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Hollywood embraces 'Recovery' as religion

Hollywood is, according to the most pious and fundamentalist among us, the most irreligious, sacrilegious and immoral of communities.

If the last 15 years of television and movies -- including the upcoming comedy, "You Kill Me," set in part in Buffalo -- have proved anything, it's that the most rapidly growing religion in Hollywood isn't Judaism, Islam or Christianity -- or even, for that matter, Tom Cruise and John Travolta's Scientology.

It's Recovery.

This includes the 12-step program outlined by Bill Wilson at the outset of Alcoholics Anonymous, which declines that it's a religion altogether but which can seem like roots-level Christianity with a congregation but no priesthood.

Not only are its values everywhere in our movies and television, but you can even see its tenets about human character in TV drama psychology.

As such, it may be the fastest growing religion in America at large, which is always a little behind the show-business curve.

A very tiny partial list of movies and TV shows, recent and not so, in which AA or recovery figure prominently:

"Mr. Brooks" (Kevin Costner quiets his homicidal compulsions by going to AA meetings), "The Sopranos" (Christopher was an AA dropout), "The West Wing" (they had AA meetings in the White House basement), "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (Bradley Whitford's character was in recovery), "NYPD Blue" (recover-ee Sipowicz), "Changing Lanes" (Samuel L. Jackson as a man violently wrenched away from the program against all his desires) not to mention, of course, "Clean and Sober," "Drunks," "28 Days," and "When a Man Loves a Woman."

Among the alcoholics in recovery who have outed themselves amid the mass celebrity migration to rehab (and its attendant backlash) is CBS "Late Night's" Craig Ferguson.

Chris Markus, co-writer of "You Kill Me" (much of whose action takes place in AA meetings) agrees with that contention.

"It's true for good or ill -- mostly for good because it's helping people. There are people who were in no way religious. But they go into AA and suddenly they've got it. So it really is a new kind of religion in its own way. On a modern level, it seems a lot more functional than some of the ones we've got. It has a daily application to people's lives."

Hence its ripeness as a rich comic target in a movie like "You Kill Me."

The distinction of "You Kill Me" is its unprecedented drollery about the subject. This off-the-wall little indie is THE AA comedy in American movies, thus far.

Markus says he's not a recovered alcoholic though he "stopped drinking at about the time I started writing this, but not in any organized way. It was mainly because I moved to L. A. and had to drive a lot. I said 'well, one of those things has to stop.' "

"A friend of mine started going to AA and took me along as a kind of support. Being a not-very-supportive guy, I tried to get what I could out of it, which was a movie idea instead of helping her through hard times."

"I decided to mock her" he says facetiously "and it all worked out."

e-mail: jsimon@buffnews.com

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