"Obsessed" picks up the reality baton from "Intervention."
No, this isn’t that movie with Beyonce, a “Monk” spinoff or even a perfume. “Obsessed” instead picks up the reality baton from “Intervention,” capitalizing on a condition — there drug addiction, here obsessive-compulsive disorder — to approximate the narrative arc of a made-for-TV movie. First, there’s the crippling nature of the disorder, providing a kind of voyeuristic carnival element. Then matters shift to the treatment portion, potentially providing elements of hope. Slickly intercutting between two stories in each hour, this series should deliver for A&E, which has found a dubious niche in documenting human frailties.
On the plus side, despite the provocative title, “Obsessed” feels more clinical and less exploitive than “Intervention,” which returns for another season as its lead-in. Although the quirks of those involved are detailed for maximum effect, there is a sense of compassion here, and the treatment program occurs over a matter of months, so we’re not talking about overnight epiphanies or miracle cures.
The premiere features Scott, a germaphobe who washes his hands repeatedly; and Helen, a single mom who experiences panic attacks when driving (her father died in a car accident), can’t venture onto the freeway and hasn’t been able to visit her parents’ graves.
Each is paired with a therapist (five are featured in the 11 episodes), who goes about the arduous task — or as arduous as can be shoehorned into a half-hour — of exploring the patient’s OCD symptoms, forcing them to confront the problem and teaching them various coping skills. Along the way, Scott has to discuss his obsessive cleanliness in the context of his bowel movements, and viewers are subjected to the cringe-worthy sight of a fidgety Helen driving her young kids around.
As intrusive as this might sound, the producers, to their credit, make “Obsessed” mostly about the pain and loneliness of such disorders; it’s not strictly a freak show (as “Intervention” is at times).
In this case, a straightforward approach mixed with a modicum of empathy goes a long way. And while that combination probably won’t inspire most to watch “Obsessed” over and over again, it did help a certain TV critic with his nagging compulsion to mock and ridicule manipulative reality concepts.
But as the song says in “Avenue Q,” only for now.