Entertainment therapy: A&E’s "Heavy"

Last night’s post about the Real Housewives of Atlanta got me to thinking about reality television in general. It’s easy to watch these people as part of a “cast,” as opposed to plain old regular folks, because they’ve bought into the adage that all the world’s a stage. In Kim Zolciak’s mind, she is a talented, stunningly beautiful woman whose charms are finally being appreciated. While viewers might not see her that way, she’s got an audience–so we’re sort of complicit in her fairy-tale making.

Then, flipping through the huge library of DVR’ed TV my husband and I have, I saw a commercial for an upcoming show on A&E called “Heavy.” This completes a trilogy of shows about addiction and self-destruction, shows that turn the struggles of ordinary people into entertainment.
Do we need another one? 
That isn’t to say that these shows don’t help people–“Intervention” does follow-up episodes every season, and the therapists on the show are committed and professional. But I wonder why so many of us tune in to watch people try (and sometimes fail) to overcome an illness. These aren’t the rouged and staged Real Housewives–these people could be our neighbors, co-workers, relatives. Can watching people triumph make us feel better about ourselves? Does the success of an addict give us hope about our own lots in life? Or…do we just like knowing there’s something that has it worse than we do?
Reality TV is supposed to be an oxymoron–shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Celebrity Rehab” are as far from real life as Hollywood can get. Shows like “Heavy” give A&E an uncomfortable edge in reality entertainment. 
But I can’t say I won’t watch it. I’m curious.