Every week, television documentaries present us with so many unusual people, so many strange and/or disturbing problems, you might find it hard to keep up with all of them. That’s where I come in! Here’s an unflinching look back at TV’s Week in Freak Shows.
My Strange Addiction (TLC)
Who Is This Now? Allison.
Why Are We Watching Her? She’s addicted to eating rubber, and her fiancé has started to become concerned about its effect on her health.
How Did She Get Here? When she was a kid, she would chew and eat her Barbie dolls; later, she started eating rubber instead of chewing gum. Normal stuff.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? “Making sure [the rubber tire bits are] clean is kind of a concern for me, because I don’t want to get sick from something that might have been on the floor,” says Allison, because the prospect of developing a bowel obstruction from her undigested rubber bits, or cancer from the chemicals the rubber is treated with, is less of a worry for her.
What Have We Learned? Gum-chewing is not the most elegant of habits, but some things are even worse.
Doomsday Preppers (NatGeo)
Who Is This Now? The Coy family.
Why Are We Watching Them? They are showing NatGeo the preparations they’ve made to survive an apocalyptic situation.
How Did They Get Here? They built a farm “in the shadow of Mount St. Helens,” and consequently have had to develop plans that will help them to survive in the event of a volcanic eruption.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? When we get to the segment on weapons, Coy patriarch Kevin notes that his son-in-law Stephen has recently left the army, and darkly hints that he’s “seen a lot of things” that will, presumably, have destroyed any conscience or scruples he might have about eliminating human threats to the Coys’ preps. Also, according to Kevin, when Stephen married Kevin’s daughter Teagan, Stephen told her, “You realize that you just married your dad.”
What Have We Learned? Even people prepping for events that are fairly likely to happen, from a non-paranoid perspective, can be creeps.
Hoarding: Buried Alive (TLC)
Who Is This Now? Rhonda.
Why Are We Watching Her? She’s trying to get her hoarded house cleaned out before city authorities condemn it.
How Did She Get Here? Seven years ago, she went through a “bitter divorce,” which caused her to try to fill “empty spaces within her,” as she puts it, with stuff. She also explains, “At some point, it was, if my husband didn’t want me, I was worthless, and if I was worthless, I sure wasn’t worth having a home, having family, having friends. Why would anybody want me if my husband didn’t want me?” It’s sad — even sadder than usual.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? More revolting than the cockroaches, ants, and crickets we see crawling all over Rhonda’s stuff — “The roaches reign in my camper. I think there’s a king and queen that kind of sit up there on top of the television, and they kind of look like rabbit ears up there,” she says — or the taxidermied stag head she says she found in a Dumpster and then kisses, with her lips, are what she calls “pee-pee pads” that she’s laid out for her nameless dog in her basement. When Dr. Rebecca Beaton shows up for a consultation, she finds out their actual origin: They’re not dog pee pads, they’re cadaver pads — the quilted blankets funeral homes use to wrap corpses. And Rhonda and Dr. Beaton are standing on them.
What Have We Learned? Either funeral homes are giving away stuff they shouldn’t, or funeral homes are not doing a good enough job of securing their biohazard disposal bins from curious hoarders.
America’s Supernanny (Lifetime)
Who Is This Now? The Arnolds.
Why Are We Watching Them? Parents Alex and Kelly are having trouble managing their five children, and have called in expert Deborah Tillman.
How Did They Get Here? It’s not entirely clear, but my best guess is that both Kelly and Alex have decided that enforcing discipline is a hassle that neither of them wants to deal with. (When Deborah asks what Kelly does when the kids throw tantrums, Kelly does admit, “I try to make them stop as soon as possible, maybe give them whatever it is that they want at the time.”)
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? It doesn’t matter what infraction youngest son Luke, age 4, committed to be put into a timeout, seemingly for the very first time in his life. What matters is that he fights what was supposed to have been a four-minute punishment for two hours, shrieking the whole time, stopping only when he reaches the point of physical exhaustion.
What Have We Learned? If you find that the first couple of kids you have are maybe more work than you’d thought they would be and are encroaching on your free time in a way you find oppressive, you probably shouldn’t have three more.
Tara Ariano wrote this column while snacking on elastic bands.