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This March 3, 2014 image released by ABC shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, having his forehead wiped by host Jimmy Kimmel on the late night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live," in Los Angeles. (Randy Holmes/AP)
This March 3, 2014 image released by ABC shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, having his forehead wiped by host Jimmy Kimmel on the late night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live," in Los Angeles. (Randy Holmes/AP)

How Rob Ford is hooked on the intoxicating fumes of fame Add to ...

After his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, some say that in the annals of the notorious, the fame-hungry and the flame-outs, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is up there with John Bobbitt and Joey Buttafuoco.

Need reminding? Bobbitt is the chap whose penis was cut off by his angry wife in 1993. It was later reattached, and for years Bobbitt was the butt of jokes on late-night TV, and much sought for TV appearances. Buttafuoco was an auto-shop owner on Long Island who had an affair with 16-year-old Amy Fisher, and Fisher shot his wife, Mary Jo, in the face in 1992.

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In 2002, Buttafuoco appeared on the Fox show Celebrity Boxing, where he was supposed to box John Bobbitt, but Bobbitt withdrew. Buttafuoco became a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show.

It is both wrong and a disservice to both men to suggest that Rob Ford, celebrity mayor, admitted drinker and drug user, hoser, is on the same celebrity level. He’s more at the level of a hot-dog-eating champ. Bobbitt and Buttafuoco grasped the brevity of their notoriety, their trash-fame, flamed-out and faded away. Ford just won’t do that.

There are some who might say, after the Kimmel appearance, that Rob Ford is up there with Tiny Tim. Mr. Tim, to those of you not old enough to remember, was a falsetto-voiced ukulele player who married his sweetheart Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show in 1969, to record-breaking ratings.

No, Rob Ford is not Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim had the distinction of being able to play the ukulele with aplomb.

What all of them share is the experience of being intoxicated by fame and, consequently, misunderstanding all they see. Television does the damage by delivering fame to these people. The public enables them by enjoying it all with titters and jokes.

Perhaps the case of Rob Ford suggests we’ve come full circle in the celebrity racket. Bobbitt and Buttafuoco gained notoriety in the first wave of tabloid TV – the era of A Current Affair and Hard Copy. Syndicated, predatory, high-octane shows with lurid reporting and a jokey tone. In turn, tabloid TV begat the reality-TV genre – what started with such things as Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire and Joe Millionaire, and then The Bachelor and its copycat shows.

Reality TV shifted the political culture slightly – the belief that “everyday” people, inarticulate, rough-hewn and with many personal foibles, are truly meaningful public figures. Sarah Palin was the first political beneficiary – a person seen as fascinating by being authentic, populist and disdainful about urbanity. Rob Ford benefited from the same perceptions, all shaped by TV.

But the Kimmel show had the air of tabloid TV. The subtly confrontational style of Kimmel harked back to the glory days of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. Kimmel’s approach amounted to, “Here, look at your mess!” and “Get help!”

Misunderstanding, thanks to the intoxicating fumes of fame, Ford thinks he’s still on some political adventure, done reality-TV style. He’s not. On Kimmel he wasn’t mocked, he was shamed, made to watch his own mess and told to clean it up.

He is now so much less, lower on the fame ladder than John Bobbitt and Joey Buttafuoco because they went away after the intoxicating, then-traumatizing, experience of notoriety.

Rob Ford, as he says, isn’t going anywhere.

Airing Thursday

Spun Out

(CTV, 8:30 p.m.) is a new comedy that, among other things, marks Dave Foley’s return to series TV in Canada. It’s no masterpiece of humour, this workplace sitcom set at a PR agency that Foley’s character, Dave Lyons, owns.

The first two episodes don’t quite click – there’s something odd about the murky look to it. However, it is raised to a level of pleasant enjoyment by an excellent ensemble cast. While Foley’s smirking rich-guy thing is fun, the younger cast members, especially Paul Campbell as office newbie Beckett Ryan, are into the work with great relish. CTV is putting lots of effort into promoting Spun Out and giving it a cushy start following The Big Bang Theory. It’s a lot to put into a still-flimsy show, but it does deliver a few delicious laughs.

Seed (CITY-TV, 9 p.m.) returns for a second season. Good. A superior comedy to Spun Out in its deftness and unexpected quirks, it evolves now into a relationship-comedy-on-dope. Sperm donor and man-boy Harry (Adam Korson) and Rose (Carrie-Lynn Neales), the new mom, are on some sort of wacky journey and, around then, the other people Harry facilitated are still grappling with his dumbness. But he’s not dumb at all. That’s what makes Seed good – it’s a very contemporary, knowing, off-kilter comedy.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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