On March 17, 2011, I published The Death of Mike Starr Questions the Value of Celebrity Rehab in our Celebrity Semiotic blog:

I find Celebrity Rehab and Sober House to be depressive and memeingless.  The toxic relationships are difficult to tender and impossible to abide.  Should rehab and therapy and healing be done in private and away from the public square or shown weekly on VH1?  I can’t imagine anyone who is addicted ever wanting to attend a rehab program after watching those Pinsky train wreck soap operas.

I am most disappointed in Drew Pinsky, who appears to be a good man, but his direct involvement in the exploitation of celebrity addiction is stunning because he is trained to know better.  Drew Pinsky must know those people need privacy and ongoing, deep, therapy away from the very lights and microphones that likely helped push them down the path to their addiction in the first place.

Some commenters on that story, and in hate mail sent via via email, thrashed me for failing to see the good in the show.

I stood by that article then — as I do now — and today, I am thrilled to share with you the news that Bob Forrest — one of the producers and co-creators of Celebrity Rehab — also shares my dismay with the very show he founded.

Here’s what Bob told the Los Angeles Times last week:

By 2008, Pinsky and Forrest were on the air with their first class of addicts and the show quickly became a guilty-pleasure hit, spawning the spinoffs “Sober House” and “Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew.” Since then, the show has drawn criticism from others in the drug treatment world who say it exploits addicts. Forrest is conflicted about “Celebrity Rehab,” which he says depicts the reality of the deadly disease of addiction, but not always in the manner he had envisioned.

“If I had to do it all over again I don’t think I’d walk into the office and say we should do this show,” Forrest said of “Celebrity Rehab.” “I don’t like the editing of it. I don’t like that they show the same thing over and over again. I don’t like what it’s become technically.”

Now, if only Dr. Drew Pinsky would be so brave and forthright and confess in the public square, as Bob has, that Celebrity Rehab, and its demon offspring shows, should be shuttered and disowned forever.  Erase the tapes.  Burn the DVDs.  Pretend the show never happened.

This season’s treatment of Amy Fisher — with Drew’s strange on-camera badgering of her last week during a group session by forcefully telling her who her friends are and are not; along with him also allowing her to be repeatedly verbally abused by others in the group — achieves the absolutely incomprehensible:  Contrite sympathy for a convicted felon who shot Mary Jo Buttafuoco in the head.  Now, that’s some amazing rehab!


  1. Found you on tag surfer…

    I am acquainted with addiction. It isn’t glamorous or entertaining. It is heart aching, relationship breaking and life wasting. I find reality television, in general, toxic. It is the number one reason we no longer have cable television, so I haven’t seen Celebrity Rehab, but I doubt I could muster sympathy for Amy Fisher — the fact that she would agree to have her rehabilitation televised to the masses, reinforces my belief that she is addicted to more than just alcohol. She is addicted to her 15 minutes of fame. And, America just keeps putting her out there…

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful and authentic comment, Julie. I appreciate your struggle and your ultimate breakthrough.

      I agree it is hard to have sympathy for Amy — but when she is assailed for shooting Mary Jo by the very people in her group she is expected to “trust” and “defend” — it makes it really tough watching a sobbing, regretful woman, being verbally punished week after week. She isn’t being helped. The show is making her problems worse.

      Amy says she has a problem with alcohol. It also appears she has some sort of sexual addiction because she’s now starring in porno movies. You do feel for her trying to change her life, though, when nobody around her wants to allow to her move on from her past. Nobody will give her an honest job. The pornographers offer her stacks of money. She owns the shooting. Mary Jo forgave her. She served her time, yet the rest of society still wants her punished. It’s tough to watch.

    1. That’s right. It’s Exploitation TV, not Rehab TV. I’m so disappointed in Dr. Drew. He seems to be skating thorough the seasons. He doesn’t appear to really be connected to what’s happening right in front of him on the subversive level.

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