On VH1’s "Celebrity Rehab," we're treated to a parade of D-listers battling addictions while trying to revive their flagging careers. We’re given the opportunity to fool ourselves into feeling good about the exercise – after all, the reassuringly kind but firm Dr. Drew is at the helm, as he is with the spinoff "Sex Rehab."
Now the CW is taking a deeper dive into the cesspool of Reality TV exploitation, putting out a call for women sex addicts, bulimics, "exercise anorexics," shopaholics and rage-aholics for new show that apparently will be called "Secrets."
The program won't seek to help just any old troubled ladies. The show’s producers are seeking "young, ambitious, attractive and articulate women aged 18 to 24 who are ready to share their secrets," according to a page on the CW’s website.
Participants will be afforded the services of a "highly qualified therapist," it's promised in the note on the web page, which is dotted with pictures of sexy young women out on the town. Much of the copy reads like something more akin to a seedy novel jacket cover - or a promo for a CW melodrama - than to the tenets of a 12-step program:
"Imagine living your picture-perfect life. By day, you are a beautiful, talented and ambitious 20-something. But at night, everything changes — you give in to temptation, to the dark side of yourself. You keep your secret from co-workers, family and friends. You enjoy the duality and the excitement that accompanies your obsession but you do know, it’s a dangerous game."
The application form, in addition to asking for a description of "your secrets," requires a photo upload.
From the sound of the CW casting call, the show appears poised to take advantage of people who need help – and probably wouldn’t benefit by having their private agonies made public and potentially glamorized. Portraying self-destructive behavior as a means of shedding anonymity and getting on TV also isn't a healthy signal to be sending to folks of any age or gender.
As for the audience, even Dr. Drew might note that while voyeurism might be amusing to some, it's not entertainment.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.