up and sits near Dante. Dante frowns. Danny asks where she’s taking Dante, and Jaclyn says “Home. ‘Cause his mommy’s comin’ home!” she chirps. Danny’s face falls; he looks annoyed, and sad. It’s gotta be hard to have some kid whose salary you pay, suddenly dictating your child’s schedule to you, without hope of redress. Danny and Dante exchange a sad hug near the convertible, as Jaclyn looks on with a patronising smile. Danny gets in his Dude Car alone. Father and son each wave goodbye; Dante looks very confused. Dante’s five, though, so what can he say? His bottom lip and his slow wave goodbye say it all. While he’s caught his dad’s eye, he puts on smiles and dimples; but once Danny has apparently driven away, Dante lowers his face and seems lost. His little hand freezes in mid-air, as he stares into space.
Driving Miss Issy
Another day, another car scene. Day two of Kid Duty, and Grimfaced Danny looks as if he’s on parole, driving himself back to prison. He has no clue what to do, but he's going to make a day of it. ("Gretchen have I impressed you enough, yet?" one can almost imagine the thought bubble over his head.) It's got nothing to do with Isabella personally of course, but I'm guessing Danny is even less comfortable doing 'girl things' with his 12 year old, than he was chortling about 'poop' with his 5 year old son. He's sullen, and at a loss. From the back of her dad's convertible, (which by the way has kickin! upholstery - or not) 12 year old Isabella cracks wise. She seems to have inherited Danny’s tendency to arson humor. “I have the lighter, I’ll set my hair on fire,” she says. “You know child services is probably gonna come and get me after this, right?” “Honey, if child services didn’t come and get you after last season, they don’t care about you.” Again with the great parenting instincts. By all means - tell a child joking about lighting herself on fire, that no one cares.
Danny is helping Isabella lace up her ice skates. Father/daughter day is taking place at an ice skating rink. Danny counters Isabella’s complaint about the cold with, “Does the word ‘ice’ not give you some sort of hint that it’s going to be cold?”. As Danny walks down the hall in his skates, a passerby encourages his skate attempt: “Go baby!”. Danny responds more cheerfully to this stranger than he had to his own daughter. Regardless, Isabella waits on the ice. “If I go down, I blame you” she says. I can’t help but shiver, and it’s not because of the ice I’m looking at. I can feel myself grimace as I hope her words describe their day at the ice rink, and not her future. “I should be able to save you!” Danny promises. Well, now I know they must be referring to this day on ice. As it turns out, he can’t save her even here - it’s Isabella who reaches out to rescue Danny from falling.
Now it’s Gretchen’s turn for an outing with Danny. And what more wholesome outing for two struggling spouses to take in, than an appearance on the Strictly Dr. Drew show? Dr. Drew’s show revolves around sex and health issues; today’s episode will be about addiction and its impact on the family. Backstage, Gretchen pep-talks Danny; she’s proud of his determination to get well. Some type of odd symbiosis is evident between these two, and it shows up mainly in Gretchen. When Gretchen is near Danny, she looks 20 years older. There is no delicate way to say it. The longer she is away from Danny, the younger she dresses and acts, and the more refreshed her appearance. It’s uncanny, and it seems to happen too often to be a coincidence. They continue their odd conversation; odd because it’s as if they are in Dr. Garry’s office without him there. The two of them share feelings alone together, on the sofa of Dr. Drew’s green room. Danny tells his wife that he is working hard, and it’s easier than he thought (to make changes). If that’s so, why is he staring at the floor, and sweating?
Dr. Drew defines addiction: It is a "physiological brain disorder, a brain disease" that leads to “dangerous, compulsive behavior”. (It all sounds strangely Victorian; I half expect Dr. Drew to lecture on the criminal skull shape, or phrenology; Danny would make an equally willing subject, I think. But, back to using him as a human model for addiction.) “No one knows more about that, than former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce” Dr. Drew says with a straight face. Is Danny past humiliation at this point? Danny and Gretchen sit near Dr Drew; Gretchen sits nearest. She thanks him sweetly. Gretchen says in her butter-wouldn’t-melt voice: “Anyone who lives with an addict - they are constantly taking, and taking; when you get a break, you’re just so relieved”. Danny responds that he didn’t see the problem, because he was trying to make everyone happy by being a good provider. “I didn’t realise for the longest time that I was killing myself and those around me,” he bumper-stickers. Dr. Drew asks if Gretchen was ready to divorce Danny. She says yes. Danny admits he didn’t think she meant it before, but he believes her now. Drew asks Gretchen how Danny is doing now (with his addictions). She says she prays he will get it together; he’s doing better; he’s trying. Really - if she isn’t attending CodA, both their psychiatrists are wasting their time.
