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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living