Review: ‘Recovery Road’

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Freeform will look to build on its recent rebranding from ABC Family with a new drama series from Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, Recovery Road.

Recovery Road stars Jessica Sula as Maddie, a teen-aged addict who refuses to admit that she has an alcohol problem, even as the pilot’s opening scene finds her lying face down on someone’s nicely manicured lawn, suffering from a hangover. Awakened by the sprinkler system, Maddie is able to pull herself together for school, but when Cynthia (Alexa Carra), the high-school guidance counselor, finds vodka in a water bottle stashed in Maddie’s school locker, the teen-ager is forced to attend an adult halfway house as an alternative to being expelled.

Defiant and angry, Maddie initially resents being forced to live within set limitations, including an early curfew and no cellphone privileges. The house features an ensemble of adult characters, although some look as young as or younger than the teen herself— including Maddie’s roommate, Trish (Kyla Pratt), and potential love interest, Wes (Sebastian de Souza).

Unlike typical youth-targeted dramas that offer one-dimensional characters and little intrigue, Recovery Road features a mature storyline that deals with the complexities and struggles of addiction in a manner that doesn’t preach or talk down to viewers. Maddie’s character is complex, yet despite her imperfections you can’t help but root for her to turn her life around.

The show also doesn’t ignore the feelings and emotions—both good and bad—of family members related to those in the rehab facility, including Maddie’s mother Charlotte (Sharon Leal).

In one scene, Charlotte initially lies about her daughter’s predicament to an old friend she runs into at the grocery store. Later in the episode Charlotte, needing to face the reality of Maddie’s situation herself, calls her friend back and admits that not all is well on the homefront.

Recovery Road, based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson, is an overall solid addition to Freeform’s lineup of drama series targeted to the network’s young audience of “becomers.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.