Back at Dr. Garry’s, a pink-haired Gretchen and Dr. Garry are exchanging 12 step buzz phrases. Dr. Garry back-pats Gretchen verbally. When do we get to hear about Gretchen’s childhood, and her reasons for staying in a chaotic marriage? If there was any doubt she has her own issues, next we’re treated to her misusing her five year old to humiliate her spouse by telephone. But Gretchen calls it “prank call(ing) daddy”. She calls little Dante over to the phone, and has him pose as “Dr. Garry”. Dante puts on a voice that sounds more like Count Chocula. Gretchen tells Dante to say (as Dr. Garry), "I'm at your disposal". That doesn’t seem too bad, but then she has Danny’s son repeat into the phone, “you’re a rapidly cycling bipolar”. That she’d mock mental illness is bad enough, but using her son to embarrass his father, is passive aggressive in the extreme. Dante may be too small to understand it now, but someday he may be mortified, and even feel guilty (for hurting Danny's feelings) as he watches this scene. He might even inherit bipolar disorder himself in adulthood, since manic depression can run in families. Oh, won’t this little clip be a hoot then, Gretchen??
For now, Dante merely giggles into the receiver, “you’re a rappy snikey my mope ah” - and he only knows he’s pleased mommy. Gretchen, it can be fairly said, cackles.
Hard Knocks at the Hard Rock
Dysfunctional Family Fridays, it’s all you can eat clam night. The Bonaduces meet at the Hard Rock Cafe. Looks like it’s the one at the ground floor level of the Beverly Center (mall) in Beverly Hills. This is a chain of American food and pop culture themed restaurants, in case anyone still hasn’t been in one; Cadillacs and rock memorabilia decorate the interiors. At an isolated, checkered table inside the place, Danny’s already waiting, with a sad and worn expression. His wife and children pile into their chairs. Danny tells Dante he liked ‘the doctor’ on the phone earlier that day. “I wasn’t on it - it was the docteww” Dante says. Gretchen nervously minimises this: “He’s been Dr. Kildare, Dr. Feelgood, Dr. Zhivago...Dr. Garry...”. Danny laughs good-naturedly. This scene, as throughout the episode, it seems obvious all he wants to do is to come back and live with his family. Everything else just sort of bounces off him. They could probably tell him a meteor was poised to hit Los Angeles and he’d shrug and laugh in this same way. But passive-aggression being an art form in this clan, he gets in a dig: “He’s actually more eloquent than Dr. Garry”, remarks Danny.
Burgers and pizza arrive, and the Bonaduces dig in. Mouthful of burger notwithstanding, 12 yr. old Isabella announces to the silently chomping group, “I must be the happiest person on the planet right now”. Gretchen does an annoyed double-take; Danny looks guilty and sheepish. Neither rushes in to reassure her, or support what she just ventured to say. True, it may have been a bit dramatic; but she’s 12. What is adolescence for, if not to be emotional? She’s put her heart on her sleeve, but the people she is with are more interested in their thick hamburgers. Her cri de couer falls among the french fries.
As their plates empty, Danny asks Gretchen what her plans are for that evening. She just plans to take the kids home. She returns his question, and Danny says he’ll probably rent a movie and watch it at ‘home’. More awkward silence. Everyone agrees “they’re stuffed” and they all get up from the table. Danny says this has been great, huh? No one answers. “Who had fun?” Gretchen sing-songs, as if to children at Chuck E. Cheese. The kids (by this I mean Isabella and Dante) pipe up, “Me! Me!”. Danny raises his hand. “It’s been an excellent day” he says. Isabella hugs him and says she loves him. Tentatively mimicing the ordering-about she’s likely seen them throw at each other, she ventures, “You’re coming home in four days now” to Danny. He tells her he isn’t coming home in four days. “Yes - four days please,” she snaps out like she is his teacher. “No,” he repeats. “Boooooooo!” Gretchen emits; and she isn’t celebrating Halloween, but using her pet name for her daughter. As it sinks in that her parents still have the upper hand and her wish will not be coming true, Isabella’s schoolmarm facade crumbles, and she’s a child again. She staggers back as if dealt a physical blow. Her face melts into confusion, then anger, then dissolves into tears she tries her best to hide.
The family four kiss their goodbyes on the sidewalk outside the Hard Rock Cafe. This sidewalk is off a busy street, and it’s not the most tender place to say goodbye to one’s father for another unknown length of time, at 12 or 5. My heart goes out to the kids most of all. Kids grow up early in this town. What happens when Isabella hits the age Nicole Richie began partying? Which would be...about a year from now, for Isabella. And how about her relationships - with friends, with other women, and in future romances? Who will she emulate? I so want to hear that both children are in some type of counseling, but, there is no notion of that on this ‘show’. Is this family all in 12 step groups? Al-Anon, Al-ATeen, Codependents Anonymous? Plenty of programs out there. Addiction and mental illness affect the entire family - to paraphrase Blond Kristin, "Together, and separately". Danny and Gretchen's wretched love story is not the vital issue here. Does even little Dante have a place to vent his feelings? Child psychiatrists would be able to tell how he’s handling all this. And what'll happen when Isabella steps into the minefield of her approaching teenage years?
Or are Danny and Gretchen really self-absorbed enough to think it’s not affecting their children? Danny and Gretchen, you are more than grown, at least chronologically. You’ve had a good, long, headlong run at life. What are you doing for your children? We're all sucked into the drama now - but you're not showing us any answers. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon never had children.
Next week’s previews include Danny moving into the mansion’s guest room; more therapy with Dr. Gar; and more 'father/son bonding', as Danny once again proves himself a great role model - he Xeroxes his penis in front of Dante.
And round and round we go. Brandy@fansofrealitytv.com