"America Undercover: Rehab," (search) airing on HBO Monday at 8:30 p.m. EDT, concerns itself with five young drug addicts, all white and from suburban families, as they attempt to kick their habits at a facility called Camp Recovery (search) in Santa Cruz, Calif.
With its opening scenes of some of the addicts cooking heroin in bottle caps and then injecting themselves, "Rehab" starts out like so many other drug documentaries — the kind they've been showing to schoolkids since the 1960s.
After the shooting up, the documentary takes you to Camp Recovery, where each of our poor addicts is briefly profiled, complete with childhood photos, and then given a chance to explain his or herself on camera.
And like those old anti-drug movies, you can't help rolling your eyes as they blame their addictions on things other than a base desire to just get wasted — such as parents who neglected them, or perhaps made remarks to them over the years that did so much damage to their self-esteem that they simply had to go out and get high.
It's all stuff we've heard before in drug movies, but there comes a point in this one where you suddenly realize this isn't the same old thing.
That's when their 30-day stint in rehab ends, and the five addicts are released back into the real world to sink or swim on their own.
This is also the point where you begin to wonder about the mysterious ways of documentarians.
For "Rehab," producer/director Steven Okazaki (search) and his crew checked back in with each of the addicts three months, six months and even two years after Camp Recovery, filming them in jail, on the street, sleeping in cars and, of course, shooting up, since most addicts relapse.
What's amazing is what Okazaki's subjects will admit to, or do, on camera — from injecting themselves with drugs to confessing to all sorts of degrading behavior. One of them even OD's practically on camera.
And you have to admire the steadfastness of a filmmaker who somehow manages to keep track of subjects who live on society's fringes with no addresses or phone numbers.
It's a world you wouldn't want to live in, but it's worth visiting for 90 minutes.