In this column, I throw around the term "trainwreck TV" a lot.
Pumkin spitting on New York on Flavor Of Love, Marie Osmond dressed as a life-size doll on Dancing With The Stars, would-be William Hungs getting their 15 minutes of infamy on American Idol, Fear Factor-style food challenges on A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila...that's the stuff I'm usually referring to.
But you know, if you take the word "trainwreck" literally...well, actual trainwrecks aren't really all that funny, are they? And my point is, the new VH1 intervention show Celebrity Rehab has more in common with a real-life catastrophic, carnage-laden derailing than a proverbial,Tila Tequila-esque one.
The show features several end-of-their-rope D-listers attempting to exorcise their drug demons with the help of "addictionologist" Dr. Drew (from the call-in radio advice show Loveline). And last night's debut episode, "Intake," was heavy, heavy stuff, starting with home video that the rehabbers shot themselves before checking in.
Highlights--or should I say lowlights?--of that amateur footage included Crazy Town's Shifty (whose bandmate Rust Epique died a couple years ago, of possibly drug-related heart failure) freebasing cocaine, and off-arrested American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra (who bears a disturbing resemblance to Courtney Love these days) puking her guts out into a toilet after mixing medications.
This show is in fact so bleak that even camera hog Flavor Flav apparently wants nothing to do with it--he wasn't mentioned at ALL during Celebrity Rehab's bio piece on rehabitant Brigitte Nielsen, despite the fact that he's appeared with her on The Surreal Life, Strange Love, and Flavor Of Love 1. And another frequent VH1 celebreality star keeping his distance from Celebrity Rehab is Brigitte's former Surreal Life Fame Games housemate, recovering addict C.C. Deville of Poison, whose face was pixelated beyond recognition in any archival footage of him and Brigitte from the Fame Games show.
Anyway, Celebrity Rehab might seem exploitative, but I actually think this will be one of the more quality reality shows on the air--because it actually has some sort of message, unlike all the other reality shows, from Elimidate to Rock Of Love to The Real World, that simply display a never-ending, consequence-free parade of drunken, poledancing party people. And in this Amy Winehouse-soundtracked era of easy-in/easy-out rehab, with superstar patients seemingly leaving treatment facility grounds every hour or so to go rollerblading or grab a Starbucks latte, it's easy to assume that a rehab stint is some sort of weekend-detox spa vacation; Celebrity Rehab just may reveal how dark, desperate, and difficult the recovery process truly is.
I know it's always hard to look away from any sort of "trainwreck," but this is one trainwreck that everyone really ought to watch.