I’m not a massive reality TV fan. I did the Big Brother thing back when it was good, and I’ve watched a Pop Idol or two, but mostly I find them irritating. The people tend to be either annoying or uninteresting, and this latest explosion of half-reality, half-setup stuff seems very misleading and contrived.
However, I’ve finally found a reality TV show that I am totally on board with. The Big Reunion is an ITV show and subsequent tour, in which six (now seven) bands from the 90s who had acrimonious splits get back together and do it all over again. The show has, so far, charted the rise and fall of each band, how their reunions went, and the first few days of rehearsal. It has been a revelation.
I didn’t realise that being a popstar messed you up quite so much. These people were all treated as objects, went through a whirlwind of highs, worked their fingers to the bone, and then were either dropped from their record labels, or just gave up the fight. On the flip side to that, it’s been amazing to see them all talk quite openly and honestly about the things they got up, the things they’ve been doing since, and what they really think about each other. The editing of this show is sometimes a bit eye-raising, making things seem like they are something they’re not, but it all tends to become clear by the end of the show.
The bands taking part:
- 911 - I did have a poster of one of them on my wall. I can’t remember which one but I know it wasn’t Lee. Having heard their stuff playing on the show, I think I only know about two of their songs.
- The Honeyz - I hadn’t realised they had quite as many songs as they did, and I’d forgotten all about the first woman, mostly recognising the second line-up. It’s weird hearing them go on about how Niamh just couldn’t sing at all - no wonder she didn’t want to come back!
- Liberty X - These are the disappointment of the show, but only because they are all getting on so well. The real drama comes from Michelle Heaton, and to be honest, she’s handling it all fine, so there’s not much drama there either!
- Five - Love these boys. After watching the first episode of The Big Reunion, I snapped up their Greatest Hits and was surprised at how many songs I knew the words to! Really interesting to see how they’ve all grown and changed, but are still the same angry young men. Richie’s Australian/Brummie accent is a wonder to behold!
- B*Witched - I hadn’t realised there were so many issues within B*Witched. I’ve always loved Lindsay, and it’s fascinating to watch the estrangement between Lee and herself. No one seems to have mentioned that Sinead isn’t blond anymore, but they’ve started jigging about wonderfully again.
- Atomic Kitten - Bringing Kerry Katona back was always going to be a risk, but so far they seemed to have coped well. They’re feisty, of course, but far from being the one stealing the limelight, all the attention is on Natasha’s lips!
In the episode we’ve just watched, each band had to perform in front of the other, which was fun to see. In the episode coming next, Blue are going to descend upon the gang and make six bands into seven. Not sure I agree with this on any level because Blue have been together recently and have clearly already worked through any issues they had. Unless losing at Eurovision made them all fall out.
Narrated by Andi Peters, this programme brings back heaps of memories, and is like revelling in what was my era of music. 90s pop is brilliant, and I hope this ITV show becomes available so we can watch it over and over again! You don’t just have to take my word for it either, the Guardian wrote a review of the show which pretty much sums up why I love it.
The Big Reunion should be total rubbish – too many egos, a heady whiff of desperation, 911 creaking out dance routines like your mum and dad at a wedding. It should be awful enough for everyone to tweet about how awful it is, while still remaining glued to ITV2 in anticipation of escalating awfulness.
But it’s not, it’s brilliant. If you haven’t watched The Big Reunion, I highly recommend running the gauntlet of ITV Player. Yes, it features Lee from 911 with a combover, and Irish Popstrels B*Witched looking all grown up and sensible. Yes, those Liberty X rubber catsuits are back after 10 years in storage, which raises all kinds of hygiene concerns. But once you’ve stopped feeling about a billion years old, this is hugely compelling TV; a collection of candid and deeply human tales reflecting the perishable nature of pop stardom, where fame and fortune quickly implode into infighting, identity crises, booze and depression.