Recovery Road is a new show for ABC Freeform nee’ Family, which follows a teenaged addict who is forced to enter a halfway house for recovering “junkies.” Offered the chance attend a teen focussed group or to live at a home for adult addicts, the girl choses the latter. At first glance this can be seen as just another propaganda machination for kids.
A cautionary tale where the mantra could be seen as a variant on “Just say no.” This is not the case however. Starring Jessica Sula (Skins, Honeytrap) as Maddie, Sharon Leal (Addicted, Freedom) as her mum Charlotte, David Witts (Eastenders, Dead Crazy) as Craig and Alexa Carra as Cynthia (Mixology, The Answer) the show follows Maddie’s journey to self realization, sobriety and learning about other addicts.
Recovery Road also looks at others in the house, Maddie’s friends, and her relationships with her boyfriend and a former best-friend and fellow addict Rebecca (Lindsay Pearce). It was all too easy to dismiss this new show as a night-time “after-school special” sort of program. However, after watching the first screener for the new show, which will air January 2016, the show became almost compulsive viewing.
Surprisingly, the cast is made up of types, a more polite way of saying stereotypes, but these, as a part of this ensemble piece, work. The show’s protagonist is not a “type” though. Maddie, whose father died in a car crash, goes to school and parties hard. The pilot episode shows the girl passed out, face down in a front yard. The garden’s sprinkler systems start and she wakes up and staggers home.
A plastic water bottle is found in her school locker and it is full of vodka. She is asked to blow into a breathalyzer and Maddie registers .12 BAC. Rather than be expelled, Maddie agrees to Cynthia’s alternative, a halfway home, after the teen goes through detox where she will share her journey to sobriety with adults.
The blend of different age groups, although there are no really “old” addicts in the house the oldest being in their mid-30s, works well for the show. Maddie is the youngest, but only just. The teen’s roomie is a college-age single mother obsessed with becoming famous on a reality TV show and getting her daughter back.
Trish Collins, is a bubble-headed young mother who obsesses over getting her daughter back and getting on the reality television show “Fool House” (like Big Brother but “trashier”). Played by Kyla Pratt (who has been working steadily since 1993 and starred in all three Dr. Dolittle films as Maya the youngest daughter) Trish has a Butterfly McCall voice and infectious enthusiasm that immediately endears the young addict to the viewer.
Charlotte, Maddie’s widowed mother feels alone, lonely, confused and annoyed that she missed all the signals. Leal totally convinces as the troubled teen’s mother. So too does Sula as the daughter with a taste for all things narcotic and alcoholic.
Daniel Franzese is Vern, the Grizzly sized “very gay” addict with the heart and soul of a Care Bear and best friend to Cynthia. David Witts as the calm and collected head of the house may feel a bit out of place, like an addict version of Giles perhaps, but the actor feels as convincing as the rest of the show.
Which is to say, very convincing. The show is addictive viewing. After watching the first screener, it was impossible not to watch the next and then the next. Recovery Road feels like a brilliant and more mature alternative to the wildly popular Brit television show Skins (which Sula worked on for two seasons); a show all about teen drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, teen sex and enough angst to sink a battleship.
Recovery Road, by the third episode, surprised this viewer into schmaltzy tears at least twice, While simultaneously reaching for a tissue and cursing the writers, and cast, for hitting where it hurts, this show became an immediate favorite.
The show airs January on ABC Freeform, which is the network’s new “with it” moniker, and this is one to watch for. Great performances from all concerned, after watching three episodes not one actor was seen to put a foot wrong and some damned impressive writing.
In a matter of moments, these characters become people that the one cares about. Quite an accomplishment since this viewer was prepared to hate the show at first sight.
Recovery Road is not too preachy and shows the pressures that a teen with substance abuse issues faces on a daily basis. Entertainment with a message that does not club one over the head with it. Tune in and watch this and see what you think. If not for the storyline, then for the acting and writing. Top of the shelf stuff this and not to be missed.