The debut episode of the new series of ‘Peter Andre: My Life” was as cynical an exercise in TV-making as I have ever seen.
Now, firstly, it’s important to say that Peter Andre is obviously a sweet, harmless fellow, who brings fun and a smile to the face of many a devoted fan - whose devotion he repays with attention, hugs and a willingness to smile for the camera. There are definitely far worse examples of celebrity around.
However... we were told repeatedly that it had been only four weeks since Peter’s brother tragically lost his fight against cancer, and here the Australian singer was, valiantly, back on the road. His publicists were at pains to point out that the singer was, quite understandably, not himself - preoccupied and listless. Either he, or they, or the understanding voiceover, felt it necessary to expound on this theme... that “Pete’s world will never be the same... it’s been shattered... it’s still very raw...”
Which would all be utterly deserving of sympathy and understanding, if the same publicists weren’t trussing him up in a tuxedo and tousling his gelled hair in preparation for his big return to public life... like Princess Diana in reverse... on the red carpet of the National Television Awards, one of the biggest, paparazzi-dazzling events on the media calendar, for heaven’s sake.
“So far we’ve managed to get rid of the press,” one says triumphantly, seemingly forgetting that this is Peter Andre we’re talking about, the man whose symbiotic relationship with the media is the whole basis on which he still has a career.
“He’s got to grieve in public,” says another. No, he doesn’t! “He doesn’t need this,” says another. So why go?? Was it really worth all this brave face energy just to share red carpet oxygen with Mark Wright??? By now, I was chewing my shoe in frustration at the whole mechanism by which these people were putting this grieving man up for show and - let’s face it - feeding off the added Garbo-esque intrigue in his freshly bereaved circumstances. It wasn’t exploitative, because he was conspiring in it, but even so, it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
Made even worse when he came face to face with one devoted fan, a beautiful teenager with only weeks to live. Undoubtedly moving was her joy at meeting her idol and his sympathy for her. Very much less so was his disappearing shortly afterwards as it got too much for him, and he relived his own grief away from the camera. Except he stayed MIKED UP, just in case we missed it.
I preferred Peter Andre when he was happily milking the entrails of his marriage to Katie Price, still the ghost at this particular banquet with a badly-timed Tweet that Pete felt he had to deal with. “I’m not responding to that...” he said, shortly before telling the world via Twitter how he wasn’t responding. Ok, we got that.
Peter Andre’s at his best when he’s at home, being a dad to his pretty children, but even here more warning bells of disingenuity continue to chime. “I just want them to have as normal a life as possible,” he tells the camera crew perched at the bottom of the stairs. “Never has private time been more precious,” he remarks to the entourage following him onto the zip-wire at a fun park. “It’s just good to be with people you trust and care about,” he decides, before heading back out on tour to sing a song that was in the charts more than a decade ago.
If he thinks he’s doing it for the fans, fine. If he’s really doing it for himself, equally fine. But hearing that he’s “braved it” because he managed to walk up a red carpet without breaking down in tears... Would crying for a lost brother not have been the actions of a “brave man”? Or should he perhaps not have been there at all?
Peter Andre is evidently a nice enough lad, and a loving family man, but this programme - even more than any other he’s made turning the cameras on his life - made me wonder if he really knows what on earth he’s doing.