Here’s the set-up for a deeply fascinating bit of reality television: Tiffany “New York” Pollard of VH1 fame is on Celebrity Brother in the United Kingdom, along with Angela Bowie—ex-wife of the late David Bowie—and David Gest—ex-husband of Liza Minelli.
The episode that aired on Tuesday shows Angela Bowie being notified of David’s death. (She agreed to keep filming.) Bowie decides to tell New York of the news privately, but things immediately get lost in translation. When Bowie says simply that “David died,” New York believes her to be talking about their housemate Gest. New York presses for clarification and Bowie explains that “David” died of cancer and that it “just happened,” which only further sends her into a frenzy.
The rest—a chaotic depiction of grief that is both real and real but nonetheless imagined—simply needs to be watched. (The conspiracy theorist might argue that New York understood Bowie perfectly well but quickly saw an opening to manufacture the sort of drama that drives most reality television. Maybe that’s true, but if so New York should be acting in movies.)
Reality shows exist to capture and/or facilitate moments that are excruciating or hilarious or jaw-dropping or sad but rarely do you get it all served to you in one bite.