Archive for the ‘A&E’ Category

All Five Of My TV Blogs This Week For MediaPost

October 28, 2016
This week's TV blogs covered "Man With a Plan" on CBS (top left), a Norman Lear documentary on PBS (top right), "The Great Indoors" on CBS (middle left), "Pure Genius" on CBS (middle right) and "Live PD" on A&E.

This week’s TV blogs covered “Man With a Plan” on CBS (top left), a Norman Lear documentary on PBS (top right), “The Great Indoors” on CBS (middle left), “Pure Genius” on CBS (middle right) and “Live PD” on A&E.


NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2016 — This week was heavy with reviews for new CBS shows — three of them, as a matter of fact.

Also on the agenda: Norman Lear on PBS and live cops on A&E. Read all five of my MediaPost TV blogs from the past week, right here:

Monday, Oct. 24: Network With A Plan: CBS Monday Sitcoms Are Nearly Identical

Tuesday, Oct. 25: Alive And Still Kicking: Norman Lear On ‘American Masters’

Wednesday, Oct. 26: Thanks To Its Merciless Abuse Of Millennials, CBS Sitcom Is Fall’s Best New Show

Thursday, Oct. 27: CBS Bellies Up To The Genius Bar For Another Round

Friday, Oct. 28: Ambitious A&E Show Will Air ‘Live’ Police From Six Locales

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Oscars And Upfronts: This Week’s TV Blogs

March 4, 2016
This week's topics: The Oscars, "The Real O'Neals," the start of New York Upfront season, "The Family" and "Damien."

This week’s topics: The Oscars, “The Real O’Neals,” the start of New York Upfront season, “The Family” and “Damien.”


NEW YORK, March 4, 2016 — The Academy Awards, three new shows and the start of the spring ad sales season in New York were the topics this week of my five MediaPost TV blogs. Read them all, right here:

Monday, Feb. 29: Hectored By Hollywood: Joyless Oscars Were Hard To Endure

Tuesday, March 1: ‘Real O’Neals’: Show Goes From Dumb To Smart In Blink Of An Eye

Wednesday, March 2: Ready Or Not, Here Come The Upfronts

Thursday, March 3: With ‘The Family,’ Grim Storytellers At ABC Are At It Again

Friday, March 4: ‘Damien’ And ‘Bates Motel’: TV Shows As Movie Sequels And Prequels

Plus, these Upfront stories:

Nickelodeon Upfront (left) and George Lopez at the TV Land event in New York.

Nickelodeon Upfront (left) and George Lopez at the TV Land event in New York.

Nickelodeon, March 3: At Season’s First Upfront, Nickelodeon Stresses Star Athletes, Toy Tie-Ins

TV Land/CMT (Country Music Television)/Nick At Nite, March 4: Viacom Upfront Combines TV Land, CMT, Nick At Nite Into One Big ‘Family’

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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‘X-Files’ Redo, FX Clown Comedy Both Disappoint

January 22, 2016
This week's MediaPost TV blogs covered the annual NATPE programming conference, a new A&E reality show, Conan O'Brien, Zach Galifianakis and "The X-Files."

This week’s MediaPost TV blogs covered the annual NATPE programming conference, a new A&E reality show, Conan O’Brien, Zach Galifianakis and “The X-Files.”


NEW YORK, Jan. 22, 2016 — This week’s MediaPost blogs ranged from clowns (“Baskets,” Conan O’Brien) to outer-space aliens (“The X-Files”). Read all five of this week’s blogs, with these links:

Monday, Jan. 18: Syndicator-Station Relationship No Longer Center Stage At NATPE Show

Tuesday, Jan. 19: In New Show, Trainers Gain Weight Just To Feel Empathy For Obese Clients

Wednesday, Jan. 20: Rediscovering Conan O’Brien, The Last Real Late-Night Host

Thursday, Jan. 21: ‘Baskets’ On FX: The Clown Comedy That Forgot To Be Funny

Friday, Jan. 22: Was This ‘X-Files’ Reunion Necessary? The Answer Is: No, It Wasn’t

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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Read All Five of This Week’s MediaPost TV Blogs

December 4, 2015
This week's MediaPost TV blogs -- top: America Ferrera in "Superstore," Queen Latifah in "The Wiz"; middle: "Born This Way" on A&E, "Childhood's End" on Syfy; bottom: Jay Leno on CNBC.

