Few reality series are more ghastly and habit-forming than "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" (9 p.m., VH1). A warped combination of a reality show and a drug-obsessed version of "True Hollywood Story," this series invites a handful of has-beens with serious substance-abuse histories to clean up under the careful scrutiny of a licensed doctor with a penchant for publicity.
This season's crew includes model/actress Amber Smith, who confesses to a 16-year dependency on pills and a wretched relationship with her mother. "Idol" cast-off Nikki McKibben has some serious issues stemming from early abuse and trauma. "Bachelor Party" star Tawny Kitaen thinks she's sober, but she's not. Rod Stewart's son Sean is a veteran of rehab and seems to fit right in.
Remember Rodney King? He's a pretty bad alcoholic, but unlike his fellow "celebrities," he's aware that he's "stuck in time" and will forever be associated with his notorious 1991 arrest and beating.
Steven Adler was sacked from his gig as the drummer for Guns N' Roses in 1990, but he has never recovered, and, therefore, needs recovery. Last season's sloppiest junkie, "Taxi" star Jeff Conaway, returns, and so does his co-dependent girlfriend, who appears more interested in camera time than rehabilitation.
Oscar-nominated actor Gary Busey lords over the proceedings like an unwanted guest. He thinks he has joined the group as a "mentor," but Dr. Drew believes he still has some work to do on some issues, including his delusion that medical marijuana will help his asthma.
Like any season opener, tonight's "Rehab" is all about introductions and only hints at the interactions to come. In one scene, the shapely Smith, who dresses as if she's auditioning for the role of Ginger on "Gilligan's Island," runs into Busey's torrent of advice and leaves the encounter slightly shaken, telling herself that she doesn't want to listen to someone "crazier than me."
Busey is clearly cast for comic relief, and that's alarming. You don't need a medical license to see that the star of "Point Break" and "The Buddy Holly Story" has problems. To underscore that fact, we see him being dispensed some serious medication. It's difficult to deny that the scenes with Busey are intended to make us laugh at someone's mental illness. And no doctor, not even a TV doctor, should be associated with that kind of exploitation and abuse.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Jeff Probst hosts "Survivor" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ Earl mulls snitching on a thief on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Tampa Bay and Philadelphia tangle in game 2 of the World Series (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Kimmie needs Betty's help on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Forty years later, viewers are still trying to figure out the 1968 epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" (7 p.m., TCM).
¢ Cadavers come freeze-dried on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ A burglary spurs action on "The Office" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ "Johnny Cash's America" (8 p.m., Biography) recalls the "Man in Black."
¢ "Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday" (8:30 p.m., NBC) sends up the news.
¢ A mystery poison leaves its victims paralyzed on "Eleventh Hour" (9 p.m., CBS).