"I think 'Dr' Drew Pinsky should change his name to Kevorkian. Same results." Singer Richard Marx tweeted this yesterday, before rethinking his choice of words. "I went too far with the Kevorkian crack," he amended. "It is, however, my opinion that what Dr. D does is exploitation and his TV track record is not good." Marx may have a stronger point of view than most, but he's hardly alone in making note of the disturbing fact that Mindy McCready is the FIFTH Celebrity Rehab alum to die in the past two years.
Mindy McCready, who was 37 and the mother of two young boys, took her own life last Sunday. She had been a contestant on Celebrity Rehab during the show's third season. Out of the nine cast members who participated in that season, three have since died because of different incidents relating to their addictions.
It's hard not to look at the numbers related to Celebrity Rehab and feel uncomfortable. Out of 43 people who have been on the show, five are now dead -- including Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr, Grease star Jeff Conaway, LAPD beating victim Rodney King, Real World star Joey Kovar, and now Mindy McCready.
Celebrity Rehab isn't your typical reality show, of course. Lead by Dr. Drew Pinsky, the show follows a changing cast of celebrities through a 21-day drug rehab clinic. Despite ongoing backlash against the series, it may be that 5 deaths out of 43 cast members is actually good odds considering the unhappy reality of addiction.
Still, there's a lot to question about the value of a television show devoted to turning the addictions of famous faces into entertainment. As Buzzfeed writer Kate Aurther puts it,
If you watched the show as a serious documentary, it had a lot to offer, and was unsparing and often moving. If you watched it as a hilarious spectacle, then — well, it’s hard to figure out how to end this sentence, because I think you’re awful. But reality TV sends these things out into the world, and there’s no controlling what a viewer’s reaction is going to be.
There's no controlling what a participant's reaction might be, either. Yes, they voluntarily went on the show to receive treatment, but what are the repercussions to having your mental health and substance abuse issues filmed, edited, and packaged into a TV show? It feels exploitative, at the very least.
VH1 has no comment on McCready's death, but Drew Pinsky issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" by the news, and that Mindy was "a lovely woman who will be missed by many." He also said,
Mental health issues can be life threatening and need to be treated with the same intensity and resources as any other dangerous potentially life threatening medical condition. Treatment is effective. If someone you know is suffering please be sure he or she gets help and maintains treatment.
Just maybe not with Celebrity Rehab, is what I'm thinking. Not that it's currently an option, because it's worth noting that VH1 has quietly benched the show in favor of Rehab with Dr. Drew … which features non-celebrity cast members.
Do you think Celebrity Rehab is a bad reality show idea?
Image via VH1/Celebrity Rehab