Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain, part 2 review - she clutched fame so tight it shattered in her hands
“Shilpa Poppadom.” With these two words, Jade Goody’s brief but eventful career hit its nadir. This was a fairytale gone dark and there would be no happily ever after.
A decade since the death of the reality TV alumnus, three-part documentary Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain (Channel 4) reached its midway point. Last time, we relived Jade Goody’s steep ascent to fame in the 2002 series of Big Brother. Now came her crashing fall.
Having become the first reality TV millionaire, Goody could seemingly do no wrong. We opened with sweet footage of her defying those who sniped that she was talentless by winning Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes. As country diva Lynn Anderson, her song “Rose Garden” went, perhaps prophetically: “Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometime.”
She encouraged her gruff-voiced mother Jackiey Budden - “the one-armed lesbian crackhead”, as she was charmingly dubbed by tabloids - to have a glamorous makeover. Filmed for a reality show, naturally. Having split with the father of her children, Jeff Brazier, Goody found new love with Essex lad Jack Tweed - an 18-year-old apprentice electrician who initially lied that he was a 22-year-old football agent. They soon became a celebrity couple, selling photoshoots and tell-all interviews for eye-watering fees.
Goody had become a one-women entertainment industry until she made the fateful mistake of agreeing to return to the Big Brother house after five years - this time with her mother and boyfriend, for the 2007 celebrity edition. The franchise had made her. Now it would break her.
The dynamic between housemates was already uneasy, with established celebrities - Jermaine Jackson, The A-Team’s Dirk Benedict, late director Ken Russell shuffling around in his slippers - bemused by this gobby working-class clan. To stoke conflict, producers introduced a “Masters & Servants” task and tensions built to combustible levels.
Rocker Donny Tourette climbed over the wall, sneering: “I’m not waiting hand-and-foot on some moron and her family.” Singer Leo Sayer went berserk and escaped too. Budden was unceremoniously evicted first, without a chance to say her goodbyes. Goody felt like she’d thrown her ill-equipped mother to the wolves outside and was distraught.
She ganged up with glamour model Danielle Lloyd and S Club 7’s Jo O’Meara - sniggering sidekicks who came across worse than Goody herself - against Indian film star Shilpa Shetty, who was Bollywood royalty and accustomed to having real servants. Producers lost control of the drama they’d manufactured.
The ignorantly bigoted bullying culminated with Goody hurling abuse at Shetty and calling her “Shilpa F---awalla, Shilpa Poppadom or summink”. A police investigation was launched, Ofcom received a record 48,000 complaints and the racism scandal was discussed in the House of Commons. Goody became an international hate figure and effigies of her were burned in India. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were forced to comment. Reliving all this felt frankly bizarre.
It worked ratings-wise at least, with viewing figures rocketing to nearly 9m. Goody was evicted with no public reception and made to tearfully confront what she had done. While Shetty was crowned the contest’s winner, Goody was vilified and had a breakdown. Her tumultuous journey had taken her from a Bermondsey council estate to an Essex mansion and now The Priory.
This episode was a marked improvement on the opener, which lacked analysis and relied too much on Noughties nostalgia. The stakes were now higher, the talking heads more heavyweight: the likes of political reporter Nick Robinson and newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy, rather than the crowing showbiz hacks, predatory paparazzi and weaselly phone-tappers who left such a sour taste last week.
Dermot O’Leary, then presenter of spin-off programme Big Brother’s Little Brother, almost stole the show with an hilarious anecdote about Sayer’s furious flounce from the house. After a hissy fit about a lack of clean underpants, the diminutive Seventies star departed in high dudgeon and melodramatically refused to talk to anyone but the police. Sayer strode over to a nearby patrol car, leaned on the bonnet and waited impatiently for the officers to return - not realising that The Bill was filmed next door at Elstree Studios and the car was merely a prop.
It was a shame that Shetty herself wasn’t interviewed - not to mention a misstep that virtually everyone discussing the racism row was white, with Guru-Murthy the only participant of colour. This only served to reinforce the programme’s point that Channel 4 is run by middle-aged, middle-class execs who mean well but often falter when confronted with the real world.
That blind spot aside, this was a non-judgmental portrait of a girl who grabbed her shot at fame and fortune with both hands - but clutched it so tight that it shattered in her hands. What could have been a trashy clips-and-cuttings job was stylishly produced and surprisingly thoughtful. Next week comes Goody's very public death. You couldn't make it up.