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Reel Recovery

By: Leonard Buschel

Follow the musings of REEL Recovery Film Festival Producer and Writers in Treatment Founder Leonard Buschel.

My Annual Movie and TV Bender


Mar 24, 2011

I had the privilege of sitting on the review committee for the 2011 PRISM Awards in late January. This is a two-day smorgasbord of getting to taste and vote on the film and TV productions that most accurately and entertainingly portrayed the spreading genre of addiction and mental health programming. More than 75 health and entertainment professionals viewed and evaluated two-dozen clips from last year’s batch of entries.  

The PRISM Awards is produced by the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and FX Network. The awards are presented at the Beverly Hills Hotel on April 28 and broadcast on FX Network in September to coincide with National Recovery Month.

I look forward to this weekend every year. Most participants only volunteer for Saturday or Sunday. I do both days. I don’t have a television set so this is my chance to see what I’ve been missing on the networks and cable. I watch DVDs and shows online; I just don’t like sitting through commercials designed to make me feel “less than” or “desperately in need of” a medication for a disease that used to be called a disorder, previously known as an illness, originally a characteristic (which in began in childhood as an annoying little habit).

Kicking the TV Habit
My first addiction (after mother’s milk and refined sugar) was television. It’s the greatest anti-depressant and existential angst reliever ever invented. It makes you forget about dying yet keeps you from actually living. I gave away our family TV when two tragic events occurred in the 1990s: George Bush was installed as president and “Seinfeld” went off the air.  I highly recommend Four Arguments for the Total Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander. I know that sounds extreme but Jerry is from Berkeley, so what do you expect? Also suggested is everything by Joseph Chilton Pierce, especially The Biology of Transcendence and Evolution’s End.

Getting back to my television orgy, here are the programs I watched and the “issues” being dealt with. Well, the shows weren’t really about the illnesses—the illnesses were just plot devices used to recycle old story lines.

  • Mad Men, booze
  • The Closer, AA
  • Law & Order, roofies; booze
  • The Good Wife, oxycodone
  • Blue Bloods, rave drugs
  • Bones, schizophrenia
  • House, Vicodin
  • Grey’s Anatomy, PTSD
  • In Plain Sight, Asperger’s; gambling
  • The Big C, Alzheimer’s
  • Drop Dead Diva, bipolar
  • Desperate Housewives, pot
  • “The Pacific,” PTSD
  • “Bond of Silence,” alcohol; violence; bullying
  • “Temple Grandin,” autism
  • The Lois Wilson Story,” alcoholism and recovery
  • “The Sins of the Mother,” Al-Anon issues

You could see that some of the shows had very creative people working on them with their hearts in the right place. Other programs had clearly been created for the sole purpose of occupying 12 minutes of time to keep all the commercials from bumping into each other.

Of course “Mad Men” is always a stand out. I’ve seen every episode, thanks to my iTunes subscription. It’s not cheap—$34.99 a season—but at least there’s no commercials and I can watch it when, where, and how often I like.

'Lois Wilson Story' Best TV Movie
Of the made-for-TV movies, “The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough” was my favorite over “The Pacific,” “Bond of Silence,” “Temple Grandin,” and “The Sins of the Mothers.”  Hallmark should be wildly applauded for its creative and financial commitment to bringing Lois and Bill Wilson, the architects of AA and Al-Anon, to vibrant life. It’s a modern-day creation story based on facts, not mythology.

This is a better Bill Wilson story than “My Name Is Bill W.” —and it’s also a love story of Shakespearean proportions (with a splash of Tennessee Williams). [Editor’s note: William G. Borchert, whose 1000 Years of Sobriety is currently our featured book excerpt and who is interviewed here, is the author of both The Lois Wilson Story, and My Name Is Bill W. and was a screenwriter for both Hallmark productions.]

Don’t miss the Prism Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel live on April 28, 2011 and on the FX Network in September.  (And if you’re watching it on television, I hope you have TiVo.)

P.S. Rest In Peace Elizabeth Taylor. Thank you for showing the way. As Nicholas Fonseca wrote in Entertainment Weekly in 1999, "Liz Taylor checked in to the Betty Ford clinic on Dec. 5, 1983, making celebrity rehab acceptable."


 

 

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