January 28, 2010


Have you ever watched Hoarders? The premise is simple - we the viewers are presented with these tragic stories of people who collect things. Though collect is way too mild a term and lacks something appropriately clinical. These people don't have a collection of beer cans; they have a garage full of them. They don't hang on to their childrens' toys; they hang on to everyone else's as well and even shop for more toys despite the fact that their children are 27 years old. Under these vast heaps of stuff are dead animals and even soil made from the slowly composting piles of crap (and in some cases crap can be taken literally).

It makes me feel as though I'm watching something that I shouldn't be able to view, like I have access to something that should be deeply private. I kinda feel the same way when I watch Celebrity Rehab. I logged a little time with it over the weekend. And it made me really sad.

For the uninitiated, Celebrity Rehab gathers a half dozen or so fame- and money-starved C-list "celebrities", throws them in a reality show-patented communal living situation, and follows the hilarity that ensues. Or projectile vomiting. Because these folks are seriously addicted to alcohol or drugs, have fairly significant histories of use and abuse, and extremely questionable motives. It's unclear to me how these people were in their right-enough minds to legally sign the paperwork to commit the selves to this basic cable travesty. The only obvious reason is desperation. And what doctor in his right mind would allow people to be put through detox on TV. And who, besides some TV exec, would think it would be a good idea to put a detoxing hooker and a detoxing actor who were involved in numerous domestic violence incidents with one another together on the same show while, as I mentioned, trying to kick drugs?

TV execs, producers, random idea guys can hide behind and kid themselves into thinking that they're providing some sort of public service, some educational program to elucidate modern Americans about the plights of the disadvantaged, less fortunate, or just plain strange. But there's a thin line between showing how the other half live and exploiting them. Or laughing at them.

I'm going to start my own network, the Schadenfreude Network. Instead of fooling viewers into believing they're watching something educational or moderately socially redeeming, the network is going to go for sheer low-brow freak factor. Here are a couple of the shows I'm considering to anchor my prime-time line-up.

- Why Choose: My Botched Sex Reassignment
- The D-List Celebrity Quest for D Cups
- All Star Celebrity Flame-Outs
- Gay Midget Rodeo Clowns' Quest For Love
- Touched By Michael Jackson
- I Weigh 900 Pounds and Can't Find My Penis

Any recommendations? Any shows I'm missing? Where's the line between education and entertainment for you?

Posted by Chris at January 28, 2010 7:09 AM

I detest reality TV. So I simply do not watch it. But I do watch one soap, and Hubby teases me when I cry during an emotional scene. Like when a man's long lost wife suddenly appears years after she disappeared and was presumed dead. Now that's emotional TV! Or when a guy suddenly discovers that his wife's baby is actually his!
Oh yeah, I cry like a baby.

Posted by: Maribeth at January 28, 2010 7:48 AM

Reality TV inspires brings me to new heights of apoplexy. I can't. Even. Go. There. There is a show - AN ENTIRE MULTI-EPISODE SHOW - about people who don't know they're pregnant. I get that it happens ON OCCASION (sadly I actually know someone it happened to and no - we can't discuss) but to create an entire freaking TV show based on this premise? That's just sick. And twisted. And oh so wrong. That all said, I'd totally watch Gay Midget Rodeo Clowns' Quest For Love...

Posted by: rougeneck at January 28, 2010 8:15 AM

I have to say, Hoarders is difficult to watch. Those individuals are clearly ill. There is a clear difference between the people on that show, and the people on Clean House on Style Network. And Intervention on A & E is way too difficult to watch. Especially when there is no happy ending.

As for other guilty pleasure reality TV, I kind of enjoyed the Dr. Drew celeb sex rehab show. It seemed a little less crazy-for-the-sake-of-the-camera crazy, and the sincerity of the participants seemed real.

But my overall guiltiest (is that a word?) pleasure is Giuliana & Bill on Style Network. They are such an adorable couple, and it's just very sweet and warm to watch them, particularly now that they are attempting to concieve, and having difficulty. I'm so rooting for them!

Posted by: coolchick at January 28, 2010 8:40 AM

You know your tv show names are going to bring you lots and lots of fun search terms...

And I am not sure how I stand on Celebrity Rehab. I think it is educational in the way that it portrays real addiction. There continues to be severe misconceptions about "will power" and "they just aren't trying hard enough to quit" sort of things. Addiction is real. And it's ugly and well - there IS recovery, too.

You know whose going to make it on this show? Dennis Rodman. I can usually tell whose going to stay clean and he's got my vote. And that? Is a fucking miracle. So if just ONE of the people on the show gets their life turned around, it's worth every nasty episode. Hands down.

Posted by: k8 at January 28, 2010 9:55 AM

Oh, man, don't get me started on Hoarders. I can't watch it--it pisses me off.

The hoarders are ill, and they need professional help. They send a doc and a cleaning crew in for a one-time, two-day overhaul (freak show), and then they provide some funds for "aftercare." Not surprisingly, most never bother with the counseling at all.

They live in hazardous environments, and many of them have children who have to live that way, as well. They're a health hazard for their neighbors, especially the ones who live in apartments/condos.

The older folks are the worst (due to the fact that their disease has had more time to progress?). They live in filth--in rotting animals and garbage and feces/urine--most of them have no heat or utilities--and their lives are clearly at risk.