This week’s MediaPost TV blogs — top: America Ferrera in “Superstore,” Queen Latifah in “The Wiz”; middle: “Born This Way” on A&E, “Childhood’s End” on Syfy; bottom: Jay Leno on CNBC.


NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2015 — Free of charge (as always), here are this week’s MediaPost TV blogs, written by TVHowl’s Adam Buckman:

Monday, Nov. 30: Just In Time For The Holidays, NBC Opens ‘Superstore’ Sitcom

Tuesday, Dec. 1: Will Anybody Beat ‘The Wiz’? Handicapping This Year’s Musical On NBC

Wednesday, Dec. 2: ‘Born This Way’: Show Examines Reality Of Adults With Down Syndrome

Thursday, Dec. 3: Watch Commercials Like Everyone Else? TV Critics Are Exempt From That

Friday, Dec. 4: Jay’s In The Driver’s Seat As Letterman Grows ‘Darwin’ Beard

Contact Adam Buckman:

All 27 of My 2015 TV Upfront Stories, Curated

May 17, 2015
27 Pictures, 27 Stories: All of my Media Post stories from the 2015 TV Upfronts in New York — links below.

27 Pictures, 27 Stories: All of my Media Post stories from the 2015 TV Upfronts in New York — links below.


NEW YORK, May 17, 2015 — It was an upfront season to remember — programming presentations all over New York City from TV networks and on-line content providers stretching from Feb. 26 (Nickelodeon) to May 14 (NBC Cable). Here, in one place: All of my 27 stories for on the 2015 Upfront/Newfront season:

Feb. 26: Nick Kicks Off Upfront Season With A Big Production Promise

March 4: At Upfront, Formerly All-Male Spike Pushes Female Audience Growth

March 11: Fun And Games: At Upfront, GSN Has Good Time Stressing Originals

March 31: NBC Cable Nets Prance Into Upfront Season With New Shows

April 1: Discovery’s Upfront Strategy: Global Reach, ‘Personal’ Presentations

April 3: CMT’s Upfront Message: We’re Country To The Core

April 7: USA Network’s Upfront Theme: Heroes And Donny Deutsch, Too

April 9: New Pop Network Identifies Target Viewer As ‘Modern Grownup’

April 22: At Uptown Upfront, MTV Screams For Advertiser Attention

April 23: Arts Channel Ovation Unveils Bold Program Slate For Upfront Season

April 24: BET Wows Audience With Persuasive Upfront Show

April 27: BuzzFeed NewFront Pitches Virtues Of Short-Form Video Sharing

April 28: At NewFront, Yahoo Pins Hopes On Network TV-Style Programs

April 29: ‘Seinfeld’ Deal Dominates Hulu Upfront

May 1: Outdoor Channel Upfront Pitches Vast Reach Of Networks, Sites

May 1: A&E Upfront Goes Epic With ‘War And Peace’ Miniseries, ‘Roots’ Reboot

May 4: ‘Traditional’ Upfront Season Gives Way To Anything-Goes ‘Content’ Bazaar

May 8: Why Doing Away With Upfronts Would Be A PR Disaster

May 8: Screenvision Predicts Growth Of In-Theater Ads, Launches Ad-Targeting Tool

May 11: NBC’s 3-Pronged Plan For Fall: Stars, Live Events, Complex Dramas

May 12: Fox Fall Plan Addresses Tuesday Comedy Woes

May 12: ESPN Creates Programming, Ad Sales Synergies With ‘GMA’ on ABC

May 12: Univision Upfront: Bill Clinton Touts Hispanic Viewing Power, Net Promotes Novelas, Soccer Package

May 13: At Upfront, Turner’s Reilly Vows TNT, TBS Makeovers

May 13: CNN Adds Non-News Programming To Strong News Lineup

May 15: NBC Cable Stresses Reach, Scale Of TV Portfolio

May 15: Juvenile Seat-Saving Must Cease, And Other Upfront Observations

Contact Adam Buckman:

Good riddance, 2013: My TV year in review

December 11, 2013
With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.

With highlights like this, who needs to remember 2013? Bill Maher compared Donald Trump to an orangutan and the feud Maher ignited lasted most of the year.


NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2013 — It was one of the strangest years in my long personal history on the TV beat.

Looking back in search of the year’s highlights, I find mostly lowlights.

With a few notable exceptions, the TV stories I covered that drew our attention in 2013 were either contentious and crude or irrelevant and trivial.

Falling into the former category: Alec Baldwin becoming embroiled in at least three controversies over slurs (two homophobic and one racial) he probably uttered (and then denied) in confrontations with reporters and photographers who doorstepped him outside his New York apartment house.

