This topic was broached yesterday, somewhat arbitrarily, in the comments to this post. But it totally deserves a post of its own or twelve.
I speak of Hoarders, the new A&E documentary series described by its creators thusly:
Each 60-minute episode of Hoarders is a fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis. Whether they're facing eviction, the loss of their children, jail time, or divorce, they are all desperately in need of help. In a fly-on-the-wall style, we'll capture the drama as experts work to put each on the road to recovery.
I have seen three episodes of Hoarders, and this is what I can tell you.
*Hoarders is 100 times more interesting than Intervention, for the simple reason that a guided tour of someone's hoarding is way more visually interesting than a guided tour of someone's alcoholism. Intervention's main subject is bottoming-out addicts. Hoarders' main subject is whole houses packed with crazy. Best of all, the crazy-packed-house-dwellers are sane enough to know that they need help, and get it before our eyes. Instead of Intervention's packed-off-to-rehab denouements, Hoarders devotes the second half (at least) of each episode to hands-on dismantling of craziness. It's strangely heartening to watch these people—with the help of charming professionals—face fears they are absolutely certain will kill them but of course do not.
*Hoarders contains some of the grossest footage I've ever seen on television. A key moment in every story line comes with the visit of the first non-acclimated party to the rancid space, as you see the smell land on their faces. In the next scene, they're hidden behind protective masks. The most recent episode featured a lady who hoarded cats, and featured extensive footage of rotting cat corpses being pulled from a packed-to-the-rafters garage. I covered my eyes for at least three minutes of it.
*I dream of appearing on Hoarders for hoarding episodes of Hoarders, which I will compulsively copy onto VHS and DVD and file away in cat-pissed-soaked cardboard boxes until the city threatens me with a letter.
*Hoarders is the first TV show in history that will make you legitimately excited about tidying up your house.
Full episodes of Hoarders are available here. If you see only one, make it Jake and Shirley. (Shirley's the sweet gross cat lady, but Jake's a heartbreakingly sad and amazing 21-year-old gay kid who lives through a psychotic nightmare and somehow comes out hopeful...)