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STUDIO: A&E HOME VIDEO
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 329 minutes
• Additional Scenes
Mentally unstable people let cameras into their messy homes.
Produced by Liza Keckler
What do they Ed Gein by accumulating all this stuff?
Subpar editing and reality show-like production values hold back a more nuanced view of the disease known as Hoarding.
First airing on A&E in 2009, Hoarders became the most watched series premiere in the channel’s history. The show follows the lives of people crippled by their addiction to accumulating stuff of all kinds, from collectibles to food or clothing or even trash. Each episode follows the two to three days each hoarder is given to clean up their houses (and lives) with trained mental and junk removal professionals.
Based on this premise and positive word of mouth, I dove head first into the show’s dark reality. The concept of compulsive accumulation of objects should be familiar territory for many readers of this site, as you probably read this surrounded by masses of DVDs, memorabilia, collectibles and the like- same as I am as I write this. But for the subjects of this show, the habit has become dangerous. Many stories in season one deal with people facing legal threats like eviction, loss of child custody, or fines. Often it is heartbreaking to see regular folks be so physically and mentally incapable of separating themselves from this lifestyle.
It’s understood walking into the show that no one with deep seated issues can simply be cured in three days, but it often feels like the production crew try to do just that. The show’s format involves two separate stories going on in tandem, and when they show us a one room apartment and claim it can be cleaned in three days and then show an entire house including attic and yard and say it can also be cleared in three days, it just doesn’t make sense. Then when the episode ends and they have only cleaned two or three rooms, it is usually chalked up to the compulsion of the featured hoarder.
Cyclops was going to clear this clutter the only way he knew how…
In truth, most of Hoarders is just trying to fill an hour with two or three days of filming the same bleak circumstances. Endless repetition also plagues the show. Perhaps it is standard reality television format to expect your audience to tune in for a five to ten minute period of time but when watching the series on DVD, it becomes exhausting. The same title cards updating the viewer of the progress (not) made, and more often than not, the same shots of piles of junk. Even the storytelling elements, when not a clone, are just similar information given. Many reactions and conflicts are slowed down for effect, trying to build too much out of too little. This is most likely a result of having only two days to film a person’s story, the bulk of which is them picking through piles of stuff. Every episode has varying degrees of feeling like twenty minutes stretched to an hour long episode, but they all feel overlong.
And yet, with what scenes really do pack an emotional wallop, you do develop feelings for these people. As a viewer, you want to see the heartbreak followed by overcoming the insurmountable odds that someone who is an addict faces. You want to see how, over time, they do become better people. If the makers of the show had taken more of an invested documentary approach rather than a feature of the week reality format, perhaps we would have that closure. A quick Google search shows that subsequent seasons do not pick up with any of the original season one hoarders, but rather focus on new and different people. This is a shame because a quick title card at the end hardly does these people justice, and oftentimes when it informs us of the progress (or lack thereof), there is much more story there than what we get to see.
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Spread over two discs, all seven season one episodes are presented in a full frame with stereo audio. What’s most troubling about this is that the show is presented as a widescreen image, but includes the “black bars” as part of the picture. This is an old school DVD problem that I thought we had gotten past over a decade into the format, especially since 16×9 televisions have become the norm. Additionally, the video quality is subpar, heavily compressed at times.
The one bonus feature is additional footage, which adds slight moments for many of the episodes. Unfortunately, none are particularly exciting. For a show that repeats itself so many times over the course of each episode, there very well could have been room for these additional moments in the show’s allotted running time. They must have been left out as a creative decision, indicative of the poor editorial style of the show.
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