Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, a recovering addict, recently bashed the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab for what he perceives as its exploitative ways. As presided over by Dr. Drew Pinsky, an actual doctor who doesn't just play one on TV, the show captures the efforts of Pinsky and his staff to rehabilitate various individuals along the celebrity spectrum through a diet of therapy and behavioral accountability.
But McKagan isn't buying it. He may be angry after having tragically lost a good friend, fellow musician Mike Starr, to an overdose, after Starr appeared as a season-three "cast member." McKagan said in an interview:
"I cringe, I think it's the worst thing for so-called sobriety: 'Hold on, we're having a breakthrough…wait, we've gotta do make-up!' There's a reason it's (rehab) anonymous, because, if you fail (on the show) you're failing on camera. You're failing after you've been on this rehab show. Anonymous, you don't have to succeed all the time. You can fail, and you can still come back and nobody's gonna judge you. I wouldn't have wanted to try and get sober in a public forum. I don't think it's right… It's not cool."
McKagan's former G N' R bandmate, drummer Steven Adler, also displayed his zonked-out warts on the show, so McKagan's opinion isn't a frivolous one. And many people share his view. They think Dr. Drew, though earnest and well-intentioned, is misguided in attaching ratings and a healthy paycheck to the process of fixing broken people. Others see it as a mutually-beneficial arrangement. No one was forcing Gary Busey to be on the show, but it seemed to have worked, it got people thinking about him again, and he wound up on another show beginning with "Celebrity" in its title. If you count that as tiger-blood-style winning.
If you are a viewer of Celebrity Rehab, you have to at least entertain the notion of your complicity in the fact that the show's returning for a fifth season. If you're looking forward to Amy Fisher and Sean Young possibly mixing it up, or Michael Lohan punching a wall, that's understandable, and how second homes are paid for. It works for D-listers looking for a career shot-in-the-arm, but for the Mike Starrs of the world, who may not have been saved anyway, it only serves as a sad video diary of a zombie-like descent into oblivion.
So what does everyone think? Is Dr. Drew selfishly taking advantage of an opportunity for media exposure, or is he performing a positive service by shining a light on the unglamorous aspects of addiction, hopefully having a deterrent effect? Or both?