Channel 4 is in the process of hosting what they are calling “Addiction Week”. A series of programs highlighting the problems of drug abuse in the UK through a series of informative and educational programs that are already topics of debate within society. The flagship program for the series is “Going Cold Turkey” presented by Krishnan Guru Murthy and addiction specialist Dr John Marsden.

The program will look at heroin addiction through the eyes of three addicts and their families. One program to be shown in the morning at 9:30am as part of Channel 4’s education schedule and another late evening show at 11pm.

The dangers of drug abuse have been highlighted through the medium of television on more than one occasion whether that be in the context of a factual documentary or through works of fiction that adhere closely to real life scenarios. It’s almost par for the course for Channel 4 to be involved in a project of this nature but I find myself questioning the motives of the channel for airing this program.

Last night’s opening show introduced us to the three heroin addicts that would be going through a detox program. This would essentially involve the participants undergoing varying levels of sedation in a bid to wean them off heroin. Kristan Guru Murthy meanwhile anchors in the studio interviewing the parents of the addicts in a bid to get more background information and attempt to find out the reasons why their sons and daughters became addicted in the first place.

It’s here where things for me got a little on the shallow side. While I applaud the reasoning behind the show, I think its safe to say the execution could easily be construed as tactless. Guru Murphy’s interviewing style came across as patronising and while Channel 4 might justify the programs as one with educational content there’s also the fact that people often watch things of this nature more out of morbid curiosity than a desire to learn anything. After all on a slow television night what could be more compelling than watching a mother cry as she learns the true extent of her daughter’s addiction.

Then of course there was the studio itself, bright and glitzy not unlike that of a gameshow and while the “contestants” languished in a stupefied coma thanks to the sedatives that had been administered and parents who were clearly not equipped for the bright lights of television (and why the hell should they be) suffered the simpering lines of questioning from the host. The addicts each had their very own neon scoreboard proclaiming how many hours and days they had been clean.

Yes folks, it seems that Channel 4’s take on human suffering (whether it be self induced and whether the addicts are recipients for your pity or not) was to basically turn addiction into the latest cut of meat from the belly of reality television. Edited highlights came courtesy of one participant vomiting an undigested meal and another who had managed to smuggle in a rather large knife. All this and I daresay more cleverly hidden under the veil of the education and information

Bad taste…you decide.