Despite hosting a syndicated radio show five nights a week, launching two new TV shows, seeing patients and being a husband and father to 18-year old triplets, Dr. Drew Pinsky, radio-TV personality, board-certified internist and addiction medicine specialist, says his life isn’t as crazy as people think. “Ever since I downsized the amount of patient care and increased the amount of media work I do, I feel like I’m on a vacation,” he says.
Part of his so-called vacation has been spent on the launch of a one-hour HLN talk show, Dr. Drew, bowing April 4. Pinsky says it will focus on digging at the stories of the day with a “no BS” approach— likely consisting of his perspective, experts, celebrity guests and a panel.
The first episode’s topic was still being determined at presstime, but Pinsky is hoping to avoid fixation on the Charlie Sheen frenzy, which he has grown tired of addressing. Sheen is just one of the many troubled celebrities Pinsky has provided commentary on during his career. Scot Safon, executive VP of CNN Worldwide and general manager of HLN, believes this is key to what will make Dr. Drew a success. “People are very interested in what Drew has to say, and they aren’t shy about sharing Drew quotes all across social media,” Safon says.
Growing up in Pasadena, Calif., with a doctor father and opera singer turned housewife mother, Pinsky never dreamed of reaching people through television. A self-described former surf rat who is “seriously, seriously nerdy,” he attended prep school where he was student body president and captain of the football team. After high school, Pinksy went to Amherst College in Massachusetts; in 1980, he entered medical school at USC. In 1984, Pinsky began offering his medical expertise in a segment on the Los Angeles radio program, Loveline. “I felt like I was doing community service,” he says.
By 1992, the show was airing five nights a week. While Pinsky remained a constant, Loveline went through several cohosts before finding the winning combination with comedian Adam Carolla. In 1996, the duo brought the radio program to TV audiences in an MTV series of the same name, which lasted until 2000. Pinsky continues to cohost the nationally syndicated Loveline with “Psycho Mike” Catherwood.
Pinsky’s work on Loveline landed him a series on the former Discovery Health network, ongoing specials for MTV and a starring role in VH1’s Celebrity Rehab series and spinoffs. Ironically, the man who has succeeded in the world of reality TV admits he is not a fan of the genre. His favorite shows are those that “fit to be true with what I know about people,” including South Park, Mad Men, Big Love and Boardwalk Empire.
While preparing for his HLN show and fi lming season five of Celebrity Rehab, Pinsky is also working on the upcoming daytime show Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, a daily half-hour self-improvement series from Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions slated to air this fall on The CW.
“I’m going to be assembling a group of experts, so I will sort of be the ringleader,” he says. The show will address topics such as health, beauty, relationships and parenting in a live-audience format.
Being a physician in the spotlight, it is not uncommon for Pinsky to be compared to other doctors in the media such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta or Dr. Mehmet Oz, but there appears to be no competition. “Those guys are the real deal,” Pinsky says. “One of us has more expertise in one area relative to another, but I have never heard either one of them say something that I was in disagreement with.”
Pinsky is keenly aware of critics who say he is potentially marginalizing medical care into reality TV. “Every movement has to be measured to what is and isn’t OK,” he says. “Fighting those fights in the world of TV has been extraordinary.”
Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Lifechangers creator/executive producer and senior EP of Extra, thinks Pinsky is succeeding in walking the tightrope between pop culture and sound medical advice. “With all that he does on TV he has never given up his first calling, which is seeing patients and practicing medicine,” she says. “I think that speaks volumes about his commitment to changing lives.”
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