I intended to buy every Christmas ornament and “decorative pick” shoved under my left arm as I browsed bins on Black Friday, but something killed my bargain-buying buzz: Hoarders. (A&E, Mondays, 10 pm) More specifically, it was Jennifer, the stay-at-home mom who “loves to shop and gets a thrill from getting a great steal.” Hoarding experts rated her home as a “5” on the hoarding scale of 1 to 5. Would my obsession with acquiring inexpensive sparkly ornaments soon force me to knock out a wall and take over my children’s play room? I put them all back.
But Jennifer and all those profiled on Hoarders have lost the capacity to stop, having “an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary.” Classified as both a compulsive mental disorder and a pathological condition, three million Americans reportedly suffer from compulsive hoarding.
On each episode, producers bring in a clinical psychologist to work on the hoarder’s emotional issues while professional crews haul off endless piles of newspapers, books, moldy clothes and garbage.
Since A&E debuted the reality series this summer, shame-filled relatives of the country’s most severe hoarders must have contacted the network. The level of putrid living conditions has surpassed the former Level 5 classification.
The Season Two premiere was almost worse than the couple with 45 dead cats. Augustine was living in her dilapidated house without water, gas, heat or appliances for four years. Since authorities removed her teenager 14 years ago, she gave up cleaning completely.
Crews refused to go into certain rooms because of all the human excrement. Plus, Augustine was defensive, mean and likely to re-offend.
I preferred 21-year-old Jake, who attached meaning to his garbage.
One minute, I was disgusted (“How can a Totino’s pizza box have value, you freak?”), and 10 minutes later, I was crying after he had a breakthrough while throwing away dog hair.
Alas, the occasional good endings on Hoarders are difficult to maintain.
Executive producer Jodi Flynn admits none of the episodes are open-and-shut.
“You can’t treat a hoarder in a short-term manner,” she commented online. “We don’t claim to cure anybody. We claim to help them — get them on the right path, if we can.”
And I’ll be watching, awestruck and nauseous, throwing away everything we see on the way to bed.
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