Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew debuts tonight

Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET, and VH1 says the new series is “the first television series to chronicle the dramatic, unscripted real life experiences of a group of actual celebrities as they make the life-changing decision to enter themselves into a drug, alcohol and addiction treatment program with the sincere desire to achieve true rehabilitation and recovery.” But perhaps a more accurate description comes from ABC News’ headline, which reads, “Pain, Tears, Vomit, Relapse.”

The nine C- and D-list celebs who will experience those things include at least three people who are reality show reality show alumni. The cast consists of Baldwin Daniel Baldwin, porn star Mary Carey, wrestler Chyna Doll, actor Jeff Conaway, porn star Jaimee Foxworth, actor Brigitte Nielsen, UFC fighter Ricco Rodriguez, American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra, and Crazy Town’s Shifty Shellshock. The program failed for at least one person, Jessica Sierra, who was arrested again last month and was just ordered to return to rehab for one year.

How is this entertainment? Dr. Drew himself expressed skepticism. “I wasn’t clear this was a good idea. It sounds exploitive; it certainly could have been, but for the grace of God, I don’t think it was. … Ultimately, I was responsible for treatment, not a good TV show,” he told the Los Angeles Times. However, he told ABC News that the cameras and pay actually helped. “Cameras sort of hold people accountable — they motivate them to keep them going. I was able to do more intensive work because these people were getting paid by the week. They wanted to get paid and they wanted to be on TV,” he said.

Still, VH1 executive Michael Hirschorn told the L.A. Times that this is not an ordinary reality show. “There have been complaints that reality television isn’t real. Well, ‘Celebrity Rehab’ is about as real as it gets. I just don’t think you can watch this show and say, ‘Man, it would be cool to be a drug addict.’ This is about as scared straight as you’re going to get,” he said.

Most critics are not convinced. The Boston Herald’s Mark A. Perigard says the series “is heartless, exploitive and downright toxic.” The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley says it “is actually a form of co-dependence, a channel making its fortune from other people’s misfortune, and unfortunate people relying on a network to revive their careers, a Quaalude pro quo.” Variety’s Brian Lowry says it “is another series cashing in on the seedy underbelly of tabloid-style notoriety.” But The Washington Post’s John Maynard argues the series “is compelling and thoughtful” and “mostly a serious affair as the stars battle their demons.”

Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew [VH1]
Pain, Tears, Vomit, Relapse: the Realities of Rehab Hit Celebrities, Too [ABC News]
VH1 puts reality TV into rehab [Los Angeles Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.