I don’t watch Intervention. As far as I am concerned, it is an exceptionally manipulative reality show (which is really saying something, considering how manipulative reality TV is in general) that exploits broken families at their worst in order to provide compelling entertainment to audiences who trick themselves into thinking that they are watching a train wreck out of the goodness of their hearts. I don’t think that the show actually helps people, or if it does help people, I don’t think that the help it provides outweighs the damage it causes by broadcasting the self-destructive behavior and emotional wreckage of these unfortunate drug addicts on national television. But welcome back, Intervention!

Last night also saw the return of Hoarders, which is basically Intervention but for people who are addicted to filling their houses with piles of rotting garbage. I’ve never seen this show, so I watched last night’s premiere. It is very compelling! And it is just as morally dishonest as Intervention!

On last night’s episode, the hoarder in question was Augustine, a 68-year-old Louisiana resident and mother of two whose house was not only filled to the brim with piles of dirty clothes (“I don’t want to pick them up now because they smell” — Augustine) and toilets overflowing with feces, but that also included two dead cats that had at some point either died behind a pile of junk and were never found, or who may even have been killed by a collapsing pile of junk (and were never found) based on the shrieking face that one of their dessicated faces was frozen in. With Augustine’s health failing and her house/dumpster falling apart, her family worried what would happen if she didn’t get help fast. ENTER TEAM HOARDERS TO THE RESCUE! The rest of the episode was taken up with people from 1-800-JUNK literally shoveling (with actual shovels) mountains of shit out of Augustine’s house. Eventually they carted away 8,000 pounds of trash. That is so many pounds! All the while, Augustine sat in a rocking chair on her porch eating raw hot dogs like churros and complaining about how no one loved her because for some reason her adult children didn’t want to move into a house that had actual human feces worked tirelessly into the carpet. Yikes.

Now if you ask me, Augustine wasn’t actually a hoarder. She just seemed like a lazy and depressed jerk who blamed everyone else for whatever went wrong in her life, if you really consider 15 years worth of accumulated and compressed garbage and cat corpses to simply be “something going wrong.” Obviously, I am not a Hoarders-ing expert like the doctors on this show, who come into the home and ask questions like “Do you think that’s a common event for people to have dead cats in their house?” and “Where did you last see your teeth?” so maybe I don’t actually understand what Augustine’s clinical condition is (since “Category 5 Hoarder” seems like a really serious term based in science and medicine). But she seemed pretty content to throw everything away, as long as someone else was doing the shoveling. She even said a begrudging “thank you” to the workers when they all pitched in and bought her a new armchair after her old armchair turned into a haze of HELL DUST and COCKROACH EGGS upon being lifted off of the ROTTING GROUND of her HOME. As long as people left her to sit on her porch, and stopped asking her what happened to all the cats that they should be dead for 10 years crushed under a bag of used diapers, she was fine with making the necessary changes to not have her home bulldozed. The picture of mental and physical health!

But regardless of whether or not Augustine was an actual hoarder or not (excuse me, “Category 5 Hoarder”), the reality is that America needs to be more honest with itself about why it watches this show. It is OK to enjoy watching it, but please stop pretending like it is because you like to see people get the help they need. For one thing, you know that since filming ended on last night’s episode, Augustine is back up to her neck in pickle jars and soiled loose change. This show is about gaping and feeling better about yourself. So what if you haven’t done laundry in a few days? At least you don’t have to tunnel through a stack of moldy old birthday cakes to get to your jacket! So what if there are some leftovers in the fridge that should probably be thrown away? At least your family can sit on a chair that isn’t buried under a mountain of bug-infested used napkins from a long-abandoned Chuck-E-Cheeze! You’re doing great! I mean, that is what this show is for.

“I know what you are.”
“Say it.”
“Schadenfreude.”

I really think the whole thing was pretty neatly summed up in last night’s season premiere in a scene where Augustine is confronted by her two adult children (who seem pretty normal, all things considered!) in front of the team from 1-800-JUNK. At a certain point, Susan, who had to raise her brother when Augustine’s house became unlivable for anyone but Augustine, broke down in tears at her mother’s obstinance, cruelty, selfishness, and disregard. It was a difficult scene to watch, unless you were this dude, who could seriously not stop smiling.

The truth is, when we watch this show, we are all that dude. Admitting it is the first step towards getting better. Or whatever.

Comments (50)
  1. I feel like that show would just be boring. If I want to feel better about myself, I can read MLIT.

    • I was watching Hoarders and decided to become one so I could see and hear Edward as he warned me not to stuff my dead cat into a jack-o-lantern and leave it near my bed. MLIT

  2. Ah shit, I’ve had leftover Chinese food in my fridge since like, July…

  3. I watch Hoarders because I’m exited about the prospects of a Steven Seagal: Lawman crossover.

  4. the hoarder in question was Augustine, a 68-year-old Louisiana resident and mother of two whose house was not only filled to the bring with piles of dirty clothes (“I don’t want to pick them up now because they smell” — Augustine) and toilets overflowing with feces, but that also included two dead cats that had at some point either died behind a pile of junk and were never found.

