In her new eight-episode documentary series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the former King of Queens co-star is on a mission to expose what she believes is the cult of Scientology, and to give camera time to others who, like her, were once in thrall to this particular religion.
Remini, who spent decades as an ardent Scientologist (the new show plays footage of pro-Scientology interviews she used to give), broke away from the self-styled church a few years ago. She wrote a bestselling book, 2015’s Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, and gave some TV interviews to publicize it. But now she’s in a car with a camera crew, crisscrossing the country to visit former Scientology members, interviewing them about their experiences in the hope of discrediting the religion, and encouraging more of its disciples to flee.
The first episode focuses primarily on Amy Scobee, a woman who spent almost three decades as an enthusiastic, highly exalted Scientologist. Scobee’s jobs included helping enlist Los Angeles-based celebrities into the organization. Now she claims to have been sexually assaulted by at least one prominent official of the church as well as being the subject of intense harassment, including a campaign to keep her separated from her family.
It’s compelling stuff, especially because it arrives in the context of an A&E show that runs a rather nervous-seeming graphic after commercial breaks giving viewers a link where they can see Scientology’s official responses to the various charges made in Scientology and the Aftermath.
If you’re looking for a thorough history and deconstruction of Scientology, you still have to watch filmmaker Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief , which along with New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name are by far the most complete critiques of the religion thus far. Both that film and Remini’s series also feature Mike Rinder, formerly a high-level Scientology spokesman and official who now repudiates the church and alleges lots of behind-the-scenes bad behavior by those at the highest levels of the organization.
The gist of Scientology’s beef with Remini is that she’s doing her anti-Scientology work to make money, a pretty ironic castigation given the massive amount of fundraising and profiteering the church does with its expensive training sessions for both celebrity and ordinary-citizen participants.
Toward the end of the premiere, Remini is shown saying she’s hearing the same stories “over and over” — that the abuse and harassment that former members are subjected to have similar traits. Unfortunately, that’s not much of an incentive to keep watching her series, which even during the first hour becomes a little repetitive. Nevertheless, Remini comes across as a sincere crusader, if one whose obsessive passion also suggests the very aspect of her character that enabled her to remain so devoted to Scientology in the first place.
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on A&E.