Plus, at least two incidents in which TV personalities flipped each other the bird on TV: David Letterman flourishing his middle digit at guest Rob Lowe in October, and Savannah Guthrie doing the same to Matt Lauer when he made some stupid comment about her unfamiliarity with a vacuum cleaner on “The Today Show.”

Here’s a request: Hey, you television people, how about dialing down the crass behavior in 2014?  Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

Monkey see, monkey do: Justin Bieber and capuchin monkey (inset).

On the trivial side: The late-night hosts joked for the better part of a week about Justin Bieber having his monkey confiscated in Germany; they spent a month (or more) doing jokes about twerking and Miley Cyrus; and the entire year joking about Chris Christie’s weight.

Sharon Osbourne revealed she had a fling long ago with Jay Leno; rotund comic Louie Anderson was somehow persuaded to participate in the ABC diving-competition show called “Splash”; Hollywood heavyweight Jeff Garlin went after some guy’s Mercedes in an L.A. parking dispute; and the year’s most talked-about TV movie was “Sharknado.”

Everyone lied about Steve Carell returning for the series finale of “The Office” (they said he wouldn’t, and then he did).  Barbara Walters lied (seemingly) about her retirement (she said she wouldn’t, but then she announced she would) and about Elisabeth Hasselbeck leaving “The View” (Walters said Elisabeth wouldn’t be leaving and then Elisabeth left).

My favorite story of the year? Probably the feud Bill Maher ignited with Donald Trump when Maher comedically likened Trump’s orange hair to the fur of an orangutan.   The “feud” continued through at least three-quarters of the year, and I got five stories out of it stretching from January to September — here, here, here, here and here.

It was a year of sad news: Cory Monteith of “Glee” fatally overdosing at age 31, and James Gandolfini suddenly dying too, at age 51 — not that I ever met or knew either of them.

Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem

I am, or was, acquainted with Casey Kasem, and the stories emanating from his household this year about his relatives fighting over access to him while he suffers from what seems like a grave illness were also sad.  Though it’s been years since I last talked to him, I have always thought of him as one of the finest people I have ever come across in the broadcasting business.

The biggest ongoing story of 2013 was one that will be continued this coming February: The changes in late-night TV.  The ball got rolling last January when Jimmy Kimmel moved to 11:35 p.m. on ABC, followed by the announcement later in the year that Jay Leno would relinquish “The Tonight Show” to Jimmy Fallon.

Prediction: Fallon will do about as well as Conan O’Brien (if he’s lucky), although it’s not as likely that Jay Leno will come back this time.

A&E cancelled “Hoarders.”  And “Breaking Bad” had a series finale that everyone knew deep down was wholly implausible, and yet the “critics” gushed about it anyway.

I wrote slightly more than 600 stories in 2013, appeared on TV three times, and did six radio interviews — all on WOR in New York and five of them on “The Joan Hamburg Show,” which next year will be banished to weekends.  Alas.

I made two appearances in public, moderating seminars put on by the Center for Communication in New York.  Our panel of reality-TV execs from four cable channels last March was enlivened when a female questioner from our audience stepped up to the microphone we set up near the seats and, without hesitation, removed her shirt.  It was another first for me …

I met few celebrities and interviewed even fewer in 2013.  One exception was Lena Dunham, who was focused, intelligent and shrewd — a very good interview subject — when I met her at HBO last January.  I still don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of “Girls,” however.

In July, I came to the realization that I have spent 30 years on the TV beat when I came across my first bylined TV story, a Q&A by phone with Joan Rivers, published on July 25, 1983, in the now-defunct trade newspaper called Broadcast Week.

I still cannot decide if this was a milestone worth celebrating.

Contact Adam Buckman:

Please read my stories on the Xfinity TV Blog

October 21, 2013
Look for stories on these hot topics ion the Xfinity TV Blog -- just click on the links, below.

Look for stories on these hot topics on the Xfinity TV Blog, and much, more more  — just click on the links, below.

NEW YORK, Oct. 21, 2013 — Many thanks to all of you repeat visitors here at Most of my work can now be found here — on Comcast’s Xfinity TV Blog — which you are cordially invited to click on and read.

