Will a Hammy Harvard Shrink Replace Dr. Drew on Celebrity Rehab?

By Kirwan Gray 07/11/11

Depressed by a slew of celebrity OD's, Dr. Drew is ditching Celebrity Rehab next season. VH1 insists the hit show is just on hiatus. But a high-flying Harvard doctor is waiting in the wings.

Is Dr. Drew Pinsky finally fleeing Celebrity Rehab? With the fifth series of the show barely underway, rumor has it that Pinsky’s hit VH1 show will be going on indefinite hiatus at the season's end. But is it really the show that's going on hiatus, or just the depressed doctor himself? A source close to the production told The Fix that Pinsky was hit hard by the recent deaths of two celebrities on the show: Mike Starr, the former bass player of Alice in Chains, and Jeff Conaway, the former star of Taxi and Grease. The two men overdosed within weeks of each other, in March and May respectively. A VH-1 producer adds that filling the celebrity slots at the show has become increasingly difficult in recent years, and that the doctor has grown increasingly embarrassed by the show's circus-like environment.

"We've really stretched the limits of celebrity," said another producer, noting that last year's panel of "stars" included one-time crack-head Frankie Lons, the mother of hip hop singer Keyshia Coles. "It's hard to go much lower than that." Cast members for the current season include Michael Lohan, Amy Fisher, and intermittent actress Bai Ling, who threatened to jump off the Pasadena Recovery Center's roof during the season's premiere. A close friend of Pinsky's added that the doctor was feeling the sting of a growing group of medical colleagues who attacked the show for exploitation, poor therapeutic practices, and simple bad taste. Officially, Radaronline reports, the show is simply going on hiatus "because Dr. Pinsky is just too busy to continue to do the show.” Dr. Drew would "absolutely love to revisit doing the show again in the future when he has the time," a spokesperson for Celebrity Rehab told Radaronline.

Another friend demurs: "I think it went from being a fun idea to one with life and death ramifications. He was just getting sick of the circus." This wouldn't be the first career change for the doctor, a board-certified internist, who became hugely popular as host of radio's hit Loveline, which launched in 1984. Celebrity Rehab and its now-cancelled sister show Sober House established him more as an addiction expert in the public eye, but in recent months, sources tell The Fix, he has tried to steer attention away from his addiction-related duties. His eponymous "current affairs” program, The Dr. Drew Show, premiered earlier this year on viewer-starved HLN, earning fair ratings. Another Dr. Drew show, Lifechangers, is set to debut on CW this fall. And during the Casey Anthony trial, the doctor popped up on seemingly every television network in existence to comment on the controversy. 

But while Pinsky is clearly intent on moving on, is Celeb Rehab really disappearing forever? Don't count on it just yet. While the show's ratings have waxed and waned over the years, it remains one of the network's most popular programs. It's a safe bet that VH1 will go to extreme measures to save it. As The Fix recently reported, this year the show added the highly respected Harvard psychologist John Sharp to its staff, who will presumably take over a substantial part of Drew's duties. Charismatic, with a quick sense of humor, Sharp appears today in an exclusive interview by The Fix, in which he discusses Dr. Drew and the new season. There's a chance that if Dr. Sharp does really well, he'll  take over where Drew left off, leaving Pinsky free to pursue his other projects, while still collecting a princely sum as one of the show's producers.

In his interview today with The Fix, Sharp conceded that the never-ending need to amp up the stories—bigger, crazier, deadlier—had taken its toll on Pinsky: “The first few seasons of Celebrity Rehab were very close to what Drew had originally wanted: they really showed what was going on in terms of rehabilitation. After that, the show was kind of amplified a bit to make it more dramatic—not that they were showing anything that wasn’t true, but it was more entertaining.”

VH1 could not be reached for comment. But questioned about Drew's rumored departure, Dr. Sharp replied this morning, "No one's asked me if I'd replace him. That would be pretty cool."

Read the full interview here.

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