Mentally ill ‘Hoarders’ out of touch with reality — Plus: TV’s original hoarder king, Fred Sanford!

A hoarder named Betty looks dazed and confused as she contemplates a clean-up of her cluttered backyard on “Hoarders.” Photo credit: A&E/Screaming Flea Productions — More photos below!


NEW YORK, Dec. 14, 2009 — Most of us already believe that a person would have to be nuts to say yes to appearing on a reality TV show, but what if the person really is not competent to make that decision?

I’m no expert on mental illness, but the people being showcased on “Hoarders” on A&E (Monday nights at 10) don’t seem to be in touch with reality — which would indicate they’re not likely in sound enough mind to judge whether appearing on a reality show is really such a great idea.   Who would hand such people a stack of legal paperwork and ask them to sign it?  TV producers, that’s who.

“Hoarders” might be the first reality series to put real mental patients (as opposed to other reality shows on which the participants just “seem” crazy) on display.  Have you seen this show?  This is the show that tells the story of people who hoard stuff — the type of people who can’t throw anything away and wind up living atop several feet of trash that fills every square inch of their homes and yards.

Their homes are so neglected and abused that the towns and municipalities in which they live are threatening these hoarders with eviction and condemnation.  On the show, “experts” in hoarding psychology show up at these homes with great dumptrucks and dumpsters to lead an emergency clean-up, which is usually protested by the flustered and, by all appearances, deluded hoarders who reside there.

The intensity of the hoarders — particularly in their detachment from reality — varies by degree from show to show.  At the worst end of the spectrum, a recent show had the clean-up crew discovering the corpses of dead cats inside a house — including one feline that was flatter than a pancake (and also stiff as a board) that was estimated to have died 10 years previously — buried under several feet of household refuse.

Another storyline involved a wheelchair-bound hoarder who was hoarding her soiled diapers; basically, she was just tossing them into the bathroom until they had formed a great pile, rendering the bathroom useless (not that she was using it, anyway).

Again, I’m no expert on the mentally ill, but I like to think I still have the good taste — even after watching TV professionally for most of my life — to believe that this unfortunate woman should not have been on TV and no network should have agreed to put her there.

It’s incredible how much TV has changed over the years.  Once upon a time, the only person you’d see on TV who came close to being classified as a hoarder was Fred Sanford on “Sanford and Son.”

TV’s original hoarder: Junk man Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx, right, with Demond Wilson) on “Sanford and Son.”  Compare the Sanford residence to the cluttered yards and domiciles of these hoarders on A&E, below.

What’s cookin’? Who knows? This kitchen is so cluttered that hoarder “Jill” can’t find the stove! Photo credit: A&E/Screaming Flea Productions

Dude, where’s my yard? A clean-up crewman masks his disgust at this backyard junkheap on “Hoarders.” Photo credit: A&E/Screaming Flea Productions

Tsk, tsk . . . kids today! Teens are not immune from the hoarding syndrome, as demonstrated by hoarder “Jake” on “Hoarders.” He might be half-buried in junk, but like typical teens everywhere, he keeps a tight grip on that cellphone! Photo credit: A&E/Screaming Flea Productions

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