I gave Barbee Rehab a shot because of the participation of character actor Tom Sizemore, whose presence in so many notable 1990s movies I grew up with has given me at least a morbid curiosity regarding where his career has headed after so many drug arrests, assault convictions and accusations of sexual misconduct. He’s still getting plenty of work, in both high-profile projects like Twin Peaks: The Return and low-grade direct-to-video schlock. I assumed this would belong to the latter category. Turns out, it’s something far stranger. Directed and produced by Derek Orr — who also stars as one of the lead characters — Barbee Rehab is certainly one of the most bizarre streaming series I’ve seen in quite some time, completely shameless and willing to throw everything at the audience in search of a reaction.
Any reaction from the audience will do. Disgust? Definitely. Laughs? If you’re of a certain taste. The cast around Sizemore is built off a few recognizable has-beens and independent actors. Janice Dickinson, for instance, co-stars as Doctor Janice, whose introduction involves a riff on Basic Instinct but with a massive merkin. She gets the most scenes opposite Sizemore as the therapist trying to help him get his shit together, which leads to some memorable rants from the old actor, particularly on the topic of genitalia. “Vagina? Don’t say that! I hate that word! Pussy!”
It’s a foul-mouthed sort of thing, but honestly, the key appeal is watching Sizemore completely let loose in inappropriate ways. He narrates the show, explaining what “Barbee Rehab” actually is: a thinly veiled parody of real celebrity rehabilitation clinics, with which the actor is dreadfully familiar. In this case, the addicts are men and women who have devoted their lives to collecting the famed line of children’s toys (not to be confused with Barbie, of course!). Some have gone so far as to identify themselves as living dolls. Bai Ling, for instance, is Chinese Barbee. In the final episode, she also goes on a weird rant about pussy. Sizemore’s narration routinely makes fun of the other patients in the clinic and, sometimes, the idea of this type of rehab itself. That’s the level of humor and commentary you’ll find in Barbee Rehab.
Despite the narration’s bad vibes, the show admittedly has enough edgy juice and ADHD-esque pacing to maintain itself out of pure shock and awe … at least for the first chapter. Unfortunately, the series runs seven episodes at 25 minutes a piece for a total just shy of two hours. Booting up the second episode already made me feel tired. I kept with it and did not find the experience rewarding in total. When a show like Barbee Rehab is primarily based on a continuous introduction of odd concepts, colorful concepts and crude humor with nothing else to sustain it, momentum can only be maintained for so long.