It starts in ten minutes, and I don’t have cable, so there’s probably about a 100% chance that I won’t see it, but the A&E network has a new reality series starting tonight on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I’m sure will be hilariously entertaining, if not terribly informative. The new unscripted documentary series, entitled Obsessed, seems to have been introduced by A&E to further capitalize on the success of their show, Intervention, which allows you, the viewer, from the comfort of your own couch, to share in the fun as families, torn apart by addiction, are given an opportunity to tearfully confront the relatives that have ruined their lives and led them through hell. Obsessed, according to the network, claims to show not only individuals struggling with debilitating mental illness, but also stay with them as they attempt cognitive behavioral therapy. Given that it’s produced by the men who gave us the informative and meaningful series The Two Coreys, though, I don’t hold out much hope.

Sorry if I’m coming across as touchy about this, but, knowing how TV works, I expect this series will be chocked full of anxiety-producing scenarios, and very light on conveying information that might actually be useful to those, like myself, who actually suffer from the disorder. (I’m picturing Fear Factor, only a lot funnier.) I have no doubt that it’ll be compelling television. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to watch someone with an irrational phobia be forced to confront said phobia? The intention of the producers, however, is not – regardless of what they tell you – to help those individuals triumph over their fears. Their goal is to provide programming sufficient to hold the attention of individuals in key marketing demographics. That is all.

But maybe there’s an upside in it. Maybe, if a show like this had existed when I was younger, I would have sought help earlier. Maybe it’ll even encourage people to be a bit more sympathetic toward individuals who suffer from what really can be an incredibly painful disorder. Maybe the show isn’t all, “Let’s take this guy who panics at the very thought of water, and throw him in the pool,” and there are some real, significant resources directed toward those individuals featured. Maybe I could support something like that. I just don’t think that’s what I’m missing tonight on A&E.

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  1. Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    The image came from the New York Times Magazine. That’s how I came to know about the show. A&E ran a full-page ad… It wouldn’t have occurred to me to make OCD sexy.

  2. Katy
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I watched tonight and thought it was really interesting because of how they showed the progress through therapy. It wasn’t sensational like the build-people-a-new-home-the-family-cant-afford-the-taxes-on-because-they-fell-on-hard-times, and it wasn’t some weirdo’s patented therapy he or she is trying to market a la Dr. Phil. They showed behavioral therapists working with two different people that had OCD that manifested in different phobias and compulsions.

    Ultimately, I realize it’s there to generate money, but it’s a show that tells a story. I like stories about peoples’ lives, and read lots of memoirs and bios. There are certainly people trying to make a buck off this, but the same can be said of publishing companies and the bios they choose to publish. Somehow because it’s on tv, we’re automatically more skeptical.

  3. Paw
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I like the show where they have film crews go along with cops informing families of traffic fatalities. I’ve learned a lot about how people cope with tragedy from that.

    And, if you want to have a real good time, watch the show Intervention from the bar at the Elbow Room, like I did last night.

  4. Chelsea
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Hadn’t heard of this program, but, even if it were as sensationalist as you fear, it would still, as you say, call attention to OCD and make people aware of the ways to treat it. Honest: I’m not sensing that the intention is to torture people who are already suffering.

  5. Posted May 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    They should start having a bunch of fake injuries every week like on Dancing With the Stars.

  6. Posted May 26, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m overreacting, but when I hear that the production team that brought us The Two Coreys is doing a reality show about my mental illness, I get sensitive… I’m glad to hear that at least someone out there saw it and got something positive from it.

  7. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    It wouldn’t have occurred to me to make OCD sexy.

    Are you kidding? You are the fabled pioneer of OCD made sexy.

  8. Chelsea
    Posted May 28, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    BTW, I know I’ve said this before, but I prefer to think of OCD as a physical illness. As we now know, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and any number of conditions are now understood as physical in origin.

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