Dealing with serious addiction is soul wrenching, to be certain.
Why do it on TV?
Intervention on A&E offers a voyeuristic, gritty look at addiction and its effects on loved ones, families and friends. As the show title implies, the goal and final act is to encourage or softly threaten treatment at a facility (one that always requires getting on a plane right there, right now). Given A&E stands for “Arts and Entertainment” (although Gene Simmons Family Jewels on a channel bearing that acronym is a bit of an oxymoron) the series is deep and serious in tone. But it begs the question; is agreeing to be filmed for a documentary about addiction (the premise given participants) while in the fog of a chemical or other reality-altering mind-set valid? Maybe they’re too stoned, tweaked, starving or drunk to realize the dupe. Or like many acts of self destruction, perhaps it’s a televised cry for help. And costly treatment may be something regular Kurt and Courtney’s couldn’t get without media exposure as the price paid.
Another season of the VH1 series Celebrity Rehab premiers this week, although the term “celebrity” is more defined as gosh-you-look-familiar-did-we-go-to-the-same-school-I-just-can’t-place-it.
After watching an extended premier clip, former American Idol contestant Nikki McKibbin’s snippet is pure heartbreak. After doing lines with her MOTHER in a bathroom, Mom went home, took her meds and died. That’s some serious, sad shit.
Jeff Conaway is back for another madcap, wacky season. I remember Jeff Conaway as Bobby Wheeler on Taxi, all high-waisted jeans, brown Naugahyde jacket and feathered hair. I had such a 12-year old girl crush on him. He’s back and star of the show, nasal voice and creepy Uncle/baby talk, a stooped over and shuffling old man. And seemingly desperate for attention. The pain and painkiller addiction is quiet real; apparently he’s had severe back problems and many surgeries. But he’s been clouded and acting it out since Celebrity Fit Club. As an actor, does he consider these VH1 stints his job, his craft? Like when phlebotomists say they work in medicine?
Fame, or the faint smell of it, must be so intoxicating. Just 15 more minutes, please.
We’re all addicts, slaves to things that feel good in the moment. Sex, food, drink, shopping, TV. Some of us hide it better, some can stop for breaks, some manage pain well enough to function each day, however hanging by a string. When used to mask something darker, when it destroys, when co-enabled it becomes something frightening. Addiction and recovery is real and raw; it can cost or reclaim lives and dignity.
Why play it out on TV? Guess for the same reason cars slow past a bad accident. Or why Jerry Springer has been on the air since the early 1990s. We can watch and judge and compare and breathe a sigh knowing how really messed up other people are.
And damn, I watch a lot of reality TV.