From Winona to Angus, now we know how long rehabilitation takes

Back in the day you did something bad, you were found out, and that was it.


What makes a successful rehabilitation these days? How do you know when it’s OK to face the world, after that terrible thing you did, two or five or 20 years ago? How much conspicuous shame must you express before the general public likes you again?

Once it was simple. You did something bad, you were found out, and that was it. You either clamped a 12-bore to your head or emigrated to Australia. But after the 1960s, British society came over all magnanimous. When John Profumo resigned as MP after sleeping with a prostitute, lying to Parliament and toppling the Conservative government, he worked as a volunteer cleaning lavatories in an East End charity hall – and in 1975 he was given the CBE, perhaps for services to hair-shirt wearing. Shame in sufficient quantity brought rehabilitation.

High-profile Americans don’t do shame. They do confession. When Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting clothes, she went on TV to explain how she suffered from anxiety and depression. When Robert Downey Jnr was arrested for drugs and gun possession, he discussed his addictive personality on Oprah Winfrey’s show. And they didn’t need to wait for the public to forgive them; they had to wait until they were pronounced insurable by film companies.

These reflections are prompted by the case of Angus Deayton, a man whose career has been shadowed by scandal and whose last 10 years have been a curious journey of enforced rehabilitation. In 2002, Deayton was forced to resign from Have I Got News For You after allegations in the News of the World of coke-snorting and three-in-a-bed malarkey. Deayton never displayed remorse, nor presented himself as ill. He simply bided his time, while the BBC tied itself in knots wondering what to do with him. They knew most of his audience wanted him back in the show, but had to pretend to be ashamed on his behalf.

There followed a cat-and-mouse game in which the Corporation proffered their former star to small, try-out audiences, like a lion-tamer offering little snacks to the lion to see if it would eat them or devour him instead. After a year, he was allowed to be a guest on a radio comedy show. After two years, he was cast in a TV comedy that went out on the wastelands of BBC Three. After four years, the Beeb let him present a TV charity show. After another decent interval, he was finally back on BBC1 in 2007 fronting Would I Lie To You? until he got into trouble again for making rude jokes about Jimmy Savile. Yesterday, the BBC announced Deayton’s coming back to the fold in Waterloo Road, the mainstream drama set in a dysfunctional school.

It took Profumo 12 years to have his transgression officially forgiven. It took Deayton five. And guess what? It took Winona Ryder the same period to get back into movies (with A Scanner Darkly in 2006.) And Robert Downey Jnr had to wait five years before the insurers would trust him again. So it’s five years. That’s the decent interval now.

The battle for Papal disapproval

Just before midday yesterday, seated on a white throne, with awful majesty the Pope extended a prehensile forefinger to a papal iPad and sent his first tweet. His account @pontifex has already got 840,000 followers, most of whom immediately leapt into action to complain about abusive priests, ask if he likes Justin Beiber or suggest he gets in touch with @DalaiLama.

This is not, I fear, what the great man’s advisers had in mind. He hoped to communicate with millions longing for spiritual refreshment. What the millions really long for is to be hilariously abusive enough to be blocked on Twitter by the Supreme Pontiff. How cool is that?


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Java Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn