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If Jimmy McNulty played it safe, The Wire wouldn't pack such a punch. The binge-drinking and the womanizing and the massive lapses of judgement make him more interesting to watch, and easier to relate to. Same for Jake Sully, Jack Bauer and all the modern heroes on our TV screens. Take away their flaws, and you take away their character. Lose the ups and downs, and you lose the chance to ride the rollercoaster with them.

After all, where's the drama in a moderately happy, fairly comfortable existence? [see figure A]. No one's perfect, and everyone struggles with their own problems. So it's not surprising that our real life heroes and heroines have their own public ups and downs. [see figure B].

Lately, there have been quite a few Tiger Woods, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Vernon Kay Too bad for them. But could it be good for them too? Is doing the dirty ever good for your brand?

From the spectacular fall from grace of a global icon to the pitiful transgressions of a text message sex pest, getting everything wrong is sometimes a chance to get everything right in a new way. The bigger the fall, the bigger the opportunity for reinvention.

So part of me not only expects to see Tiger Woods win his comeback Masters, but also launch his own edgy fashion label. Open a chain of nightclubs. Start accepting lovable rogue parts in Hollywood blockbuster movies. Create, star in and direct his own semi-autobiographical TV show about a serial shagger (to self-consciously outdo David Duchovny's). Become America's no. 1 TV chef. Find God and get elected Governor of somewhere the list is endless. And so are the possibilities for any shamed celebrity who can a) show they're still moderately nice on the inside and b) take their fans with them. Good luck Ashley Cole.

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