'My Strange Addiction' Series Premiere

While My Strange Addiction provides details of the addictive behaviors, it does little to present their psychological make-ups.

My Strange Addiction

Airtime: Wednesdays, 9pm ET
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: TLC
Air date: 2010-12-29

Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley once said, "It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it." It's harder still to imagine the addictions featured on TLC's new series, My Strange Addiction, an extension of the Discovery Health special of the same name. These addicts aren't junkies or drunks, hoarders or sex addicts. They eat chalk or toilet paper, hit the tanning bed six times in a day, suck their thumbs or sleep with a blow dryer.

The behaviors are so illogical they're actually surprising. The premiere episode features Lori and Keesha, two women who've engaged in their respective addictions since childhood. Both women are mothers who lead "normal" lives in all respects apart than their compulsive behaviors.

Lori has been sleeping with her blow dryer, turned on, for 24 years, and she has defined criteria for which type of dryer she will use. She uses over 3,000 hours of electricity a year, most of it from the dryer. Growing up in a house with nine siblings, Lori became accustomed to turning on the dryer to drown out noise and warm the bed. Years later, she still uses it, even though it was a contributing factor in her divorce. She has scars from where the dryer has burned her in her sleep, and the dryer has fallen out of bed and burned a hole through the carpet and matting underneath.

Keesha's behavior also stems from childhood difficulties: as a girl, she began nibbling toilet paper in response to some family stress. She's been doing it for 23 years now, keeping a roll of toilet paper in the car and squares of paper in her purse. Like Lori regarding her dryers, Keesha has favorite brands of paper. Throughout the day, she will tear off a small piece of paper and pop it into her mouth, because she loves how it "feels on my tongue." Despite warnings from her family, Keesha doesn't see the behavior as a threat to her health.

Viewers see both subjects' initial visits with psychiatrists and their promises to try to change, followed by written updates on their progress. The two-part structure and lack of time make both stories feel rushed. We have all seen enough TV shows about junkies and alcoholics that it might make sense to cut corners on such over-familiar stories. But the point here is the "strangeness." While My Strange Addiction provides details of the addictive behaviors, it does little to present their psychological make-ups, their contexts or their possible treatments. The resident psychological expert, Dr. John Zajecka, appears early in the episode to describe what he sees, but then he disappears. More input from him might help us understand what we're watching, and not just ogle bizarre spectacles.

The premiere episode finally leaves viewers frustrated, not just at the lack of analysis, but also at the failure to provide closure. One can never be certain whether an addict is going to relapse, but more narrative follow-through -- in the form of epilogues or more discussion by therapists or subjects -- would help us comprehend whether Lori and Keesha are safely heading towards recovery. As it is, the episode leaves their storylines open-ended, and still a little "strange."

If it's difficult to classify My Strange Addiction -- is it a sensational show? a medical help show? -- it does have an odd appeal. I'll be talking about it and I would watch again, drawn in the same way that one is engrossed with seeing some freakish event that might never be seen again. Nonetheless, the show's flaws are daunting, and make My Strange Addiction more disappointing than fascinating.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.