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Monday, March 17, 2008

Addicted to Intervention

posted by on March 17 at 12:13 PM


I know I’m not the only one who loves A&E’s is-it-art-or-is-it-entertainment documentary series tracking addicts through the depths of their addiction-fueled degradation before dousing them with the cold shower promised by the title; a not-insignificant friendship of mine is predicated almost entirely on text messages sent during Intervention broadcasts, typically involving direct quotes (“No more vodka for Brad!”) or simple observations (a quick “OMG” as that pretty-girl morphine addict does a slow-motion face plant into a plate of Taco Bell.)

Still, it’s definitely a guilty pleasure, partly because I typically watch the show under the influence of marijuana (is this hypocritical or just postmodern?), and partly because the freakier the behavior of the addicts, the better the episode of Intervention. Even referring to the show as a pleasure, guilty or otherwise, seems wrong—but would I really devote an hour every week to something I didn’t enjoy?

These are the questions brought up by every episode of Intervention, which, as I mentioned, follows addicts—one or two each week—as these addicts do the most fucked-up shit you’ve ever seen, then face an intervention from their loved ones and, hopefully, accept the show’s offer of inpatient treatment.

Before you judge me as a roadside-wreck gawker too lazy to get off the couch for his requisite gore fix, let me tell you why Intervention isn’t necessarily a signpost of the apocalypse.

1. In addition to the classic drunks and meth heads and junkies, Intervention’s addicts include such wild cards as gambleholics and anorexic/bulimics. This breadth of subject matter allows the show to capture an unusually rich and varied collection of real-life human behavior, most of it fueled by hideous desperation, and the majority of it shockingly fascinating. (I wasn’t kidding about the most fucked-up shit you’ve ever seen—Hollywood stars earn Oscars for acting like Intervention subjects.) Still, it’s all drawn from real-life, and thus messier and uglier and more mundane than anything from Hollywood, and it’s as documentary footage that the show finds its greatest value. Watching Intervention’s subjects chug mouthwash and have meth-based math freakouts (“I have to find the formula for evil!”) and store vomit in plastic bags in their closets has truly expanded my understanding of the human condition. (It’s also made clear the hideously direct line that frequently exists between rape/sexual abuse and hardcore addiction/eating disorders.)

2. Featured interventionist Candy Finnegan is obviously the greatest person on earth.

Intervention airs at 9pm tonight on A&E.

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Candy Finnegan kicks everyone's ass. I actually find myself watching each week and thinking, "Just wait till Candy gets ahold of this clown..." and the only time I'm disappointed is when Candy's isn't that week's interventionist.

That being said, my friends and I used to bemoan when they moved Intervention to Friday nights, because it's quite a buzzkill. But we didn't, like, bite refrigerators or anything.

Posted by westendgirl29 | March 17, 2008 12:24 PM

Intervention #31 is the most awesome thing i have ever seen...

Posted by k-la | March 17, 2008 12:27 PM

It continually amazes me that they find people fucked-up enough to fall for the "we're doing a documentary about addiction" line.

But I guess that's the point.

Posted by angel | March 17, 2008 12:29 PM

The "I'm An Alcoholic" episode of MTV True Life is similarly incredible. At one point, the Vegas girl freaks out that some beverage spills, not because she has to clean blue shit out of her carpet, but because "that was like five gulps!" It's amazing.

Posted by it's ME | March 17, 2008 12:34 PM

#2: ME TOO! (close to nsfw)

Posted by poppy | March 17, 2008 12:36 PM

episode 31 IS amazing. i love when she throws the chicken wings at her sister....

2 problems with intervention, though:

1) the On Demand selection has been for the most part the same for 2+ years now. hence, why i've seen episode 31 like a thousand times.

2) you can't get that shit on netflix. oh no. the only DVD option for this pioneering show is through A&E's website directly, and it's upwards of $24/ DVD, which only gives you the undying gratification of ONE LOUSY EPISODE.


Posted by kim | March 17, 2008 12:37 PM

I heart Intervention. Did anyone see the episode with Christy? She was the alchololic meth addict? She made Courtney Love seem normal. Her poor chola sister would come over to make her top ramen and Christy would throw it at her. Her father had to hold her down during the intervention. I LOVE smoking weed and watching intervention. It's a match made in heaven! I love both Candy and Jeff VonVonderon!!!!!

Posted by James | March 17, 2008 12:37 PM

What was, will never be... and what never was, will come back from whence it came....


Posted by Nebraskamomma | March 17, 2008 12:40 PM

It's official: Everyone loves Christy, star of episode #51, and rightly so: Any woman who requires a cable network to blur her from the neck down--thanks to chronic, meth-fueled nudity--rules.