Recent stories and columns include:

Letterman Can’t Pin Down O’Reilly on Redskins Name Issue

More Than 8 Million Watch ‘Duck Dynasty’ Denizens Make Jerky

Kerry Washington To Host ‘SNL’ For The First Time Nov. 2

Monster Ratings for ‘Walking Dead’ Season Premiere

‘Breaking Bad’ Finale: A Lot of Blood, And Revenge Served Cold

Cote de Pablo’s Ziva Says Good-Bye to ‘NCIS’

NBC’s Costas Comes Out Against Redskins Team Name

HBO’s ‘Girls’ Returns Jan. 12, Along With Debut of ‘True Detective’

… and many, many more.

Adam Buckman

Contact Adam Buckman:

Inside the amazing world of A&E’s ‘Hoarders’

January 24, 2011

HER OWN PRIVATE JUNKYARD: Last fall’s season premiere of “Hoarders” on A&E featured “Adella,” who has turned her backyard (and side yard and front yard) into a junkyard. Photo: A&E/Screaming Flea Productions


NEW YORK, Jan. 24, 2011 — How on Earth do they make A&E’s “Hoarders”?  It’s a question that occurs often to the 2.1 million astonished viewers on average who have made this deeply disturbing documentary-style reality series the second highest-rated non-fiction series on A&E (after “Storage Wars”).

“Hoarders” is the show about very distressed people who live amid clutter and filth that is so serious they now face the threat of eviction, condemnation, divorce or abandonment by family members – which is why the “Hoarders” team is called in to help restore order and avert these crises.

“Hoarders,” produced by Seattle-based Screaming Flea Productions, has been so successful that it has spawned a slew of imitators (most notably “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC).

With its third season about to come to a close with the shocking story of a California man who hoards live rats, we thought this would be a good time to talk to the show’s executive producer to learn how this show finds its subjects, enlists their cooperation and cleans up their messes.  Here’s what the executive producer, Jodi Flynn, had to say on the phone from Seattle:

So much that’s shown on this show is just plain gross – from the great trash piles to the mummified corpses of dead cats beneath them.  Is there anything you won’t show?

We try to be as real and honest as we possibly can.  That said, if there are things that are just [too] difficult to watch, we won’t linger on them.  We won’t zoom into a super-tight shot and stay on it for 15 seconds.

How do you locate your subjects?  Do you hear from neighbors, authorities, relatives, the people themselves?

All of the above.  We get submissions through our Web site and we have some people who are self-submitted – that’s probably the fewest.

You don’t take just any hoarders though.  They have to be facing eviction or a similar imminent crisis in order to be on the show, isn’t that right?

The format of the show is built around people who are in a real crisis.  I’m sure there are a lot of hoarders out there who you would define as being in a crisis even if they technically weren’t being evicted or someone wasn’t leaving them.  But for our purposes, we created the show to help people who really had to get cleaned out within a few days, otherwise they were facing drastic consequences.

Can you assess the show’s success rate, if any?  How many of the subjects go right back to hoarding as soon as you and your clean team leave the premises?

It really varies.  For us, a success really is that we helped somebody avoid the disaster that they were facing – like they’re not getting evicted, for example.  To try to gauge their success based on YOUR idea of a clean house, or mine, is really kind of unfair to them.  For us, it’s trying to get them past that immediate crisis so that they can try to get themselves back on a path that will be better for them in the future.  And to that end, we provide after-care once we leave to help them stay on that path.

Besides trying to avert eviction, isn’t one incentive for these subjects a practical one – that the show pays for the cleanup?

That’s exactly the incentive.  These are enormously expensive cleanouts.  If people were to call [“Hoarders” partner in refuse collection] 1-800-GOT-JUNK or [‘Hoarders’ clean-up consultant] Matt Paxton’s company, Clutter Cleaner, these cleanouts can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  There are no costs to the people who appear on our show.

Are you finding that there really is no shortage of subjects?  Every community seems to have that guy down the street with all the junk in his yard, isn’t that true?

There is no shortage of subjects.  We get literally thousands of submissions.

The chicken hoarder on last week’s episode, the combustible Hanna, was a pretty tough subject.  So was the truculent husband Gary in last week’s rabbit-hoarding story.  Can you point to any single subject in the 40 episodes you’ve produced who was your most difficult?  Was it Hanna?

There have been some really difficult ones from a production standpoint.  I think that, from a viewers’ standpoint, Hanna was probably one of the most difficult.

She was really temperamental.  Have there been subjects who were so threatening that you actually had to leave the location without collecting the footage you needed?

Amazingly enough, never.  And honestly, we have been waiting for that to happen.  And it has never happened because someone was too difficult to deal with.  We did have one where they cleaned up before we got there.

