The ghost of Barnum is stalking TV land, as a new show displaying the dark and slightly freakish side of celebrity seems to be proving: Living TV’s Rehab. And some less-than-A list celebrities are queuing up to take part. One, who was turned down, was apparently eager to get on the show and discuss their sex addiction, but Living TV seems to have repulsed this entrant in favour of more damaged celebrities.
So Peter Sellers’ daughter Victoria is in, combating drug addiction, alongside the alcoholics Les McKeown from the Bay City Rollers, Robin Le Mesurier, son of John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jaques, and Rowetta Satchell, former X Factor contestant and a number of others, including Alicia Douvall, who is fighting body dysmorphia and Cassie Sumner, who is struggling to beat bulimia.
It’s outrageously exploitative of these sad and, ultimately, unfortunate fame seekers – we get to watch their pain in what was once the last refuge of the famous or the wanabee famous. Rehab was the one place in which their putative mystery could be preserved, the one place they could hide, if only for a little while. Strip that mystery, that hiding place, away and what is left of the celebrity?
This is car crash television of the highest order – and it seems unlikely that many of the participants’ careers will survive the experience. This Rehab could damage them for life and Living TV are doubtless loving every moment – but it could well be a case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.