Fiver, Thursday 21st Aug, 10pm Alert Me
Fiver’s latest car crash telly US import is this little gem ‘Intervention’ airing Thursday night.
For those who haven’t heard of an intervention, it is where the family and friends of a drug addict (or any other kind of addict/social failure/jobless loser) step in and ‘intervene’ to prevent them continuing in self destruction. This is usually done with the help of a councillor who then manages the trip to rehab.
For the same reason I occasionally tune in to Maury (hilarity), I decided to see what this show was like.
The opening voice over is laden with drama. “This is Alyson…” booms Voice Over Guy, over a montage of ex-white house intern Alyson telling us about her addiction- a variety that goes from crack cocaine to morphine. She seems weirdly chirpy. ‘Aw she looks happy’ says my housemate, as Alyson bops her head to music while driving. Alyson is also fairly direct “i’m a drug addict, that comes first”. The Voice Over Guy continues to narrate her life and i’m hooked. She was an Octathalete, a talented violinist, she worked at the White House! How could she go SO wrong? However, when we cut to Alyson scoring in a car park and muttering “crack crack crack crack” over and over again, I just start laughing. I can’t help it, its so heavy handed- oh ok so she’s a DRUUUG addict. Voice Over Guy cuts in; “She does not know that she will soon face an INTERVENTION…” “I hate American television” says my other flatmate, “it’s like a (inappropriate rude word) club to the face”. He’s right, at least with this show, because the message is never delivered as much as hammered into your brain by the means of montage, helpful on screen text notes and a Voice Over Guy. Everything is reiterated in text, so when Alyson say’s “i’m going down to steal morphine” from her dying father, a text comes up on screen saying ‘Alyson is going down to steal morphine’. It feels like you are going home with a guest from Jerry Springer and like the best of these talk shows, it relies on shock value and deceit of the participants to some extent. Alyson doesn’t know she is being filmed for the show (although she does know she is being filmed) and she definitely doesn’t know that it will end in an intervention, also to be filmed.
Underneath the layers of trash though, is a true story and I can’t help but become engaged. Will Alyson remain a drug addict? Will her parents be able to cope? Will she accept her intervention? Underneath the text, voice over and heavy editing is a genuinely interesting story made a whole lot less interesting by all the fancy pants editing and stupid voice over. But while we get a snapshot of a true story, there is little depth in this ‘documentary’ series, that relies more on its formulaic structure and overzealous narrative tools than on the subjects telling their stories.