Usually when we talk about reality television, we often do so from a rather cynical lens — blasting various series for their tongue-in-cheek or silly representation of how people actually live. Sometimes — especially in the case of “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” — you get a representation of someone’s life that is so stage that it feels almost as though you are watching a scripted show.
With “The Real World,” however, it was always something real — this is why the original reality show has gone on for decades, and continues to create interesting television for those who watch it. When Joey Kovar entered rehab on the “Hollywood” season of the show, it was one of the emotional moments in reality TV history — we saw a man who was clearly struggling try and find help for himself, and it was a reminder that while we may look at these people as lab rats or dancing monkeys, they are people trying to live their lives. This reminder was loud and clear even later when Kovar appeared on “Celebrity Rehab” — a show that may have a setting designed for reality TV, but genuinely has done its best to help people over the years.
The news that Kovar was (per TMZ) found dead this morning in Illinois, and that his family reportedly suspects drug use, just rings the point home that while a show like “Celebrity Rehab” may feel exploitative at first, it is a show that needs to be on television for viewers to see. Without seeing Kovar’s story, the sadness of this unnecessary death would not be felt. This show is currently off the air, but it was a way in which to convince struggling celebrities to work on their well-being while at the same time making a little bit of cash and changing their course of their lives — if they can stick to the plan established. There have been some notable successes (as Tom Sizemore has gone to do all sorts of work since his appearance), but there have been some deaths. Mike Starr and Jeff Conaway are two other past participants who have now passed away, even though their deaths were not directly linked to their original addictions.
While we mourn Kovar, let’s remember that there is reality to be found in reality TV — and while we may be entertained by watching things such as drinking or partying, we remember what may come as a consequence.