And her sister deserves a congressional medal of honor.

Also: Jeff Von Vonderon is also a bad-ass sweetheart--but that younger guy with the slatboard teeth makes me want to stab. He's awful.

Posted by David Schmader | March 17, 2008 12:41 PM

Whoops, I meant episode 31...

Posted by David Schmader | March 17, 2008 12:42 PM


Posted by Lindy | March 17, 2008 12:42 PM

The most depressing was the video game addict. Poor guy, and his mom was SUCH A BITCH.

Posted by ams | March 17, 2008 12:47 PM

My eternal faves:

1. The former child-star math-rapper/current gambleholic who can't stop screaming at his parents

2. The multi-milliariare drunk lady who keeps taking limousines back and forth from kansas to boston so she can drink in the back with her dog.

3. Christy

Posted by David Schmader | March 17, 2008 12:52 PM

The mass enjoyment of other peoples' media-distributed degradation seems to be an indicated of how insulated people are from their own emotions. If watching someone else melt down via screen is enjoyment, what can we say about the people watching? Are you so divorced from real issues and human emotions that this is what it takes to break through and actually feel something? Do you have much compassion for others? Or do these shows stimulate compassionate feelings that you don't have for your fellow humans normally? Can you not feel for the people you work with and pass on the street?
Personally these shows (like America's Next Top Poodle, or Survivor) make me feel very sad for the people participating.

Posted by treacle | March 17, 2008 12:54 PM

hey treacle, don't be such a pill.

And no, I feel nothing for the people I pass on the street. I especially feel nothing for the ones I work with. I hate those assholes.

Posted by Rotten666 | March 17, 2008 12:59 PM

The NY Times ran an article about Intention several months ago. I wrote the following letter to the editor (not printed) in response:

As a regular viewer of the A&E show Intervention (When Reality TV Gets
Too Real, 10.8.2007), I applaud the producers and entire crew who puts
the show on the air. With plotlines that are often so gut wrenching
that it's physically hard to watch, I cannot imagine how the
professionals who produce the episodes subject themselves to the
despair and depravity that they are documenting. The subjects are
always treated with dignity (except by themselves) and the subject of
addition is never glamorized in anyway whatsoever. As my children grow
older and more prepared to understand the concepts explored in
Intervention, I will unquestionably encourage them to watch the show
with me. In addition to direct parental involvement, I can think of no
better outlet for communicating the horror and destruction caused by

Posted by I Got Nuthin' | March 17, 2008 12:59 PM

#13 - 2. Actually it was her cat, she even had a litter box in the limo. I've seen this one like 300 times, and it never fails to amuse. My favorite part? When she throws a huge box of pictures down 2 flights of stairs.

#14 - I disagree. I'm not insulated from my emotions - some of the episodes are so harsh that I literally can't watch. But other ones are just pure fun. Drunks = fun. Anorexics = sad. Heroin = sad. Meth = the best.

Posted by westendgirl29 | March 17, 2008 1:01 PM

#13 - 2. Actually it was her cat, she even had a litter box in the limo. I've seen this one like 300 times, and it never fails to amuse. My favorite part? When she throws a huge box of pictures down 2 flights of stairs.

#14 - I disagree. I'm not insulated from my emotions - some of the episodes are so harsh that I literally can't watch. But other ones are just pure fun. Drunks = fun. Anorexics = sad. Heroin = sad. Meth = the best.

Posted by westendgirl29 | March 17, 2008 1:01 PM

It's SO GOOD. Why doesn't that show get more recognition/love?

Posted by Rottin' in Denmark | March 17, 2008 1:04 PM

Interventions are events at which attendence is optional. Thats right folks the person being intervened on is free to leave before the party begins. I was fortunate that a true friend alerted me to a pending intervention last year. I sent my RSVP. Intervention Specialists should remind all that they are free to leave and that the guest of honor does not have to get on that ideling van in the drive way. By the way it was about my 420 use which is totally my business and the fact that I reject the 12 step religion.

Posted by Heather | March 17, 2008 1:05 PM

I love the pants off of this show for sure, but I'm surprised that so many of you approve of Jeff VonWhateverthehellhisnameis. His opening line of "I just see a bunch of people here that love you like crazy" drives me fucking nuts.

Does he not realize that this is a tv show that airs over and over? Pick a new opener every once in a while!!!

Posted by candy, yes.....jeff, not so much | March 17, 2008 1:08 PM

actually, I started watching the show while going through an intervention with someone in my immediate family. There are common threads in all addiction, and the show shows that pretty well. I would say it helped me see how some behaviors were due to the drugs and some were not. Also, it displays some pretty effective/ineffective ways of dealing with people crippled by addiction.