In other words, they realized they were having company in, so they thought they’d clean up the mess you were coming there to photograph in the first place?

Yes, so we didn’t do it.  But we’ve never had anyone just be so difficult and so hateful, or anything like that, that we couldn’t.

By now, the crews you send out to these locations are probably accustomed to just about anything.  But in the case of Monday night’s rat hoarder, for instance, did your crew report back and say to you, ‘This one really took the cake!  We quit!’  Anything like that?

No, my crews would never quit!  We use the same people over and over again, and everyone loves doing the show.  These are people who love a challenge.  I haven’t had a single person quit.

How did you get rid of the rats?

The lengths that we had to go to to get the rats out [was] unbelievable.  We worked with the Humane Society, which was a first for us and it just went unbelievably well.  We literally tore down walls and sawed off bathtubs because they were everywhere.

Did he have a house left after you were done?

I mean, there’s a structure [but] not much.  But if you don’t get ’em out, they’re just gonna keep eating it.

So you made this choice to do it humanely when, let’s face it, if exterminators were called and this wasn’t a television show, they’d do something like gas the house and kill them all, wouldn’t they?

I don’t know.  We don’t do that kind of thing.  We brought in special trucks.  We had a special facility built up in northern California where [the rats] were taken to.  They’re being adopted out by rat rescues all over the country.

There are “rat rescues”?

Yes, a shocking amount of rat rescues in the country.  They totally stepped up to help with this.

To your knowledge, is the rat man still living with rats?

He wasn’t living in the house anyway [because of the rats].  He was actually living in his shop which was on the property so he’s not back in the house yet, but we’re working on it.

The season finale of A&E’s “Hoarders” airs Monday night at 10/9c.

Contact Adam Buckman:

Shocking ‘Intervention’ story on addicted boxer

April 6, 2010

YO, ROCKY! This is former junior lightweight boxing champion Rocky Lockridge, who became a homeless crackhead on the streets of Camden, N.J., and ended up on “Intervention” last night (April 5). Photo: GRB Productions



NEW YORK, April 6, 2010 — “Intervention” has featured so many shocking stories of addiction that it might seem impossible for the show to top itself.

But last night, it did just that.  It was the story of a former two-time boxing champion who has lived for nearly 20 years on the streets of Camden, N.J., panhandling and smoking crack.  It was the most astonishing single episode of a TV show seen so far this year.

As reality shows go, this A&E series — now in its eighth season — goes deeper into the private worlds of its subjects than any other unscripted series.  And last night, the show took viewers on a harrowing  journey to one of the most forlorn locations ever seen on TV, period.

Producer David Simon’s Baltimore (“The Wire”) and producer Shawn Ryan’s Los Angeles (“The Shield”) were formerly TV’s champions of urban grit, but “Intervention” — produced by an outfit called GRB Entertainment out of Sherman Oaks, Calif. (the GRB stands for Gary R. Benz, the company’s president) — bested them both with its on-location documenting of the life of Rocky Lockridge, 51.

Champion: Rocky Lockridge in his prime in the early 1980s.

Lockridge once won two junior lightweight titles, but has been fighting a losing battle with drugs and alcohol ever since.  He was estranged from his two 25-year-old twin sons for more than 15 years;  one of them, Lamar, avoided contact with his father right up until the taping of last night’s episode.  Earlier in the show, Lamar faced a camera and admitted he “hated” his father.

On the show, Lockridge was seen begging for crack money on a littered street corner in one of Camden’s worst neighborhoods, a region of abandoned houses and broken sidewalks.  In alleys and backyards overgrown with weeds, Lockridge would turn his day’s earnings over to the crack sellers and eagerly use crack — snorting and smoking it.

And then there was the intervention, led by interventionist Cindy Finnigan.  Many of the interventions shown on the series — in which family members tearfully implore their addicted loved one to accept their offer of rehabilitation — are deeply moving.   But last night’s was the rawest yet, as Lamar and his brother Ricky vented years of frustration and anger over their father’s abandonment yet nevertheless told him they loved him and begged him through uncontrollable tears to get help.

As the episode concluded with its ending theme song, “Five Steps” by the Brooklyn-based band The Davenports, uncertainty lingered over the effectiveness of Rocky’s stint in rehab as viewers learned that Rocky left the facility after only two-and-a-half months, without completing the program and against the advice of his counselors, and is now living with another “sober” patient somewhere in Louisiana.  Long-time “Intervention” watchers may have taken that as a sign that his rehabilitation didn’t take, although the episode’s parting statement on-screen said he’s been sober since November 2009.

