“Compulsive Hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. More than 3 million people are compulsive hoarders. These are two of their stories.”
The reality television craze has entered its second generation. In the beginning, shows merely found folks who were willing to put themselves in odd circumstances for the chance to earn some big payday. That first wave included such shows as Big Brother, Fear Factor, and Survivor. These shows quickly evolved, or devolved, depending on your point of view into the relationship game. Instead of cash, these contestants went looking to marry, most often a millionaire. It turns out that Chuck Barris actually invented the reality show in 1965 with The Dating Game and later with The Gong Show. He discovered, way ahead of his time, that we wanted to see real people make complete fools of themselves for love or money. When the writers’ strike hit, these shows became a gold mine to network executives looking to fill prime-time slots. That’s when everyone noticed just how cheap these shows were to make.
Now cable networks have taken the next step in the reality craze. We are now have no less than 45 shows out there that deal with everything from dangerous jobs, stupid crooks, and one of the most popular is watching other people’s misery. It’s kind of creepy and more than a little disgusting, but the dirty secret is we love train wrecks. We love to watch other people suffer. It makes us feel better about our own lives. Hoarders fits this bill perfectly.
Most of us are hoarders to some extent. If you’re reading this, home theater stuff might be your drug of choice. Whatever it is, we’re all addicted to something. I’ve always collected huge numbers of movies and television shows going back to the laser disc days. I get this job, and now people are giving me stuff for free. What is it Dire Straits once said? “That ain’t working.” Money for nothing and your DVD’s for free. I’m paraphrasing that last part, of course. Back to the point. Each of us has those items we just can’t let go of. It doesn’t matter what they’re worth or if we’ll ever actually use them again. We all do it. And I suspect that most of us feel guilty at times for doing it. Just one glimpse of an episode of Hoarders, and the first thought that will come to your mind is, “Man, I’m not that bad after all.”
It’s hard for me to believe there are people who actually live this way. I’m talking junk piled EVERYWHERE. The worst is not the clutter. We’re talking feces on the bathroom floor buried with mouse droppings and 75-year-old rotting pumpkins. Look at one lady’s refrigerator, and you’ll be in awe that she’s still alive. The drawers are three inches deep in rotted slime. We’re about to revisit our more healthy meals; meanwhile this batty broad is sloppin’ through the slime to pick out bags of cheese and sandwich meats that are just “a little” beyond the expiration date. Of course, by “a little” we’re talking the kind of dates you see on the tombstones in old Civil War era cemeteries. When your adult kids are nearing social security and you have cream cheese that is older than they are, you might have a problem.
Each episode brings you the story of two hoarders. The introduction gives us a grand tour of their cluttered and unsanitary houses. The show provides a therapist to help them come to grips with their problem. Seeing as all of these featured hoarders are on the brink of eviction or losing their kids, the show provides them with a cleaning crew. We’re usually told that the crew can clean up the mess in two days. I’m not sure that’s possible. The subjects are put in charge. Nothing gets thrown out without their say-so. You can imagine how slowly these cleanups actually go. That’s like putting a crack-head in charge of security at Walgreens. It’s obvious the show ends up pushing these folks to their breaking point. In one unnecessary scene, the cleaning crew breaks apart a kid’s plastic clubhouse with a sledgehammer while the kid watches in agony. Naturally, the camera catches ever moment of the young boy’s pain. One of the most disgusting of these episodes features an old woman with 76 cats, 43 of them dead, and still in her house. In a remarkable turn of events, she faced no animal cruelty charges even though she had cat skeletons and corpses all over the house. Where’s the Humane Society when we really need them? Oh yeah, they’re out there picking on responsible snake owners. What was I thinking?
There is something compelling about this stuff. I guess it feeds that desire to feel superior to other people. I find it hard to believe that there are not only hoarders who are this bad, but that they would allow their train wreck to be shown on television, and now DVD. I guess it is fortunate that they are willing to expose their embarrassment. If they didn’t, what would we have to watch?
Each episode is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen format. What’s up with that? I’m not sure why many of these kinds of shows appear this way on DVD today. The picture is pretty much portable cameras, so it’s very documentary-based. Fortunately, there’s not a ton of detail that you might find if the show were in high definition. The picture is perfectly fine for what it is.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is very much a straight dialog piece all of the time.
I know that a lot of you like to watch television while you eat. Alas, it’s a habit that even I have picked up. I would strongly advise you not to do that here. Some of this footage is remarkably gross. I’ve watched some of the most notoriously gore-filled horror films ever made. We’re talking underground, banned in 23 countries, uncut splatter. None of it has ever affected me like some of these refrigerators. I think I’d rather eat at Jeffrey Dahmer’s house. “I’d say my anxiety level is at a nine right now.”