Any member of Generation X is familiar with the no-nonsense Dr. Drew Pinsky, beloved host of "Loveline." Well, Dr. Drew has a new show, VH1's Celebrity Rehab on which he works with a bunch of D-list (and that's being generous) celebs to help them overcome their addictions. Though there's a uncomfortable, voyeuristic aspect seeing someone at their worst — going through withdrawal, emotionally fragile, desperate to be saved — based on the show's promos, Dr. Drew does seem to prove his psychiatric cred on the show. And though the television reviewers can't decide whether Celebrity Rehab, which premieres tonight, is a show to feel good or feel bad about, they're pretty sure we'll all be addicted once we start watching. The critics speak, after the jump.
Surprisingly, "Celebrity Rehab" — in which everyone from aging actors Jeff Conaway and Daniel Baldwin and "American Idol" finalist Jessica Sierra talks out a personal struggle with substance abuse — is compelling and thoughtful. That's right: The words "VH1" and "thoughtful" made it into the same sentence...."Celebrity Rehab's" class and appeal can be credited to host Drew Pinsky, or "Dr. Drew," as he's known on his syndicated radio show, "Loveline"....He's honestly trying to improve these people's lives....It might be celebrity voyeurism that brings you to this series, but it's the genuine drama and authenticity of the subjects that will keep you watching.
— John Maynard, Washington Post
It's a searing, unflattering but still celebratory look at eight worst-case-scenario addicts...Needless to say it is habit-forming....The series exposes all the horrors of addiction, but lightens them with the familiar voyeuristic elements of "The Surreal Life" and other soft-core scorn: silly celebrity tantrums, kooky mishaps and bosomy women in skimpy halter tops bonding and confronting one another. The show offers desperate people a last chance to detox, but it's also a last call for show business has-beens who crave one more crack at fame and will allow cameras into their treatment center bathrooms and therapy sessions for the opportunity.
— Alessandra Stanley, New York Times
Riveting as a car wreck, "Celebrity Rehab" is the logical extension of VH1's "surreality" brand — an assembly of TV-created celebrities willing to be debased under the patina of entertainment. Educational only in its unflinching images of drug withdrawal (there's vomiting aplenty), the show proves as pathetic as it is difficult to turn off, its celebrities leveraging their private suffering as a lifeline to public exposure. VH1 may have another success here, but let's not kid ourselves: If this works, the channel has simply demonstrated it's possible to have your cake and snort it, too....Pinsky informs his charges, "Our job is to make you better," [but] he's only telling half the story: Springing for the 21-day treatment program hardly amounts to an altruistic gesture given that the talent provides VH1 with a voyeuristic sideshow act slated for an eight-week run.
— Brian Lowry, Variety
Overall, this is an incredibly honest series about the nature of addiction and the nearly superhuman effort required to overcome it. After previewing the first two episodes, I was struck by the candor of Dr. Drew Pinsky as well as the nine celebs who agreed to take part in the 21-day program....These are people who are us[ed] to having their own way and who can't envision life without drugs or booze. Seeing them try to break their dependency is not pretty. In fact, it's downright painful to see them stripped of their glamor, shaking, crying, barfing and struggling to escape from their self-imposed mental fog. It is an unforgettable wake-up call, far more effective than a thousand "Just say no" campaigns.
— Barry Gorron, The Hollywood Reporter
It might be easy to mock these C- and D-listers, but Dr. Drew never gives in to the urge. The dispassion of his clinical diagnoses is strangely comforting, and at odds with the flamboyance of his patients....Much of the show focuses on group and one-on-one sessions that are less about physical health than emotional. This is where the celebrity portion of the show begins to melt away...Like many, these people are the products of complicated situations. And presumably, if they could afford expensive treatment of this sort, they wouldn't agree to have it filmed. That they, at least for a time, rose to fame and wealth means little. In the end: Celebrities, they're just like us.
— Jon Caramanica, Los Angeles Times