TV review: Mad Men has returned for its seventh and final season
The Big Reunion: ITV2 show a brutal look at 5ive and Liberty X
Members of the band 5ive in The Big Reunion. Image.ITV
The Big Reunion is a new ITV2 series in which Atomic Kitten, B*Witched, 5ive, Liberty X, 911 and The Honeyz - six former 1990s pop boybands and girlbands - attempt to reunite and put aside the differences that caused them to split. It's all to perform one last gig at the Hammersmith Apollo.
Boyband star J refusing to rejoin 5ive because he prefers a private life (despite the fact he was happy to share three weeks in front of the camera with Janice Dickinson and Biggins on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2007).
The brutal honesty and candour with which many of the former band members spoke of their demons and darkest days.
I'll be honest; I tuned in to this series opener to take the merciless mickey out of a bunch of pop has-been wannabes (come to think of it, 'Has-Been Wannabes' would have been a brilliant name for the losing quintet on the original ITV talent show, Popstars).
Let's face it, this is not a format with a great track record. Sky Living got Steps back together again for a series of specials last year. And then eked out their comeback until everyone in the land had '5, 6, 7, 8' earworm (I haven't forgiven them yet).
"I tuned in to this series opener to take the merciless mickey..."
So I'm delighted and surprised to say that The Big Reunion wasn't the tiresome, drawn-out hour I'd assumed it would be, although narrator Andi Peters was stretching the truth somewhat when he declared: "Six of the most iconic bands of a generation are reuniting for an epic concert."
He added: "Record label bigwigs threw millions at them and scored platinum hits, from Derby to Doncaster." By my calculations, that is all of 52 miles as the crow flies.
B*Witched, 911, "FHM magazine's sexiest band in the world in 1999" Honeyz, and Atomic Kitten are hardly The Who or The Sex Pistols, are they?
But that aside, episode one was an absorbing hour of open wounds that have barely healed. If you have aspirations to be a pop star, this show made cleaning toilets look a brighter prospect.
The first instalment concentrated on TV show Popstars' losing finalists Liberty X and Simon Cowell's 'male version of the Spice Girls' - 5ive.
5ive pushed the self-destruct button
Far from being the clean-cut, bubblegum pop groups I recall, viewers were reminded just how close to the edge of the proverbial cliff they got.
Liberty X's Michelle Heaton became obsessed with her weight and addicted to slimming pills to the point that she suffered a heart attack.
Bandmate Kevin Simm admitted downing "triple vodka and Red Bulls at 7am" for the kick he said he needed to do pop star things, such as appearing on ITV's Saturday morning music show, CD:UK.
If anything, 5ive's spiral into the abyss was even more self-destructive.
Did you enjoy ITV2's The Big Reunion?
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- 82 %Yes - it was very revealing
- No - it was desperate TV
Far from being brought into line for a bar-room brawl, Ritchie Neville and J were congratulated by Simon Cowell for getting so much publicity.
No disciplinary action was taken against Scott Robinson and Abz Love for setting fire to a hotel room. And so the pattern was set.
There were regular fights, furious rows and bust-ups. Abz "spiralled out of control in a barrage of drink and drugs", and Sean Conlon became so insular that he suffered a breakdown.
That's bad enough, but there was even worse to come for Sean; the humiliation of being rejected by the coaches on BBC1's The Voice in 2012. That's the biggest talent-show sob story I've ever heard.
What made this show, however, was that none of the band shied away from digging the knife in as they spoke of their open resentment of each other from back in the day.
No one had a kind word to say about absent "overpowering" J and, commenting on Sean's absence during their final video shoot, Ritchie said: "The best time I ever had with Sean was as a cardboard cut-out." Charming.
But you can't argue with the record sales - a total of 50 million between the six bands.
It's probably why Atomic Kitten's Liz McClarnon admitted being "petrified" about the reunion, Liberty X's Jessica Taylor found the whole notion "terrifying", and Simon "Spike" Dawbarn, of 911, declared: "It's going to go one of two ways. Either I'm going to be able to handle it this time, or it will go proper tits up and you won't see me for four or five months."
As Sean Conlon said, with an air of regret and maturity, of 5ive's fall from grace: "Just too much, too soon, too young." Too right.
The Big Reunion didn't pull its punches, although by the time this series gets around to the comeback gig, I suspect it will have already peaked.
- Verdict: A surprisingly sober tale of the downfalls of being a pop star.
What people on Twitter said
@StephenMulhern (the TV presenter) - "The Big Reunion on ITV2 is genius!"
@louloubell1985 - "I realise this makes me a total loser, but, The Big Reunion is already the best thing to happen to me in 2013. LOL"
@_poplovedance - "ITV2's new pop reunion show was something special!"
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