GRB Productions/A&E
November 24, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST


TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
Reality TV
We gave it a B

Exploitive, educational, gross, insightful, voyeuristic, and sometimes quite moving, Hoarders is the kind of TV that’s difficult not to watch once you’ve started an episode.

This week Hoarders begins its second season by taking us into the squalid home of Augustine (no last name given), a 68-year-old woman in Gretna, la. Augustine lives in an otherwise tidy, middle-class neighborhood in a house filled — crammed, caked — with rotting food, mountains of filthy clothes and kitchen utensils, and piles of mementos (framed photographs, knickknacks) that have overwhelmed her ability to control the mess. She’s a stolid woman who suffers from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that prevents her from throwing anything out.

Which means she also has trouble locating the things she hoards. Such as her false teeth. We meet the toothless and stubborn Augustine when her grown children, Susan and Jason — along with a team of Hoarders-hired psychiatric counselors and a cleanup crew — arrive at her house. they’re there to help this woman who initially won’t even admit she needs help, despite the fact that everyone else on camera is wearing surgical masks to keep from gagging.

Hoarders began as a kind of offshoot of the A&E hit it follows, Intervention (which starts its eighth season this week). Both shows are like the anti?Celebrity Rehab: their subjects are ordinary citizens, afflicted with disorders that the programs? producers try to treat while filming the grim process. Augustine’s son, Jason, is an articulate 28-year-old who hasn?t been home in years, and is freaked out about returning to a house full of childhood nightmares. As he and the cleaners shovel out more than 8,000 pounds of fetid possessions, he picks up something furry and flat: it’s a dead pet cat, squashed by the moldering junk.

In a delicate moment, Jason finds a lidded bench that he says used to contain his toys. ”This hasn’t been opened in many years,” he remarks. He lifts the lid and picks out a baby’s rattle. ”I remember this,” he says softly.

Hoarders has a ”professional organizer,” dorothy Breininger, who soothingly helps Augustine confront her condition. Me, I think she could use tougher love — she’s pretty mean to her son and daughter. By the end, Augustine has a neat house, but it’s not at all certain that she won’t return to her old ways. Give Hoarders points for not setting up a happy ending. But I must say, I felt a little unclean myself after peeking into this woman’s life. B

See all of this week’s reviews

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