Last night was the premiere of TLC's newest road-to-recovery reality show. A&E's Intervention casts a long crack-addled shadow in the genre with its consistently captivating profiles of people hitting rock-bottom and the experts who help them. So, is Addicted necessary?
Amanda, TLC's sacrificial addict, has been drinking since adolescence and got pregnant at 19. Divorced and disallowed custody of her daughter, she lives at her parents' home, breaking into the padlocked fridge for liquor and regularly borrowing money for heroin, completely unable to stay sober.
Though her past and behavior are harrowing, she is only a secondary character in her own storyline. With the same documentary footage and video-confessional standard of Intervention, Addicted seemed like it would be a simple variation on A&E's tried and true formula, and it is. The twist is that on Addicted, the interventionist, Kristina Wandzilak, is the real star. Kristina declares early on that her methods do not include the element of surprise. Lame! One of Intervention's wonders is the moment, each episode, when an addict walks into a room full of loved ones, to be read their long lists of disappointments and fears. Without the surprise, what good is the intervention? The shock and experts' reactionary comfort are lost with Kristina's method, paving way for her all-out tough-like-not-love approach.
The show's title sequence is Kristina's back-story, playing like a live-action Strangers with Candy intro. Kristina drank at 13 and prostituted herself for drugs and went to prison (and stole the TV and did some more time, probably), but she's not that compassionate about her clients' problems. It's exactly what the addicts need, and the same underlying strategy used by the lovable Interventionists, but Kristina's icy monotone is the perfect balance to the melodrama. Kristina obviously cares about her charges (as she herself says, she's "not the fucking enemy!"), but she shows family enablers just how to cut Amanda off—and down—with her curt, emotionless accusations.
Whether or not there's room for another addiction show on TV is a moot point: people like to see train wrecks, especially real ones. The bigger and nastier the better; one for every station with cross-promotions for cable syndication. Intervention may have made the mold, but there's always room in the freak show. With a steady stream of pitiable drug-crazed personalities pitted against Kristina's dismissive wisdom, Addicted should leave its own track mark.