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"Comfortably Numb" (2004) TV Movie
Set in an addiction treatment clinic, Comfortably Numb (Sunday, Channel 4) was hardly going to be a musical comedy. Not even a Dennis Potter-y one. In common with last year's Rehab, the semi-improvised drama scripted by Rona Munro and directed by Antonia Bird, Comfortably Numb was as challenging - and as gruelling - as you would expect. Occasionally its whiny winos tested your patience, suggesting that counselling probably wasn't the right career for you. Mostly, though, it held your attention tight and highlighted the unpleasant truth that addicts embody: we're all one step from the abyss. Who falls in can be altogether arbitrary. It's a slippery slope.
Comfortably Numb starred Hans Matheson and his cheekbones as Jake, an alcoholic musician who also scored very highly in his SLA (sex/love addiction) scores (40 out of a possible 50; not something to be pleased about). When Emma pitched up (cocaine addiction, underlying eating disorder, prone to self-harm, porcelain pretty), sparks were inevitable. Similarly certain was a shower scene, as well as the obligatory shot for all pretty young actors - that of his arse in mid-shag quiver.
And so it was. In a lot of ways, Leo Regan's film was thoroughly predictable, exploring nothing that Rehab didn't. Dissolute, crumpled rebel goes from hostile denial to benign acceptance, surrounded by other, equally troubled, addicts (Paul the fitness freak, Bob the druggie, alcoholic Charlie who's also a compulsive helper).
But Comfortably Numb was potent and raw, and about more than full-blown addicts. It was about the deceptions, delusions and diversions we create to fool ourselves and other people, our sneaky strategies and devious designs. It was based on stories told by members of the supporting cast, none of whom were professional actors and all of whom were counsellors and trainee counsellors - and therefore recovering addicts - at the real Promis clinic. Tucked away on a Sunday night, it seemed, like a post-binge Jake, a little wasted.
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