They have more than demonstrated they can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves. They should be removed from their homes and hospitalized so they can get the care they desperately need. Cleaning the house? Waaay down the list of priorities.

As far as "reality" teevee goes, I stick to Project Runway and Tabatha's Salon Takeover. And to be honest, I record them both and FF through all the bullshit drama. Ha.

Posted by: Elise at January 28, 2010 10:52 AM

I cannot WAIT to see your search strings after that list of shows. :)

Posted by: Pammer at January 28, 2010 10:52 AM

omg, i love hoarders! my husband and i sometimes go on the hoarder diet. watch it while you eat dinner and you won't be able to eat too much :)
i am a tidy freak so hoarders just makes me feel good about myself when i'm feeling down, hahaha.

Posted by: kati at January 28, 2010 11:45 AM

I can't watch hoarders, as it hits too close too home. My mother has a touch of that, though not as extreme.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at January 28, 2010 11:57 AM


I have not watched Hoarders. The commercials were enough to deter me!

As for anything to do with a rehab? Addiction and recovery.. such a hugely personal matter. I just think it wrong for it to be exploited all over tv.

Then again, shows like Intervention just hit way too close to home. I have only managed to watch ONE episode. The guy was a homeless crack addict.

My hubby is an addict. Currently in recovery. This is the 2nd time he has relapsed in 12 years. Not a typical addict, but an addict none the less.

I am not sure if Intervention helps people to understand addiction or not. And while they may help people and get them into rehab, why does it need to be on tv?

People will never understand addiction until they have been personally affected by it. Because I used to make jokes about Amy Winehouse ALL THE TIME.

Then my hubby relapsed (he had been clean in all the years I have known him), and all of a sudden, crack was not a joke. It was not funny any more.

I feel bad for ever making jokes about people who have/had problems. Ugh. It is real easy to poke fun, until it happens to you.

And yeah, sorry, a little sensitive over here. LOL

Posted by: Jen at January 28, 2010 12:11 PM

This is HILARIOUS that you're talking about hoarders. In the last week three separate Prime TV shows have mentioned it. My 3 year old daughter is also a toy hoarder and it cracks me up!

I don't watch reality TV, but the 900 pound lost penis might get me into it!!

Posted by: Lesley at January 28, 2010 12:19 PM

Yeah, I can't watch that stuff. It's no different than the circus freak show, really. We haven't come very far as a society apparently.

Posted by: Jess at January 28, 2010 12:59 PM

I also can't wait to hear about your search strings after this post. You would definitely have to have a show about weird bathroom encounters.

Posted by: Jenn at January 28, 2010 2:02 PM

I don't mind reality TV in principle. Seriously, like the scripted shows are so very valuable to society? I have to laugh when actors get all indignant about reality TV's takeover. It's so often more entertaining than yet another crime procedural, and we watch TV to be entertained.

I'll take an Amazing Race episode any day over most scripted TV dreck. However, I don't watch The Hills-type dramas; don't watch 800 Pound Midget Octuplets -type dramas. The former are stupid, the latter exploitative.

Posted by: Laura at January 28, 2010 3:49 PM

I used to think my house was messy until I caught a glimpse of Hoarders.... I'm well adjusted compared to that! LOL!

You could have I'm so fat I was pregnant and didn't know it?

Posted by: Rose Winters at January 29, 2010 2:16 AM

I can't believe I'm going to do this.

I've never watched the others, but Hoarders is an important show to me. My mom is a hoarder. It's something you don't talk about. It's hidden. Like alcoholism and abuse, it's one of those elephant in the room problems you grow up unable to seek help for. I can't begin to tell you how cathartic it is to see other people with this problem, especially when they have kids. It makes it easier to talk about. It's as if someone went into our house and finally opened one of the shades upstairs (which are NEVER opened).

I dunno. Therapy helps, but seeing you're not alone is just really reassuring. Not to say that reality producers really have all this in mind (I'm not stupid, I know the power of the buck and how we all stop to watch the train wreck), but I can't be the only one getting something worthwhile out of this.

Posted by: Jeanne at January 31, 2010 9:35 AM

I have to say I watch Hoarders, and while I wouldn't say I enjoy it I do get something out of it. My husband has some serious tendencies toward hoarding, especially if you saw the episode with the young guy and all his hobby stuff. Lucky for him he has me, I will toss out garbage and sell stuff on craigslist in a hot minute. So maybe I get out of it an idea of what could be?

Also I think you are going to get some really great search results from that list of shows - I'd love to know which one produced the most hits. Sort of a contest to see what bizarre fake reality show is the most popular.

Posted by: Tracey at February 1, 2010 3:39 PM

I don't like reality TV. The other night I made a comment to Hubs that all their weird/dysfunctional people seem to be on reality shows, and he countered that I was just in a "mood". Then we started clicking through the channels...

-American Idol
-The Bachelor
-Toddlers and Tiaras
-Operation Repo
-Jon and Kate (re-runs)
-Orange County Choppers

He agreed with me after that.

No thanks. Like you said, that line is thin.

Posted by: Scatteredmom at February 3, 2010 7:41 PM

I think that to receive the personal loans from banks you ought to have a great motivation. However, one time I have got a auto loan, because I was willing to buy a house.

Posted by: KINGMara20 at August 20, 2011 2:01 PM