“Intervention,” airing Monday nights on A&E, won an Emmy last fall for best reality series.   The award was richly deserved.

MOMENT OF TRUTH — A key scene from this week’s “Intervention” on A&E: Ex-boxer Rocky Lockridge (left) agrees to go to rehab after hearing tearful pleas from his estranged twin sons, Ricky (center) and Lamar. Photo: GRB Productions

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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TV to get more cluttered with hoarders, addicts

March 12, 2010

Does this look like a television star to you? Hoarder “Augustine” was profiled on an episode of “Hoarders” on A&E. (Photo: A&E)



NEW YORK, March 12, 2010 — You’ll know the competition between TLC and A&E has really heated up when A&E starts producing shows about dwarfs.

However, in this contest between cable networks, A&E is not the aggressor — yet.  That title goes to TLC, the Discovery-owned cable channel once known as The Learning Channel and now best known for its emphasis on super-sized families and plucky little people.

Next week, TLC invades territory formerly occupied exclusively by A&E — the world of hoarders and drug addicts.  Representatives of both groups have taken up residence Monday nights on A&E to great acclaim and open-mouthed astonishment.  No one can fail to be amazed (and also somewhat sickened and horrified) by the stories told each week on A&E’s “Intervention,” about addicts and their beleaguered loved ones, and “Hoarders,” about people who fill their homes with junk and then face eviction or condemnation from their local governments.

No rules seem to govern or prohibit the practice of copycatting in the TV business, but TLC’s launch next week of “Hoarding: Buried Alive” (Sunday, March 14, at 10 p.m.) and “Addicted” (Wednesday, March 17, at 10 p.m.) seems particularly blatant.  In fact, “blatant” is the word one A&E source used to describe TLC’s encroachment on A&E’s turf.

Officially, A&E released a statement in response to a TV Howl query about the similarities between “Hoarding” (TLC) and “Hoarders” (A&E), and “Addicted” (TLC) and “Intervention” (A&E).  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” the A&E statement said — the usual quote companies trot out at times like these when they would rather appear gracious or sportsmanlike than annoyed or even ticked off.

Who can forget the incredible story of “huffing” addict “Allison” on A&E’s “Intervention”? Here, she loads up on the aerosol cans she used to feed her addiction to chemical inhalants. (Photo: A&E)

The real question for TLC is whether there is room on TV for more hoarders and addicts.  For many, one hour spent each week on each of these subjects might be enough.  Some- times, it’s more than enough.  Even the most hardened TV watcher (namely, me) finds it difficult at times to get through an entire hour of “Hoarders” or “Intervention,” so pathetic and upsetting are some of the stories.

“Hoarders” is particularly difficult; yes, these homes are pretty well cleaned out and reasonably cleaned up by the end of each show, but what is usually left are homes in grave states of disrepair and the homes’ residents left desolate and, it seems to a viewer, likely to begin hoarding again as soon as the show’s film crew leaves the premises.

TLC’s entry into the hoarding and addiction categories signals a new ramping up of the competition for reality subjects on cable — particularly between TLC and A&E.  A&E is known for “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels,” the new “Steven Seagal: Lawman,” “Paranormal State,” “Parking Wars” (a personal favorite) and a slew of others, including “Billy the Exterminator” (this is a TV personality on the rise, folks) and the upcoming “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life.”

TLC’s slate is equally diverse, with shows on dressing well (“Say Yes to the Dress” and “What Not to Wear”) and baking (the ubiquitous “Cake Boss”).  However, most people identify TLC with that mammoth Duggar family (“19 Kids and Counting”) or the dysfunctional Gosselins (“Jon and Kate Plus 8”), or all those little-people shows: “Little Chocolatiers,” “Little People, Big World,” “Our Little Life,” “The Little Couple” and others (the other night, there appeared a one-off about another “little” couple seeking to adopt a “little” orphan).

As I write this, there are producers and talent scouts criss-crossing the country and surfing the Internet in search of real-life personalities around which to build reality shows — mall cops, tow-truck operators, various animal “whisperers” and many, many others.  The development of these types of TV shows is becoming  (or has already become) one of the hottest corners of the TV business.    Watch out, hoarders and addicts, the next knock on your door might be a TV producer.

