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tuning in to major tune-out
digesting vh1's celebrity rehab with dr. drew
by alex b (@Lexistential)

A few days ago, I spent a lazy afternoon at my new pad eating steak and eggs while channel-surfing with my friends John and Jen. After seeing a few commercials for "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" featuring Brigitte Nielsen and a bloated Baldwin brother, we immediately decided to tune in. Watching Z-grade celebrities' drug-related mea culpa in boot camp appeared to be good fun.

But instead of feeling entertained, I was blown away.

"Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" turned out to be a stark portrait of the effects of excessive addictions within eight specific Hollywood familiars. With Brigitte Nielsen, former pro wrestler Chyna, "American Idol" finalist Jessica Sierra, porn star Mary Carrey, Crazy Town vocalist Seth Binzer, actor Daniel Baldwin, "Family Matters" actress Jaimee Foxworth, and "Grease" alum Jeff Conaway each willingly participating, "Celebrity "Rehab" called "Trainspotting" to mind; just as the British film presented an eye-opening, unsentimental, and altogether raw look at heroin addiction, VH-1's program portrayed the difficulties of drug rehabilitation with identical tones and trademark reality-TV touches.

Together with John and Jen, I watched Baldwin confer with Dr. Drew about as much as having one hundred nanograms of metabolized cocaine in his bloodstream; we also became astonished to learn of the seemingly squeaky-clean Jessica Sierra's three day-long cocaine and alcohol binges. We watched Seth Binzer openly score and smoke crack, Brigitte Nielsen confess to being a decades-long drunk, and Mary Carrey question the recovery center's decision to confiscate her dildos because of its no-sex policy. We even stared open-mouthed when we found out that Foxworth's post-"Family Matters" career revolved around porn films such as More Black Dirty Debutantes 30 and smoking over a dozen marijuana blunts a day.

At that, I screeched, "How the hell can anyone smoke twelve?"

However, the opening episode of "Celebrity Rehab" consisted of more than slightly narcissistic confessions and consultations with Dr. Drew, and delivered its greatest punch by showing the raw detox of Jeff Conaway. John, Jen, and I immediately became horrified when a visibly loaded and aged Conaway confessed to abusing alcohol, cocaine, Oxycotin, Vicodin, Zoloft, Xanax, and a bevy of other presciption drugs, and grew even more astonished when he started hallucinating from drug withdrawal. But, when we saw the once-adorable T-Bird experience a seizure in first night in rehab, Jen burst out in astonishment.

"Oh my God" she said. "I was in love with Kenickie."

"I don't think you are anymore," replied John.

"Maybe we shouldn't watch this," she suggested.

As my stomach turned, I said, "Maybe we'd better watch the rest of it."

After the shock and horror of seeing the haggard Conaway passed, my friends and I shook our heads as we took in the rest of the show in relative silence. But, like the televised rehabbers, I too felt intrigued by their chance for accomplishing sobriety. Like Jen and John, I wondered whether appearing on a reality show and confessing to every dirty detail could make a difference for celebrities struggling with drug addiction, then felt slightly embarrassed for wanting to see each sordid aspect of their recovery. I regretted my initial mockery of "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew," especially because the show has the potential to make a difference for the better.

So, I've set my DVR to record the entire series, and I'm prepared to watch.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

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sandra thompson
1.14.08 @ 9:44a

Thanks, Alex, for watching it. Now I don't have to. Detox is the worst part. Back in the sixties I was a volunteer counselor at a Methadone clinic. All nearly a dozen of my junkies (yes, they were MY junkies and I loved each and every one of them!) successfully kicked heroine, but not a single one of us quit smoking. I only kinew what they were going through with the heroine vicariously, but the nicotine withdrawal was experienced by all of us when, in a fit of not thinking at all, apparently, we decided as a group to quit smoking. Hah!

adam kraemer
1.14.08 @ 1:07p

I do appreciate that you spelled "Kenickie" correctly.

Invite me over next time, dammit.

tracey kelley
1.14.08 @ 1:36p

I don't know. This whole thing disgusts me. I still think it's cheap programming on VH1's part, and every time I see senior V.P. Bill Flanagan on another show posing as a music expert, it makes me scream. The station is a farce, and this is just one of many shows that it produces that really, has no meaning at all.

If they featured current celebs or music stars as a demonstration to the "younger generation" that drugs are bad, I'd believe it a bit more. And I think Dr. Drew is slightly more credible than others in his line of TV-fixer-uppers.

But rehashing Chyna or Nielson as "celebrities?" Please. These women deserve help, certainly, but they've spent YEARS perpetuating they're "career" on that network. It's disgusting. I can't believe anything they do is "real".

And it's safe for the network to feature "celebrities going through rehab" in a controlled environment, instead of shooting in say, Iowa, at the meth clinics.

VH1 is a pox, a blight on "entertainment." Too bad it can't generate any programming dollars featuring people doing good things, in the arts, in public service, anything. No. It has to continue exploiting B actors women (Rock of Love or Flava of Love, anyone?), and stupidity (I Love New York). Everyone involved, even those who agree to perform like the circus monkeys they are, ought to be ashamed.

robert melos
1.14.08 @ 11:48p

The thing about shows like Celebrity Rehab is the celebrities are getting paid for their participation. In real rehab the participants don't get paid for participating or completing the program.

Most people have to pay for treatment. Even if they qualify for one of those free programs someone foots the bill. In Dr. Drew's case VH1 pays him to treat these people. They only pay him, and the participants, because the advertisers pay them. Advertisers pay because consumers want this kind of sensationalism.

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