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TV review: Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery
Russell Brand and Mitch Winehouse. Image. BBC
Comedian Russell Brand hosts this BBC Three documentary about society's preconceptions of drug addiction and its methods to rehabilitate users; mindful of his own experiences during an 11-year heroin habit.
The exclusive footage of a younger, bare-footed Brand himself taking drugs in his Hackney flat was memorable for obvious reasons, but the documentary truly sparked to life when Brand was having a heated debate with Dr Clare Gerada, who disagrees with him that methadone shouldn't be used to wean addicts off drugs.
It would be churlish to suggest there was any aspect of this programme that was weak, although I'm sure everyone will have moments they didn't particular engage with over others.
My opinion of Russell Brand has always been hard to pin down because his output runs incredibly hot and cold. For every scene-stealing turn in the likes of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there's a heinous remake of Arthur lurking round the corner.
"He's undoubtedly a rampant egomaniac."
In addition, he's undoubtedly a rampant egomaniac.
However, it's impossible to deny Russell Brand as the perfect choice to present a film about drugs on the BBC's youth-skewing channel. Thanks to his background as a charismatic comic and ex-junkie, From Addiction to Recovery was both insightful and entertaining.
It may have lacked depth in a few areas, but whatever Brand's journalistic deficiencies, he made up for simply because you wanted to hear his thoughts on a matter he has first-hand experience of.
An hour-long documentary about drugs isn't very enticing for a Thursday evening, but with his cheeky asides and felicitous levity, Russell managed to turn a grim topic into something human and optimistic.
Addiction to Recovery touched on many things in a relatively short space of time. Amy Winehouse's death at the age of 27 (coincidentally the age Brand kicked his habit) started the show, perhaps to snare the attention of youngsters who respond to celebrity stories.
A personal view of addiction
The soulful crooner's music also became a key part of the documentary's soundtrack, but From Addiction to Recovery got progressively more personal and down-to-earth as it went on; for example, we heard about a 23-year-old called Nathan who turned to drugs after both his parents overdosed.
"From Addiction to Recovery got progressively more personal."
Aptly-named brain specialist Professor Nutt gave evidence for the theory that 10% of people are predisposed to addiction because of how their brains are wired, and Russell Brand returned to Focus 12 - the rehab centre where he turned his life around with the help of its founder Chip Somers.
There was debate about how best to tackle heroin addiction (total abstinence or substitute methadone?) and promising news from Brighton's Chief of Police that sending drug-addicted thieves to rehab makes economic sense for local communities (for every £1 spent on treatment, it's a saving of £3 in future criminal damage).
It wasn't a particularly hard-hitting documentary (although there were gruesome photographs of intravenous injections), but it made a multitude of points in a coherent and memorable way.
Russell Brand was still irritating at times (usually when he's unable to remain serious in the presence of doctors and politicians), but he also came across as knowledgeable and, yes, fairly inspiring.
He was a pitch-perfect host who prevented this documentary from drowning in a depressing or 'right-on' tone. If only I didn't have conflicting feelings about him being like a parrot that swallowed a thesaurus.
- Verdict: From Addiction to Recovery was an edifying, insightful, occasionally grisly documentary.
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