Are TV Doctors Helping or Riding the In-Crisis Celebrity Gravy Train?
I heard from folks at Tampa lawyer John Fitzgibbons' office that his client Jessica Sierra will have some high-profile help when they face a judge this morning on the former American Idol contender's string of drug-fueled arrests: Dr. Drew Pinsky.
The host and organizing physician behind VH1's Celebrity Rehab series is expected to speak on Sierra's behalf after spending months working with the Tampa native last year as part of the show's treatment. After completing twentysomething days in treatment, Sierra spent months living in transitional housing. But all that help couldn't keep her from getting arrested Dec. 1 for public intoxication and disorderly behavior; her second such arrest in 2007.
As I wrote in reviewing the first two episodes of Celebrity Rehab, which debuts at 10 p.m. Thursday, it's tough to tell whether high-profile celebrity addiction interventionists such as Pinsky are bursting the bubble of celebrity addiction or exploiting it for their own gain.
Dr. Phil McGraw has entered into similar ground, reportedly visiting celebrity basket case Britney Spears in her hospital ward at Cedars-Sinai, despite the fact that he has no previous therapeutic relationship with the singer, no privileges at the hospital, she apparently didn't want to see him and he may have been angling to get her on his TV show later this week (her parents, who reportedly asked McGraw to visit their daughter, had already agreed). Celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com is filled with catty carping from unnamed mental health professionals criticizing the visit, which they say lasted 15 minutes and McGraw says -- via a press release given to Entertainment Tonight -- that it lasted an hour.
McGraw seems a far sight from Pinsky -- at least, Pinsky's professional specialty is addiction, and he's not making any public statements about Sierra yet. But when you have people who seem to be drowning in a toxic stew of celebrity, addiction and questionable choices, does it really make sense to pull them into TV shows which will only further publicize their problems?
And if Celebrity Rehab fizzles in the ratings, will Pinsky still be around to help Sierra? Now that Spears seems unwilling to go on his show, will McGraw stay interested in helping her? And if these professionals' help only comes with media appearances attached, how honest can it be, really?
(See Kathy Griffin turn the idea on its head here).