COPYCAT TLC WANTS A PIECE OF A&E’S ACTION
By ADAM BUCKMAN
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.
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: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com