Kerry and Me | Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne | TV Review

Kerry Katona lives a life of unquiet desperation. How will another documentary help?

It is a matter of voluminous public record that ex-Atomic Kitten member and 2004 I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here winner Kerry Katona has bipolar disorder, the lingering effects of an appalling childhood (periodically neglected by her mother and put in care) and lurches apparently unstoppably from one drug, drink or paparazzi-induced crisis to another. She ranks, in short, among the most painfully and obviously vulnerable celebrities working – or not working as the case may be – today.

Before the opening credits of Kerry and Me (Channel 4) roll, therefore, the question already looms as to whether anyone can seriously justify inviting her to expose more of herself and the chaos in which she lives to further public scrutiny. Lynn Alleway hangs her documentary on the desire "to find out what life was like as a celebrity when no one wants you any more".

So we, unsurprisingly, watch Katona unravel. And soon Alleway is granted the further boon of Kerry announcing her intention to divorce her husband, Mark Croft, which unleashes a fresh hell on everyone involved, not least the household's four cowed and bewildered children. While "on a high", she berates them. "You miserable bunch. You think you have problems . . . " "I do," says the seven-year-old quietly. "Boring, aren't they?" says her mother by way of reply. Depressed, she simply tells them wearily to shut their faces, "or I'll knock you out".

It is clear – as Katona ricochets from agent to agent, alternately rages at and sobs into her unlovely husband's shoulder, reviling and courting the paps – that she leads a life of unquiet desperation, and it makes for increasingly uncomfortable viewing. Katona does not have the ability to offer any analysis of her life, her difficulties or her motivations. She appears to live entirely from moment to moment with no comprehension of possible consequences for herself or for others.

And there's Alleway, filming it all, near enough without comment, presumably out of some misguided sense of preserving journalistic neutrality. But as it wears on, neutrality actually starts to look like a mask for two things – hypocrisy and cowardice. The hypocrisy exists in her failure to address the problem of how far she herself is part of the media attention that Katona seems doomed to seek, along with money, for ever – as some kind of infernal substitute for the love she lacked as a child. Can you really, in good conscience, make yourself part of that?

If you think you can, then to what end? If you have aspirations to anything beyond simple voyeurism, then you need to ask some hard questions. Can Katona define this "better life" she says she's aiming for? Can she see how many of her mother's mistakes she is repeating, or does she think that her more moneyed lifestyle changes everything? What degree of self-awareness does she have? Does she know how glaring her failures appear to the viewer, and would she care if she did?

Alleway rarely encourages Katona to reflect on her actions. She hides behind mealy-mouthed narration ("I couldn't help thinking," she comments as Croft outlines his plans for his wife to appear in the skanky pubs he supplies with slot machines, "that Mark's vision of Kerry's future is not the same as hers") and it all makes for a depressing and unedifying programme at every level.

So let us turn to something far more uplifting. In the second part of Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne (BBC2), our choirmaster, his wardrobe of unashamed jumpers and his motley crew of 50 young, untrained teenagers embark on rehearsals for the modern opera they are going to sing in three weeks' time at the Sussex opera house.

As we watched him deal with shy Kiya, the relatively unmusical but hardworking Stefan, and the talented but recalcitrant Korroll, it struck me that the joy of any programme involving Malone is that he has perfect pitch in everything. He sees each member of his choir in the round and provides each one with exactly the right amount of praise, cajolery or castigation. The praise is never forced, the castigation never shrill. He lays out, as clearly as the notes on a page, a teenager's options and consequences with a kind of detached compassion that never alienates or angers him or her, yet forces them to take responsibility for their actions.

He's a human tuning fork, resonating at whatever frequency is needed. I'm very tempted to put him into Katona's house, lock the door – and not watch but wait.


Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

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