One of the most harrowing documentaries about drug abuse ever made is Michael Cain’s and Matt Redecki’s documentary “TV Junkie.” The film chronicles the downward spiral of former “Inside Edition” commentator Rick Kirkham. When Kirkham was 14 years old, he received a movie camera as a present. From 1978 through 2000, Kirkham filmed or taped everything in his life, culminating in over 5,000 hours of footage. This included everything from happy family events, sexcapades with various women (presumably filmed before he was married), and … most importantly, for the purposes of this documentary … his drug use.
The entire film is comprised of home video footage edited together with next-to-no narration. You see everything in Kirkham’s life, from his happy life with his wife and kids to his smoking crack and fretting about catching AIDS from using a dirty needle to shoot up. Kirkham is amazingly self-aware for an addict, which is arguably a big part of his problem. He just seems to think he’s too smart to let his life fall to pieces, but it does … graphically. What’s especially disturbing are the fights with his wife while his young children are watching … and crying. At several points, I seriously considered turning the film off because it was just too damn disturbing to watch. I started to get really angry, because I thought what kind of sick, narcissistic a–hole would mentally torture and manipulate his family during some of their most painful moments … and tape it? Oh, right … a crackhead. Kirkham may have been a sick narcissist for taping his (and by extension, his family’s) downward spiral. But he also has balls of steel for allowing this footage to be used to illustrate how bad addiction can get and the collateral damage such addiction has on loved ones. This is easily one of the ugliest self-portraits in movie history.
“TV Junkie” won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, premiered on HBO in 2007, and then kind of dropped off the radar. However, it is now available to stream through iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, and other services. One of the most compelling films you’ll ever see. I guarantee you won’t forget it.