  5. “do you think it’s a common occurrence to find a dead cat in a house?”

    1.BEYOND. THIS SHOW IS BEYOND WORDS. THESE. PEOPLE.

    –or–

    2. i think yes. maybe it is somewhat common because they had the same shit from different last people in the previous season.

    either way:—> :(

    • Is it also common for a grown woman to use her toothless mouth to eat raw hot dogs while another person cleans up her feces-covered bathroom for free? Yikes, Augustine.

      I liked the son alot. Considering he spent 12 or so years with a fan running so he could sleep instead of hearing the roaches crawling all over him, and then had his mom decide that rather than clean up her house, she’d just let her 22 year old daughter raise her son, the dude seemed like a sweet and intelligent guy.

  6. I didn’t see this episode, but I saw the one after it where the old lady’s house was filled with rotting food. Yeesh!

    I can’t explain this, but for some reason (despite never being addicted to anything except Mario Kart and biscuit dough) I have an easier time empathizing with the addicts on Intervention than the hoarders. When I was a kid I’d consistently refuse to clean my room or give away any of the stuffed animals I’d abandoned and forgotten. Then I grew up. Seriously people, just clean your goddamn house already.

  7. I absolutely love Hoarders. Scariest, most stomach churning show on TV hands down. Usually, the hoarders have some kind of traumatic loss and react by not throwing anything away (I have a psych degree, btw.. honest!). That ep’s subject was a fat, lazy bitch. Ugh. No catharsis last night.

  8. i wish they would bring back ‘obsessed’ – that show was more interesting.

  9. I had never seen this show until last night.

    I found the no catharsis thing pretty weird, usually there’s some kind of light at the end of the garbage tunnel. Still, makes that pile of clothes in my bathroom look normal.

  10. When does Obsessed return? More recaps!

  11. somebody’s girlfriend (mine) needs to see this show at once.

  12. Ridiculous and laughable quotes aside, I watched all last season and it has never once made me feel good about myself. If anything, it made me anxious. I see it as a warning. All of the people led somewhat normal lives before spiraling out of control and into garbage, or whatever else they hoard, and it’s interesting to see what kind of triggers can make people cling to things that seem so unimportant. It also makes me think about what kinds of things I shouldn’t do to my kids (when I have them), so that no one in my family will ever have to live in/with trash or rotten food or dead cats. Also, seeing things that are dirty become clean is oddly satisfying. Maybe it’s just me?

    • I feel the same way about cleaning shows. The most extreme I’ve seen other than Hoarders, and hence my most favorite, is BBC’s “How Clean Is Your House?” The only thing is those ladies insist on touching the grossest stuff with their bare hands. In my head I’m like “EW, DON’T! How can you even come back from that??” Like their hands will never be clean again. Think I might have a panic attack if I watched Hoarders regularly….

      • LOVE IT. In addition to touching everything with their bare hands, they almost never have masks on, even when you see the rest of the crew in hazmat suits. Also, Kim’s hair!

        • Kim’s hair is a beacon of glory in my otherwise banal existence. And she would be the perfect grandmother. I love how soft her voice gets when she’s explaining that the most effective glass cleaner is easily made by combining two parts water to one part white vinegar! And she calls everyone “my love.” LOVE HER.

        • How Clean is Your House is pretty awesome, mostly because the ladies do not feel bad about chewing people out at all. There’s lots of satisfying “How do you live like this, luv?”

          I also like You Are What You Eat where that crazy skinny lady scrapes fat people’s tongues and tells them they don’t get enough zinc in their diet. What kind of voodoo is she working? The subjects usually do lose some weight and any berating she gives the fatties is paid back when she paws through their poop, literally!! I’m serious she takes their poop and has it analyzed!! Then she tells the 20 stone man (how heavy is an effin “stone” anyway?) he poops like a little girl.

  13. I remember in grade 8, someone in my class kept a sandwitch in his locker until the summer, where it was black and liquid. I felt a little better about myself after that, but than he threw it at me. No joke.

  14. my mom is a hoarder, but only of empty yogurt cups. and no, i’m not joking. she has an entire closet off our our kitchen that is floor-to-ceiling-packed with yogurt cups. all in neat stacks. and when she opens the door to look in, she always giggles and makes some weird remark about her collection. it’s mostly amusing. mostly.

    • That’s how it starts…

    • wait, i totally lied. she also collect acorns, twigs, and leaves that she likes. and has little piles of them all over the house. she has a huge bowl of just acorns on the dining room table. and when we go on walks together there are certain trees i know to steer her clear of due to the fact that she gets so distracted by trying to find more acorns. and she makes jokes about how she was a squirrel in a past life. in short, i love my mom.

