In a nutshell: Cameras following losers losing.
The 411: Perhaps in the hope that somebody will unconsciously associate their dreary output with compulsive viewing, BBC2 are running a series of programmes about people’s addictions.
Addiction is difficult to pin down. What’s the difference between addiction and simply wanting something a lot? What does it actually mean to be addicted?
"Habitual psychological and physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one’s voluntary control" if you follow the medical definition. But is it becoming a catch-all phrase for people who have destructive behaviours but don’t want to take responsibility for them?
"Jonny looks like a Coldplay member who was kicked out of the band for being too wussy."
This week, Compulsion followed Jonny Walker – a more-or-less likeable sappy 23 year-old with a drug, drinking and gambling problem. Jonny looks like a Coldplay member who was kicked out of the band for being too wussy. He smokes like a student with that hard-done-by world-weary air you often find in suburban Indiescum.
His father is an Anglican clergyman and an unbelievable turd – reacting with horribly inappropriate jolliness while his son breaks down in tears in front of him. He has that unerring clergyman’s knack of saying and doing the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time – generously garnished with fatuous proverbs about journeys of a thousand miles starting with one step and the like
As his drinking and gambling escalates, Jonny resorts to overdoses to get his parents’ attention. A couple of blister strips at first, culminating in a 150 paracetamol effort. You half expect the Reverend Father to turn up with "the journey of a thousand paracetamol starts with one pill". It doesn’t take an addict to work out that this particular form of gambling only has one outcome.
Earlier in the series there was Jan, a 54 year-old grandmother and gambling addict. Up on 27 counts of theft, all from her friend Queenie, an 89-year-old woman in her care, Jan was a very difficult woman to like. Refusing her lawyer’s advice to plead guilty to stealing saying "I did do it in reality, but in my heart I was going to pay it back".
"I bet that’s some consolation to Queenie, half insane and living la vida broker after being fucked over by someone she trusted."
I bet that’s some consolation to Queenie, half insane and living la vida broker after being fucked over by someone she trusted. Like a lot of addicts, Jan can only see the world in terms of how it affects her. She is devastated by the lies people have told Queenie about her – lies like "that insane gambler stole your life savings and stuck it in fruit machines" which is only a lie in the sense that it is completely and undeniably true.
It has made for uncomfortable viewing at times as you swing between sympathy and contempt for the subjects of the films. This will come as no surpise to the addicts who have been eliciting both those reactions their entire lives, embroiled as they are in their avoidance behaviour and self-hatred. They make reality TV contestants look positively happy, together individuals in comparison.
The best thing about it: The meaningless turd jousts between addict and care worker.
The worst thing about it: Daddy dearest walking around with a face like a stuffed snatch.
The verdict on Compulsion : Habit-forming television.
Marks out of 10: 7