Friday, February 22, 2013


Mindy McCready is gone.

It is foolish to hold Dr. Drew responsible, but her death forces us to again question the wisdom of getting sober on television.

Mindy McCready (1975 - 2013)
Malinda Gayle McCready grew up singing in her Pentecostal church in Florida since she was a toddler and, soon after high school, left for Nashville to become a highly successful country music artist. But after a very public battle with alcohol and prescription drugs, and just weeks after her boyfriend committed suicide, the beautiful and talented singer with a megawatt smile killed herself. She left behind two young children.

Mindy was on Dr. Drew Pinsky's "Celebrity Rehab" TV show in 2009. Dr. Drew (as he likes to be called) is a licensed physician and nationally certified addiction specialist. He has treated alcoholics and addicts for over twenty years. Ordinarily, any addict would be so lucky to get a treatment specialist with his experience and credentials. But televised treatment is not so ordinary.

Like others, I naively assumed the whole rationale behind putting strung-out celebs on television was to create a weekly, hour-long public service announcement on the nightmares of addiction. Now I see the obvious. There's a lot of money in public pain.

Grocery store tabloids and gossipy TV shows have capitalized on celebrity suffering for years, but they're not physicians. We don't expect them to have the best interests of celebrities in mind because public humiliation is their job. We do, however, expect more from doctors.

Yes – Dr. Drew's famous (and infamous) clients all have managers who have given their nod, but can sinking stars really depend on agents and managers who've discovered another way to squeeze more out of their clients' failing careers?

Yes – these celebrity clients are paid well to be on the show, they're treated in a luxurious facility, and (we assume) they get another shot at rebooting their careers. But at what cost? All these perks are in exchange for the very public display of their failures, insanity, ineptitude, confusion, self-centeredness and self-imposed slavery.

Does rehab really work in a televised fishbowl?

Dr. Drew Pinsky
Public suffering has been on the TV menu since the 1950s. In what was likely the first "reality TV" show, the genial Jack Bailey regularly crowned one woman "Queen for a Day" when the audience voted her life story as the most pitifully heart-wrenching story compared to all the other female contestants who also had crippled children, leaky roofs, foreclosed mortgages and terminal illnesses.

Unlike the strung-out, fidgety clients on "Celebrity Rehab," the women on "Queen for a Day" had the luxury of fading into obscurity when their day was over. The whole premise of that show was to give post-war American housewives some feel-good escapism by watching real-life Cinderella stories.

Dr. Drew, however, targets a different kind of viewer.

"Celebrity Rehab" draws voyeuristic audiences who enjoy watching the self-destruction of the rich and famous through their wide-screen, hi-def keyholes with a fascination not unlike those who are captivated by the slow death of once powerful bulls by a matador's spears.

This is not entertainment. It is not education. It is public pain for profit.

Dr. Drew should know better.

Click here to find drug and alcohol treatment in your area.
Click here to find support groups in your area.
Click here for Mindy's website.
Click here for Mindy's music on

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