Addicted

"Addicted" is a nonfiction horror show of health hazards and troubles with the law, littered with statistics and obvious-answer multiple-choice questions. It's one big nightmare out there --- you abuse, you lose --- as producer-director Lisa Jackson goes from one extreme addict to another.

With:
Linda Ellerbee

“Addicted” is a nonfiction horror show of health hazards and troubles with the law, littered with statistics and obvious-answer multiple-choice questions. It’s one big nightmare out there — you abuse, you lose — as producer-director Lisa Jackson goes from one extreme addict to another.

“Addicted’s” delivery is heavy-handed from Linda Ellerbee’s introductory comments forward — the addicts are everywhere, living in every kind of neighborhood and, as best as can be inferred from the reliance on highway traffic shots, behind the wheel of just about any car.

“Addicted,” the first of a three-part series produced with a $3.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a “Scared Straight” for youths making those initial “should I or shouldn’t I” decisions about drugs. As such, HBO is making available a curriculum package in conjunction with the program for middle and high schools along with a community outreach program. For some, it could be too overwhelming.

Hourlong show starts with a thrice-divorced alcoholic who drank to pass the time on his Manhattan-to-Garden City, Long Island, commute. From there, it’s a trip to liver patients in a Florida hospital; Quincy, Mass., cops busting public drunks; a U. of Texas student who has stopped drinking (unlike the rest of the student body); and a Native American family in Arizona dealing with their mildly retarded son — a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. Stats on abuse break up the short segs.

An assortment of prisoners all figure they wouldn’t have murdered or busted up the house if they weren’t drinking or smoking crack; an ex-junkie and her 15-year-old daughter share their dark life; an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune is reduced to living in a nice house rather than an estate in Westchester County, N.Y., because of a 15-year heroin addiction. Story on a teen who killed two friends in a drunk driving accident is effectively packaged.

The show takes a pitiless look at addicts and their victims, save for a woman and her 12-year-old son, cleaning up after a drunken boyfriend’s rage. There’s no penetration of the problems, no solutions offered, no talk of precautionary efforts — only the effect on society.

Most disturbing footage comes from elderly smokers. One, a former cover girl model now stricken with throat cancer, reminisces about how she was told smoking would add to her glamour back in the ’50s. She was only following advice.

There’s nothing in this package that hasn’t been heard or read. It’s a signpost — make that a scream — of precaution for youths, yet it feels directed to an adult audience. Technically, most of the show is cut at a good clip and assemblage is first-rate. Smoking portion drags in the hunt for lively anecdotes.

Second show that airs in July, “Flashback,” chronicles a high-school student shaking her addiction to become valedictorian; the third episode, “27th & Prospect,” will show a year in a Kansas City community’s fight against drugs and violence. It’s set for August.

Addicted

Thurs. (5), 8-9 p.m., HBO

Production: Filmed in New York, Florida, Arizona, New Haven, Conn., Quincy, Mass., and Austin, Texas, by HBO in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Executive producers, Linda Ellerbee, Rolfe Tessem, Sheila Nevins; producer-director, Lisa Jackson; writer, Ellerbee.

Crew: Camera, John Hazard; editor, Lisa Shreve; sound, Francis X. Coakley; music, Michael Bacon.

Cast: Linda Ellerbee

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