Rick Kirkham began shooting his own video diaries when he was only fourteen years old. Over the next few decades, Rick recorded every event in his life, accumulating over 3,000 hours of footage, most of which he never even watched. By the time he was 33 years old, Rick had achieved everything he had aspired to; a reporter for Inside Edition, he spent his weekdays in New York performing outlandish stunts for a segment called “Inside Adventure” and his weekends at home in Dallas with his wife Tami and their two beautiful sons. Yet still, Rick felt that something was missing.
Filmmakers Michael Cain and Matt Radecki sifted through thousands of hours of footage to piece together the story of Rick Kirkham’s life. Focusing on a period of about seven years, the film chronicles the tumultuous ups and downs of Rick’s daily life, interwoven with the story of his intense struggle with substance abuse. The result is an unbelievably candid glimpse into the contradictions of cocaine addiction. An outwardly wholesome family, the Kirkhams suffer with Rick as he goes in and out of drug rehab programs, intermittently agonizing through periods of sobriety and spiraling back downward into addiction. The audience watches Rick’s elation as Tami conceives and gives birth to both their sons, his disappointment at having to leave them for work, and the self-loathing he feels due to his inability to stay away from drugs for any lengthy period of time.
There are parts of this film that are extremely difficult to watch. As Rick plummets further and further into the depths of his addiction, he and Tami begin to fight, their arguments punctuated by two year-old Rick, Jr.’s screams as he stands in the corner of the room wailing. The camera stays on, recording Rick as he berates himself for his addiction and the way he is destroying his family, all the while folding a piece of aluminum foil into a makeshift pipe.
Rick’s coherence through all of this is what really carries the film – despite the drugs, he is fully articulate and presents an authentic portrait of himself, making absolutely no excuses for his behavior. Most puzzling of all is Rick’s insistence on recording every moment of his life, no matter how incriminating or unflattering. He even involves Tami in his bizarre obsession, asking her to record phone conversations between the two of them while he is away so that they have both sides of the dialogue on tape.
Cain and Radecki worked with Kirkham to edit together crucial bits of his video diaries, reconstructing his life into a tale that vacillates between uplifting and painful, but through it all is undeniably real. “TV Junkie” is by no means easy to sit through, but will leave you with a whole new understanding of the complexities of addiction.