This article charts the emergence of a subgenre of reality television, recovery television, in which individuals with compulsive behaviors or addictions to unhealthy substances are profiled and reformed through a staged intervention. It argues that recovery television is instrumental to theorizing addictive spectatorship, a concept that takes seriously the notion that television may act affectively as a drug. Recovery television, it claims, helps viewers negotiate their own relationship to television consumption. Furthermore, such a negotiation augments notions of neoliberal citizenship advanced by scholars of reality television; if the genre of reality television is linked to consumer technologies of self-improvement, recovery television focuses instead on the more stigmatized—yet equally as necessary—forms of citizenship embodied by addicts. Using an episode of the reality series Intervention (A&E, 2005–13), the article contends that reality television's structuring of affect provides audiences with a motive to disidentify with its subjects—in essence, a spectatorial practice of embracing discomfort—in order to disavow one's own addictions.

You do not currently have access to this content.