Archive for the ‘Hoarders’ Category

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:


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:

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

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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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