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A CurtainUp Review
In Good Television, the show at its center is called Rehabilitation. It doesn't take a reality TV watcher (read: me) very long to note the parallels to the constantly watched A&E show Intervention. An addict is followed around by a supposed documentary camera crew while they go about their addict ways. And then, friends and family stage an intervention, with the show offering access to an excellent rehab facility.
We quickly find out that Rehabilitation is doing so well they need to double their output, which also means doubling their number of subjects. We meet the showrunner, Bernice (a snide Talia Balsam), the senior producer and licensed therapist Connie (an impassioned Kelly McAndrew), and the newest team member, a young and familial-y connected Tara (a grounded Jessica Cummings) who acts as the moral center for this story.
The addict whose story and rehab is up for grabs is Clemson, a young crystal meth addict. John Magaro plays Clemson with googly eyes and flaccid muscles, convincingly trailing his sentences off into the ether. The trick here, though, is what goes into crafting this reality TV show — making it the best TV possible— making it “good television.” Thus far for Rehabilitation this has meant finding a compelling addict who is the most likely to accept rehab, and stay sober. As the production team evaluates Clemson and his family, their reasons for ultimately choosing him seem half-baked, but inevitable for storytelling purposes. And of course when the team heads down to South Carolina for filming (with a new showrunner now cutting his teeth as a cameraman), the crap hits the fan. Will this be good television? Is it moral to expose this family, and is the show itself morally good?
Rob MacLachlan's script is compelling, fast and humorous. But at times motives and decisions are opaque, and MacLchlan doesn't venture all the way into the depths of reality's morality (and for what its worth, this production team may be very LA, but their immoral tendencies are slight). Instead, the focus seems to veer towards the female characters and their struggles (including Clemson's heart-wrenching sister), and their survival. Perhaps this is more than one play's worth of ideas set forth. Television is a large target, but one's aim still needs to be true.