Contact Adam Buckman:

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

December 14, 2009

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

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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On A&E: Four-fifths of the Jackson Five

December 8, 2009

BOWLER FOR DOLLARS — The Jackson Four (l-r): Jackie, Marlon, Tito (wearing his trademark bowler) and Jermaine. Photo credit: A&E


NEW YORK, Dec. 8, 2009 — Years ago, some clever writer of TV promos came up with a generic plot description for “The Honeymooners” that could be applied to virtually any episode of that classic 1950s sitcom.  The promo copy went something like this: “Ralph has big plans,” boomed an enthusiastic announcer, “until his friend Norton steps in!”

The same kind of description could be applied to the first two episodes of A&E’s new reality series about the Jacksons: “The Jacksons [or at least three of them] have big plans . . . until Jermaine has a tantrum or an issue or some kind of complaint!”

But like “The Honeymooners,” all parties come together in the end, although in “The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty” — premiering with two, one-hour episodes back-to-back on Sunday, Dec. 13, starting at 9 p.m. — they come together with a group fist-bump as the Jackson Four agree nobly to put aside their differences and come together for the sake of their music and their fans.

These four, this band of singing and dancing middle-aged brothers, are four of the original Jackson Five — Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine — and they are the stars, along with their various wives and offspring, of this promised glimpse behind the scenes at the sprawling, and mildly brawling, Jackson clan.  However, nine siblings and two parents comprised the Jackson family, and five sibs — Michael, Janet, Randy, Rebbie and Latoya — and one parent — Papa Joe — are missing (as are Michael’s three children), though Janet Jackson is heard briefly in a phone conversation.

Michael’s absence is the one that is most felt, and also the most understood, since he passed away last June 25.  However, the series begins a couple of months before his sudden death, as the other four Jackson brothers were preparing to regroup to produce a Jackson Five reunion album to commemorate the act’s 40th anniversary (dating the group’s origins to 1969, the year they had their first hits).

Michael’s impending death notwithstanding, it’s not clear if he ever intended to  participate, even partially, in the reunion effort, especially since, as we now know, he was preparing for his own series of comeback concerts.  Alas, they were not to be, and at the end of the first one-hour episode of “The Jack5ons” — one of two A&E provided for preview — Michael dies without apparently participating in any filming on the reality series.

Still, Michael’s shadow hangs over the whole thing, starting with the show’s theme song, “Can You Feel It?,” a 1980 single on which Michael sings in the era when the Jackson Five were known as The Jacksons.

Episode Two, titled “The Aftermath,” deals nominally with his death and then jumps inexplicably to a month later, as the four surviving Jackson Five brothers try and come together to perform a concert that they were apparently obligated to perform (possibly with Michael, though that remains unclear) under some contract they signed before Michael’s death.

Certainly, there are millions of Jackson fans for whom any consideration of the Jacksons begins and ends with Michael.  And without him around, they might not tune in for “The Jack5ons” on A&E.  But there will likely be millions of others — be they enamored with any of the Jacksons singly or in various combinations — who will be left for A&E to capitalize mightily on the Jackson mania that made itself apparent, and appeared to be even bigger than anyone previously realized, in the aftermath of Michael’s death last summer.  In fact, this reality series, in which not much actually happens, could be the biggest one yet for A&E.

TV Howl photo gallery: Pictures from “The Jack5ons: A Family Dynasty”:

Mister Lucky’s Lounge in downtown Gary looks a little down on its luck, despite the presence of hometown hero Tito Jackson. Photo: Richard Knapp

Tito (left) and Marlon marvel at the snug, modest living room in Gary, Ind., where the Jackson Five got their start. Photo: Richard Knapp

Back in L.A., the not-so-united four Jackson brothers (l-r: Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon and Tito) rehearse before a dance studio mirror. Photo: Richard Knapp

Contact Adam Buckman:

Out for justice: Steven Seagal and Jesse Ventura

November 30, 2009

Jesse Ventura consults a mysterious “umbrella woman” in his search for the truth about a  government facility on TruTV’s “Conspiracy Theory.” Photo credit: TruTV


NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2009 — Two 58-year-old macho men are coming to TV on the same day, one strutting his stuff as a deputy sheriff and the other playing the self-described role of detective and truth seeker.

What is this – a conspiracy?  Well, that’s one theory, though this convergence of two long-in-the-tooth TV tough guys is better classified as a coincidence, which, come to think of it, is the best way to explain away the kinds of conspiracies “investigated” by Jesse Ventura and his “elite team” (his words) of researchers on “Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura.”

