Hoarding Episodes of A&E’s Hoarders


Cable reality shows become my guilty pleasure

I don’t watch network reality shows.  The Bachelor, Survivor, American Idol – I don’t hate them, I just can’t get into them.  They’re so staged and phony and for the most part, tawdry.  The same thing is resoundingly true of most cable reality shows – Jerseylicious, anyone?  But I have my own shameful secret – there are a handful of cable reality shows that I not only watch, but watch sort of obsessively (how many episodes can I fit on my DVR?  Lots!).  I like to think they’re better than the ones I scorn, but I know that’s just self-delusion.  Still, I think Hoarders, on A&E, really is a step above the rest.

The premise of Hoarders is simple.  Each week the show profiles (usually) two cases of extreme hoarders who are on the brink of some major consequence as a result of their ungodly accumulation of crap (sometimes literal crap).  The situation is laid out by the participants (hoarder and family or friends) and then a team (usually a psychologist and a professional organizer) is sent in to help rectify the situation over a two day period.  They acknowledge that two days is not enough time to address the underlying mental illness that causes these homes to become crammed with stuff and provide aftercare funds for ongoing therapy and repairs to sometimes badly damaged homes.

So what is it about this show that strikes my fancy?  I don’t know – I simply find the pathology behind the behaviors fascinating.  A lot of the people profiled are facing eviction, condemnation of their homes, loss of children to Protective Services or fines and jail time for not following clean-up orders.  Once they start talking, both to the cameras and the therapist, it becomes clear that they aren’t just “messy” – there’s a lot of underlying psychology that both creates and perpetuates this disorder.

Some of the homes are unbelievably foul.  Clutter may be what we initially see, but there is very often filth that goes far beyond the stuff but is a direct result of folks having no space for hygiene or basic life activities.  Lots of them eat in their bedrooms – sometimes whole families – because the bed has become the last bit of clear space in the entire house.  As we delve deeper into the houses and the clean-up we usually learn more about that specific person and the circumstances leading to their current dire predicaments.  It’s impossible not to feel both exasperation and great sympathy in varying degrees.

Misternocket does not like Hoarders – he finds the situations sad and depressing.  I understand, but disagree.  By the end of most episodes people have made the first steps towards regaining some semblance of a life.  What they go through, emotionally, is fascinating.  Their relationship to their belongings is so very irrational – and they often recognize that fact.  Their willingness to participate in the program is a huge first step toward combating the problem.   I see exaggerated examples of people I know on this show – it gives me a little insight into why some people just cannot let things go.

Hoarders is not my only guilty reality pleasure.  I always loved TLC’s What Not to Wear and still maintain that I would love to spend a day with Clinton Kelly.  I also treasure the time I spend with Ink Master.

I far prefer scripted drama and comedy when it comes to my TV watching, but there is less and less of that to be found these days.  Reality TV is where the easy money is and I see no end to the trend.  TLC already has a Hoarders clone, Style has a What Not to Wear clone and on and on and on.  Real Housewives shows are pretty soon going to be more numerous than CSI spin-offs.  But if you sift through the crap there’s an occasional show that seems to almost care about its participants and want genuinely to help them (and exploit them for money – that’s entertainment, folks).

What are your guilty TV pleasures?  I know you have them…

More Hoarders on Movie Rewind:

Everything Hoarders

The Rat Hoarder and The Cat Hoarder

Chicken and Bunny Hoarders

Hoarders Goes Extreme

TV Hoarding Shows – A Compare & Contrast


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