Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Intervention Is the Best Show on TV

B and I aren't television watchers. We don't actually have a signal because we don't pay for cable (the Internet is good enough for our purposes). Sometimes there's a show I get into (Sherlock, Downton Abbey until it started being embarrassingly awful with romantic singing in the aisles and so on); B likes more gritty shows (Breaking Bad was the latest), but for the most part we never watch it.

There is one big exception though: Intervention!! B and I are obsessed with this show. He has been downloading episodes for me onto the cell phone, so that I can watch them at the gym, and suddenly I am consistently exercising for the first time in years. We animatedly discuss every episode in detail.

The plotline of Intervention is simple. It's a reality show. They find an addict (generally their families have written in, asking for help), film them going about their daily business (they know they are being filmed but aren't told the real reason why), then stage an intervention: all the family/friends/loved ones of the addict gathered into a room, asking the addict to go to (free, paid for by the show) treatment. Virtually all the addicts go (though many later start using again: the show provides the latest updates of their lives).

Each episode follows the same arc: description of the addict's original personality, great potential and/or success (sometimes this is a bit of a stretch); the development of their addiction; and their eventual life destruction (being a homeless prostitute is not uncommon).

It's a fascinating show: the emotional drama, the depictions of the extremes of human behavior, the family dynamics, the glimpses into a side of life most people never see...The fact that it's all real (if of course edited for dramatic emphasis) makes it all the more gripping.

As someone interested in parenting and psychology in general, it's especially interesting. I wrote elsewhere about addiction and its causes: this show is like a perfect case study. Many addicts (at least half) have seriously screwed up and traumatic life events (stuff like being raped at age 10 by your estranged father when you went to meet him over the summer).

Virtually all of them have dysfunctional families (often to the point that you can't believe it: everyone knows they are being filmed, so what you see is them on their good behavior!) The addicts come from many different backgrounds, but usually are middle class, with outwardly average, apparently normal relatives. It's both a powerful demonstration of how badly heinous parenting can ruin someone's life, and of how much dysfunction, abuse and generally mind-boggling behavior lurks behind closed doors.

Sometimes I think everyone should be required to go to extensive therapy.


  1. I LOVE this show, though when pregnant I can't watch it b/c I get too emotional.

    After watching it, I feel like the best way to avoid addiction for my kids is to keep them safe from molestation and divorce - almost EVERY person on the show was molested and I think EVERY family was divorced. Totally unscientific, but I've convinced myself.

    1. Molestation does seem to be an extremely common theme!

      I don't know about divorce though: a fair number of the addicts DON'T have divorced parents (especially the ones who are older). There are quite a few with married parents in which the father was abusive and regularly beat them to a pulp, yet no divorce ever took place (saw just this scenario at the gym today).