A&E // 2006 // 188 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // June 4th, 2008
It's life or death.
I'm going to say something so underwhelmingly obvious that you'll literally fall out of your chair, dead, from shock: Addiction is a serious problem. When I first heard there was a television show centered on addiction and the problems that it causes for loved ones, I immediately assumed that it would be treated with all the sensitivity that TV has treated other subjects. Which is to say, none at all. However, Intervention Season 1: Then and Now proved otherwise.
If you haven't seen Intervention before, here's how it works: The show finds an addict (on this disc: meth, gambling, shopping and cocaine addictions all show up) and asks him or her to be in a documentary on addiction. The addict agrees, little realizing that they're being set up for an intervention. The cameras follow them around for a while, showing the viewer how awful addiction is, and then comes the intervention. If the addict agrees to the intervention, we then get a nice follow-up on how they're doing -- or a not-so-nice follow-up.
This disc isn't Season One in its entirety. Instead it focuses on six of the people and provides new updates for four of them. It's meant as a "Best of Season One," even though that sounds wrong for a show about people overcoming their addictions. The four episodes included on the disc are:
* "Alyson": Alyson is an intelligent young woman who had an extremely successful academic career. She was a former White House intern and was going to college when she became addicted to various drugs.
* "Gabe and Vanessa": Gabe has a genius level intellect and a crippling addiction to gambling. Vanessa was a fairly successful actress who starred on E.R., but has a compulsive shopping addiction that has driven her further and further into bankruptcy.
* "Sara": Sara has lost a marriage and custody of her daughter to a math addiction and is in danger of never seeing her daughter again.
* "Travis and Matt": Travis was a successful musician who turned to meth, and Matt is nineteen and addicted to cocaine.
I was extremely wary of this show. I was worried it was either going to be shockingly exploitative and invasive or overly sentimental and schmaltzy, but Intervention somehow manages to keep itself above the slime.
It's all in how it presents the problems of both the addicted and their families. There is a level of respect for the families and sensitivity to their problems -- to a point, of course. When Travis asks for privacy, the camera guy leaves, only to pop up behind a window. But Intervention always feels more like a documentary and less like some creepy game show.
The variety keeps it interesting. While there are the more common and popular addictions (like crack and meth), Intervention also showcases a few addictions that most people might not think of right off the bat, like gambling and shopping. But while Gabe's gambling addiction is suited for the show, Vanessa's shopping addiction is a symptom of larger problems, and I don't think obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder are usually treated with an intervention.
My main problem with Intervention was the lack of attention on the actual rehabilitation process. The bulk of the show is given towards showing how awful life with an addict is. Then comes the intervention, at which point the addicted person usually ends up heading to a clinic -- and then they're better and they talk about how better everything is. I really don't want to see someone going into withdrawal from morphine (or crack or meth or gambling). I can also understand that the point of the show seems to be that addiction is a serious problem and there are solutions to this problem, rather than an exhaustive breakdown of the rehabilitation process. But it always feels anticlimactic after we've spent a good 40 minutes with the terrible problems these people are facing and then whoosh, all their problems are gone with a couple lines of text and a few interviews -- or not. Intervention doesn't shy away from the fact that sometimes it doesn't always work out. There are relapses and sometimes it doesn't work at all.
The episodes are, of course, strongly dependent on the people in each episode. The more aggressively obnoxious the person, the less sympathy I felt for them, and the less I wanted to sit through an hour-long episode centered on them. This was especially true with Gabe, who didn't have the excuse that he was in the grip of some behaviorally altering substance, unless one really can get high on life. Gabe was just being a jackass. Something he acknowledged after he entered treatment.
Which just illustrates the whole point of the show: People are locked (for whatever reason) in a cycle of destructive behavior and need to be knocked out of the cycle through an emotionally jarring event.
There aren't any extras, save four interviews with Alyson, Gabe, Sara, and Travis. Since these interviews are already available online (along with interviews for other people from the show), I'm not terribly impressed. I would hope that there would be something a little more on the DVD than something you can get for free online.
My initial fears were allayed; Intervention handles its subject matter with the gravity it deserves. However, the disc itself leaves much to be desired, with only a few extras.
Intervention is innocent of tabloid decadence and trashy sensationalism. This time.
Review content copyright © 2008 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 188 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Follow-up Stories for Alyson, Gabe, Sara, and Travis
* Official Site