Ventura – the former Navy SEAL, pro wrestler and governor of Minnesota – goes in search of conspiracies starting Wednesday night (Dec. 2) at 10 p.m. on TruTV, while at the very same time, martial-arts movie man Steven Seagal starts his own crime-busting reality series (with the unpunctuated title: “Steven Seagal Lawman”) on A&E.

This scheduling can hardly be called a conspiracy, especially on the part of A&E, which will lead into “Steven Seagal,” more or less logically, with two hours of “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” with which “Seagal” is more or less compatible.  On TruTV, the premiere of “Conspiracy Theory” comes after several hours of “Operation Repo,” which seems to share nothing at all in common with Gov. Ventura’s fanciful search for the truth.

On Wednesday night’s “Conspiracy Theory” premiere, the governor conspires to learn the true purpose of a heavily guarded U.S. military facility constructed in a remote part of Alaska.  It’s a high-tech electric plant called HAARP (an acronym you can’t spell without AARP), which stands for High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program and has something to do with studying the interaction of electricity and the northern lights, or aurora borealis.

However, a handful of authors, self-styled scientists and local townspeople believe the government is using this facility to experiment with ways to wage future wars – by using a high-wattage “death ray” to knock out satellites, alter weather patterns and seize control of the minds of enemy combatants (and possibly some friendly ones).  Among other far-fetched claims, one of the governor’s researchers tries to demonstrate that this electric plant in Alaska had something to do with causing the tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean in December 2004.  One of the researchers even makes the odd (some might say “insane”) claim that there were no earth tremors preceding the catastrophic wave, though experts around the world possess seismographic data indicating that the wave was caused by a powerful underwater earthquake measuring between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter scale.

After watching Gov. Ventura and his team roam the dirt roads of rural Alaska for a long and tedious hour, the only conclusion you can really reach is that, yes, the government isn’t exactly being forthcoming in explaining this facility’s purpose.  Along the way, Gov. Ventura says things like, “We’re out here in the wilderlands of Alaska,” mixing up the words “wilderness” and “hinterlands” in the same entertaining way Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago (the first one) used to say things like, “I resent the insinuendos.”

In the end, the “evidence” presented by Ventura and his researchers is not persuasive enough to have you believe the government is doing anything more nefarious at this outpost than wasting your hard-earned tax money – which is not exactly news, though it is irritating.

Steven Seagal is walking tall on A&E’s “Lawman.” Photo credit: Michael Muller

As far as taxpayers go, the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish, La., seem to be getting their money’s worth from their sheriff’s department, especially since one of their deputy sheriffs is none other than Steven Seagal, who has apparently played this unheralded, real-life role for close to 20 years.

Apparently, when he’s not busy making movies, a fully uniformed and accredited Seagal can be found riding shotgun in a Jefferson Parish patrol car in the wee hours of the morning, cruising through neighborhoods that he insists are under siege by gun-toting bad guys.  Whether or not a siege mentality has taken hold in the Parish’s rougher sections, on the first two half-hour episodes of “Steven Seagal Lawman” – both premiering back-to-back on Wednesday night – there certainly do seem to be a lot of gun-toters strolling aimlessly in the dark.

In fact, all Seagal and the rest of these deputy sheriffs have to do at any given moment to pinch a gun-toter is to suddenly stop their vehicles, yell “Hey, you!” at a passerby and before you know it, a chase ensues and a perp is collared – usually one who is, or was, armed (before dropping his firearm in mid-chase and then claiming it wasn’t his).

You could really describe “Steven Seagal Lawman” as “ ‘Cops’ with a movie star” since both shows traffic in the same thing: Perps, none of whom are ever wearing shirts, are nabbed in the middle of the night based on no other probable cause than an officer’s hunch that a person taking a stroll at three o’clock in the morning just might be up to something.  Then they are hand-cuffed and thrown roughly onto the hoods of squad cars, while their pants pockets get turned inside-out for loose joints and stray bullets.  The perps, all the while protesting their innocence, are then tucked into the backseats of the police cars.

Through it all, Seagal keeps a cool head, which he attributes to his life-long study of eastern philosophy.  On his new show, he is not above the law, but he is out for justice.  Says he, “We’re not here to beat up people.  We’re not here to lecture people on their morals or their ethics.  But we are here to enforce the law.  We are here to try to make the streets safe.”

Words to live by, from an action hero who was once “Marked for Death,” but “Hard to Kill.”

Contact Adam Buckman:

Read Adam Buckman’s book: “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television” … Read a sample on his Amazon book page HERE … Then order it today!

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