March 07, 2005

INTERVENTION, brought to you by "Hostage"

INTERVENTION is A&E's new offering in "reality" TV. Hostage is a movie that advertised during last night's episode. You can't make this stuff up.

One of the other advertisers was "Parents: the anti-drug," a group that humors me and pisses me off to no end, because if you're drinking or whatever and hiding it from your kids, when they find out, they'll only want to do it all the more. If you're completely clean and sober, well, kids like to rebel against whatever's available. If you're the addict and the legal parent, your child probably has done more than her share of nurturing you than the reverse.

When Intervention's two featured white, well-off addicts (one, a 30something-year-old male mortgage banker to coke; the other, a 28ish female, apparently including a White House internship among her accomplishments, to opiates, including her dying father's morphine pills), each agree, almost docilely and gratefully, to go into rehab, what they are doing is hitting bottom in the reality-show 15-minutes-of-fame spin cycle.

Here's the part that confuses me: These are not stupid people. Presumably, they were of sound mind when they have signed legal waivers to allow the whole process -- glimpses at drug spiral down, parents and friends bemoaning the addict's condition while watching it progress in fast motion -- and then, the "intervention," to be filmed. Of course, being of sound mind and being on major drugs seem impossible as simultaneously existing conditions, but who am I to notice? If this is reality, please pass the drugs.

I have never known an "intervention" to work, except on ER, and that is a fictional drama. I have always known addicts who were very crafty and manipulative and managed to get themselves released from treatment centers before the 28 days of insurance plus 5 days of detox ran out. Or people like The Croquet Player, who gave up his precious Budweiser (after decades of brand loyalty) in favor of vodka in mineral-water bottles for those occasions when he need appear publically.

These addicts on TV most definitely have wealthy families. Both agree to 90-day rehabs. Wanna talk about being held hostage? Who's footing the bill? On what planet were their friends and family able to live in such great denial? Has there been no progress in the war-against-drugs in the last 20 years? I'm not offering Nancy Reagan up for more than a snicker, but wasn't just-say-no a big deal in 1980s PSAs?

A.A. began in 1935 -- two years after the raging success that was Prohibition was repealed. Hazelton opened in 1949. Betty Ford opened in 1982, and the word (as well as the official number of drug treatment/rehab programs) spread from there.

Twenty years ago I visited family and friends in rehab. Twenty-five years ago, I knew alcoholics (and addicts) my own age. Thirty years ago, I drank like one -- at the age of 14. By the time I was legal, at 18, I couldn't drink any longer because I got migraine headaches within an hour of ingesting even the finest of wines.

Would friends and family have kept their distance and their denial if, say, the subject had been mental illness? That seems to be the last frontier in reality TV, inasmuch as I can judge from the commercials. (I haven't seen more than five minutes of any of the "reality" prime time programs in however many years they have been running. The news is another story. Let's just say reality is in the eye of the spinmeister.)

I'm waiting for next week's reality show, Committed.

The theme music for Intervention previews was the Barenaked Ladies' "What a Good Boy." I Googled the lyrics to find the band, which I had heard of but could not identify in a lineup. The lyrics puzzle me:

"When I was born, they looked at me and said,
'What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.'
And when you were born, they looked at you and said,
'What a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.....

"I wake up scared, I wake up strange.
I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever going to change.
I wake up scared, I wake up strange
and everything around me stays the same.....

"This song is the cross that I bear,
bear it with me, bear with me, bear with me, be with me tonight,
I know that it isn't right, but be with me tonight."

There used to be a saying, "nobody wants to grow up to be a junkie." These days, you can be just an ordinary girl from upper-middle-class America and smoke and snort your way to some variation on fame and stardom. In the old days, you had to have some talent to make your name hit the papers when you OD'd in a hotel room or zipped into rehab.

So, tell me: does the saying still apply? Or is a stint in rehab a job requirement?


Blogger the dot said...

Saw the show my one question. Why would parents let their 28 year old drug addicted daughter live in their house? Are they just stupid or better yet they wanted to be on TV!

12:15 PM  

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