Also, intervention specialists and inpatient treatment are hella expensive, and I bet most people on the show wouldn't be able to afford it without being on tv, and therefor may never have gotten treatment, and subsequently died.

Posted by ams | March 17, 2008 1:11 PM

Mouthwash is for pussies. Real hardcores chug cologne. Does this show ever have people spreading shoe polish on bread, leaving it for an hour, then scraping off the shoe polish and eating the bread? Or people paying homeless street drunks a pittance to gulp down a liter of vodka in one go?

I think you need Russians to really get to the bottom of the pit.

Posted by Fnarf | March 17, 2008 1:12 PM

I don't understand how they still manage to catch all the addicts by surprise - don't any of these people watch cable? I've only seen one episode where the addict knew right away what was up, because he'd seen the show - it was the one with Dillon the bi-polar meth addict and they ended up having to ambush him in his trailer.

Posted by shark | March 17, 2008 1:15 PM

Drunks and addicts are funny I must admit when it comes to the shit they can do when practicing their addictions and alcoholism. Recovered people have lots of laughs when they talk about the crap that happened when they were out there using including the life threatening, dangerous, self destructive, and selfish behavior.

Programs like Intervention tend to focus on the drama and stereotypes themes about substance abuse. Most of the subjects of the program actually have a family that cares about them. The bewildered family drama is a focus of the program.

Underlying all this is the fact that the subject of the program is actually dying of a disease and the devastating and long term effects that has on the family members, friends and love ones. It's like goofing on a dying cancer patient.There are many more who never make it to anything like an intervention. They just eventually live out a meaningless and miserable life ending in an untimely death.

Usually something that the addict is oblivious to while using. Because substance abuse addictions, among other things, are usually a sickness of an extrema self-centered personality that doesn't feel it's part of the world when sober.

But I think that the program does a service in that it attempts to show some truth about this huge problem that pretty much eventually effects everyone in society in one way or the other. Drug and alcohol abuse are a major cause of crime, for example.

Posted by artistdogboy | March 17, 2008 1:31 PM

Best episode was when the ex-singer of tantric or days of the New, was hooked on meth livin with momma in a trailer in Arkansas.

Posted by Nat Cur Vag | March 17, 2008 1:36 PM

I love this series. If you ever think you have a problem, this show will either scare you sober, or demonstrate that you're fine because real addicts crawl through a muddy swamp yelling and crying at the trees. Your choice.

Oh, and Coley the logger from #46, Hot!

Posted by DJSauvage | March 17, 2008 1:51 PM

@24 - There was at least one episode where the kid knew the intervention was coming. I think he had seen the show before because he recognized Jeff Van Vonderon.

Also, I can't believe nobody has mentioned two of my top three episodes so far. There was Tim (who we lovingly call Drainpipe Guy because he at one point was withdrawing in a drainpipe) and the lady I can't remember, but she was an alcoholic and had the sweetest little mom and she broke a knife trying to open a wine bottle.

I've been obsessed with this show for several years now.

Posted by MiddKid | March 17, 2008 1:56 PM

Everything I know about burl I learned from Intervention episode 46.

My favorite Intervention quote (this one's for the die-hards): "Let it go.......Pam!"

Posted by David Schmader | March 17, 2008 1:58 PM

@28...Tim was a good one. when the producer had to wade into the water to lure him our of the pipe...classic!

Posted by k-la | March 17, 2008 2:07 PM

This just in! Intervention: Season One: Then And Now on DVD May 27th with "selected episodes" and follow-up stories.

Posted by madamecrow | March 17, 2008 3:05 PM

So I NEVER comment on Slog, actually never have...but i must say, Intervention is better than Crack.

Nuf' Said

Posted by Jason | March 17, 2008 4:01 PM

perhaps some of you might require an intervention intervention.

Posted by infrequent | March 17, 2008 4:06 PM

They should make it more entertaining by giving them an option: Choose Rehab or The Thunderdome!!

Posted by junkie | March 17, 2008 4:25 PM

I was really moved by the alcoholic Iraq war vet from a week or two ago. He didn't make it through treatment, sadly.

I can understand the concern of a show like this being exploitive, but I think it takes a serious enough tone to diminish that. Yes, the drama is entertaining, but it is also a warning to the masses, a mirror for the addict, as well as sympathetic glimpse into the life of an addict. I have yet to watch an episode where I am not seriously rooting for the addict to successfully make it through treatment.

Exploitive? Maybe, but certainly not on the level of most reality TV.

Posted by Brandon H | March 17, 2008 10:48 PM

Hehe, I'd never heard of this show until last week when I friend IM'd me to tell me he'd been hired to work on the show.

Posted by NaFun | March 18, 2008 9:51 AM

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