Mention the critics, and Dr. Drew Pinsky lets out a small sigh: He has heard these songs many times before. One that he disguises an exploitative look at high-profile addiction through his Celebrity Rehab and Sober House series on VH1. Another that he essentially pays celebrities through fame and fees to enter rehab before they are ready. That he might be addicted to fame, himself. But after 30 years treating patients and a decade delivering information on radio and TV, Pinsky won't let contrary voices keep him from talking about an illness he calls "the problem of our time." "I don't know that I can change what people do. I just want them to think about it," said Pinsky, who also will keep doing his Loveline radio program and Lifechangers daytime series for the CW while on HLN and VH1. "It's just like if you drive by a freeway accident, you still might slow down and look, but at least feel bad about it (laughs). Maybe you'll learn something." Turns out, his new show for CNN's HLN channel (once known as CNN Headline News) won't be limited to talk about addiction. Instead, Pinsky plans to bring his medical expertise to a range of news stories, trying to unearth why newsmakers act the way they do at the center of big events. As Dr. Drew debuts at 9 tonight, putting Pinsky at the center of the cable news ratings race, the Feed presents:
Five things Dr. Drew wants you to know
1 It's not unethical for him to diagnose Charlie Sheen on TV without actually examining him.
"Look, if he was holding up his arm with a rash on it, I could commentate on what that's likely to be. I mean, for some reason, when it comes to human behavior, people get uncomfortable, like you have to know the person intimately. When we study medicine, a doctor stands up and goes, 'Here's a 37-year-old white male who hasn't slept in three weeks, speech is pressured and tangential, he was using cocaine a week ago, he's infectious and grandiose, talking about special powers and privileges.' You just go, 'Okay, that's a hypomanic patient.' "
2 Forget Marcus Welby; he really wants to be the next Larry King.
"Here's what people don't know about me. Whenever they ask me what's the favorite thing I've done in media, (guest hosting Larry King Live and Joy Behar's HLN show) are the very favorite things. I mean, I've been in radio for 30 years. I'm a radio guy at heart, and to take my radio sensibilities and try to create interesting dynamics in a television format, that's where I like to go."
3 He can't wait to talk about the fight over Proposition 8, California's referendum to ban gay marriage.
"The conversation, to me, gets completely, completely distorted by people trying to define marriage. The story is a majority taking away the rights of a minority by signing their names to a piece of paper. That is what the founding fathers feared the most, and here it is, happening. Which minority is going to have their rights extinguished next because a majority just feels like it? Take it away from gays, take it away from marriage and have that conversation."
4 One thing he's not sure of: how he feels about President Obama's health care bill.
"It's so complicated, I can't even come up with an opinion (laughs). People don't know how bad the system is now. It's just a disaster, and there's going to be no doctors soon because no one's going to want to deal with it. You've got to be out of your mind to go into self-practice, primary care these days."
5 He's not addicted to fame (and if he were, he has no idea what the rehab could be).
"Many of the criticisms I get, I find really bizarre and poorly thought out. How would you have a career in television without being public? For many years, I resisted media. I never used my real last name. I always organized my shows around my medical practice. But about 10 years ago, I started to think, maybe I should really focus on media and that should be the next stage of my career — to use media to make a difference. And that's what I've been doing for the last three or four years."
The social whirl
When Survivor host Jeff Probst started tweeting on Twitter along with the show's episodes a few weeks ago, he quickly drew fans eager to see him comment and answer questions in real time. The network likely saw a bold reason for people to watch Survivor when it airs instead of recording or viewing later online.
This week, CBS exports his experiment across the network, creating a Tweet Week in which series stars post messages during their programs. The notables tweeting include CBS sports analyst Greg Anthony (@GregAnthony50) at tonight's NCAA basketball championship, along with Blue Bloods star Donnie Wahlberg (@DonnieWahlberg), Hawaii Five-O's Daniel Dae Kim (@DanielDaeKim) and Probst himself (@JeffProbst). All tweets use the #CBSTweetWeek hashtag — you can also surf to CBS.com/Tweet_Week on the Web — as one star posts each day until April 11.