      • My mom is a hoarder too — one of her favorite things is collecting little rocks and pebbles. I seriously could not make tea at her house over Thanksgiving because of all the stacked dishes and yogurt cups of pebbles all over the freaking stove. Also, there is laundry all over her house from six months ago when the washer broke and she and her boyfriend (who doesn’t live there) couldn’t agree on whether to get it fixed or get a new one. I wish I could end this with “I love my mom” but honestly, it’s kind of destroyed our relationship. I don’t think I could watch this show, is what I’m saying.

    • is she reeely a skwirl?

    • OMG, my Mom hoards plastic plates that come with frozen dinners. You know, the sectioned ones? With a space for each item? I swear to God, I was in her cabinet looking for a container to put Thanksgiving leftovers in last week, and there were about 12 Le Menu plastic plates from frozen entrees in there. Remember Le Menu? Of course you don’t. Cause they HAVEN’T MADE THEM SINCE 1985. What does she do with these? What does your Mom do with yogurt cups? We may never know.

      • hahaha!!! ohh, also, she used to save the styrofoam bottoms from meat packages (she’d clean them, at least) and send them to me when i was in art school. like i would get a carepackage from home and it would be homemade cookies, some ugly tshirts from walmart, and 15 yellow styrofoam bottoms. because she thought they would make such great palettes for mixing paint- with the added bonus of being disposable. that ended years ago, though.

  15. I remember in grade 8, someone in my class kept a sandwitch in his locker until the summer, where it was black and liquid. I felt a little better about myself after that, but than he threw it at me. No joke.

  16. oh. one more thing.

    THIS SHOW GOES BEYOND SCHADENFREUDE because i don’t think schadenfreude includes the very real possibility one might vomit in one’s living room while watching basic cable.

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  18. This show might actually make me feel worse about myself. My spouse and I moved into his grandparents house and it took months to box up and clean up all their junk. It didn?t help that none of her children would allow us to throw away any of the tables or k-mart bookshelves or Jesus paintings for sentimental reasons but they also didn?t want to take them. And Grandma-in-law had Alzheimer?s so there were literally five of the same hedge trimmer in the house (why the house?). We ended up buying a truck so we could just haul it all to the dump because it had been a year and everyone else could eat poo.
        The worst is there is a still a section of the basement that has not been cleaned out. I am afraid of it. There are shelves of cleaners and sprays from thirty plus years ago. And I just found out that beyond that crap is a pantry that still has food in it. I haven?t been in that room at all. My life is SO Twilight.

  19. Hoarders does make me feel pretty sweet, but then I watch The Fabulous Life of… on E! to make me feel bad about myself. And so it all works out. Its real important to have balance in my TV life.

  20. This is exactly what makes Jersey Shore so alluring: both shows appeal to our same sense of “schadenfreude”, but MTV makes no claim that they want to help anyone. it is unabashedly designed for our zoological amusement.

    So thank you MTV…y’all are dicks, but at least you know it.

  21. It’s true that I probably watch this out of some thinly-veiled schadenfreudian impulse, but I swear I only watch A Chance at Love 2 because I really want those deserving people to find true love and happiness!

  22. 1 dead cat…I’m still watching. Set of dentures recovered…I’m grimacing/watching. 2nd cat discovered….
    “I’m finished!”

  23. as a former therapist, i just want to say that I do think Intervention helps people- not just the families on the show but people dealing with addicts in their lives. hoarders to me is much worse- these people have severe mental disorders and often times they receive no help for their mental issues and just have a professional organizer come in. It seems a much more helpful way to deal with hoarding would be the slow progress seen on Obsessed in which it took nearly a year for the dude to make any sort of progress. The hoarders themselves need to be involved in every decision and that can’t happen when you have 5 days and a crew from 1-800-Junk. I have no doubt that the majority of the people on hoarders end up in the same position within months.

    /end rant.

    • i’m not a former therapist, but couldn’t agree more that hoarders doesn’t set them up with proper assistance. as soon as the cleaning crew leaves, they still don’t have the tools to deal with their hoarding, and the cycle will begin again.

      • Agreed. Hoarders is a guilty pleasure (?) for me, but I feel empathy (?) for some of the addicts on Intervention. Except for Allison…she was hilarious.

        • Sweet Jesus. I’m as cold-hearted as the next person gawking at and silently judging reality tv addicts, but Allison was NOT funny. I was relieved when her follow-up was on last week and she’s stayed clean.

          • Was Allison the one with the inhalants? Because that was the sort of “Oh god, I hope nobody is watching me laugh at this” funny.

  24. Gabe, you are on fucking fire today! I am warming my hands by this blog with all of the fire that you are on. Hooray!

  25. I watch Hoarders because it scares me into cleaning.

  26. So is it a bad sign that I have kept every empty Dr. Pepper 12 pack box from over the past year in my closet. Especially if I go through 2 a week.
    I promise I’ll get around to my art piece commenting on consumerism with this refuse.

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