Every week, television documentaries present us with so many unusual people, with 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.
Hoarding: Buried Alive (TLC)
Who Is This Now? Louise.
Why Are We Watching Her? She has hoarded so much in her multiple apartments and storage spaces that they’re past the point of usefulness.
How Did She Get Here? To hear her describe it, she has an extremely emotional attachment to every item she’s collected; multiple times, she notes that she doesn’t have children or pets — just her things — and that she takes the responsibility of taking care of them very seriously. Unfortunately, she also came into what a friend describes as “a great deal of money” about 30 years ago, when her parents died, which enabled her compulsive shopping. But now, even though the amount she inherited would have been enough for any normal person to live on for the rest of his or her life, Louise is nearly broke. And if she doesn’t clean out her apartments and possibly sell some of her stuff, she will be destitute.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Louise doesn’t like to eat at home and doesn’t keep anything in the fridge but water, so there isn’t the disgusting food mess we often see on this show. So I guess the grossest thing is Louise’s sense of entitlement, as she defends her insistence on keeping two nearly identical (ugly) hats on the grounds that one is trimmed entirely in silver sequins, while the other features sequins of both silver and blue. Louise is so incapable of improving her own circumstances that in the segment where we usually compare the hoarded house’s horrifying “before” to its much-improved “after,” she initially refuses to let a friend see the alleged progress she’s made, but finally relents so that we can see nothing has changed. Louise is so gross that HER FRIEND RON JEREMY THE PORN STAR SEEMS GRACIOUS AND KIND BY COMPARISON.
What Have We Learned? “She has no concept of time or money,” says Dr. Becky Beaton of Louise, and that statement has never been more terrifyingly, literally true: The episode ends with a screen informing us Louise has run out of money since filming ended and has had to apply for assisted living, but hasn’t been approved (and is unlikely to be) because of her history of hoarding.
19 Kids and Counting (TLC)
Who Is This Now? The Duggars.
Why Are We Watching Them? They’re letting us tag along on their trip to China.
How Did They Get Here? Parents Jim Bob and Michelle decided to have 19 children (with more to come, possibly, in the future), so TLC decided to build a TV show around their antics.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? When the Duggars set out to visit Tiananmen Square, Michelle and Jim Bob warn their brood to be prepared for a lot of attention from the locals, since their large family will be “kind of like a tourist attraction.” They further warn the kids to expect strangers to touch their hair, “because they’ve never seen blond hair before.” NEVER? The Duggars know that Beijing is kind of a big city, right? And that China has TV?
What Have We Learned? The Duggars probably shouldn’t leave Arkansas again.
Preachers’ Daughters (Lifetime)
Who Is This Now? Kolby.
Why Are We Watching Her? She’s experiencing a crisis of faith with regard to a huge revelation from her older sister, Teryn.
How Did She Get Here? Both of Kolby’s parents are church pastors, so Kolby’s ideas about moral conduct might be slightly more rigid than other people’s.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? So the big announcement from Teryn — a 30-year-old married mother — was that she was not a virgin when she got married. And everyone in the family is losing their minds about it. Teryn and Kolby’s mother, Victoria, is particularly judgmental, telling Teryn, “I just can’t believe that you were not pure.” (PURE!) Victoria is also concerned Kolby will follow in Teryn’s footsteps by having premarital sex, leading to “her self-worth being diminished,” as though that’s the inevitable result. Also, despite what a bombshell this is in the family, Victoria has no compunction about discussing the matter on her radio show. One other thing: Victoria, the self-styled arbiter of sexual morality, first married at age 16 to a guy she started dating when she was 14; since then, she has been twice divorced.
What Have We Learned? This actually happens in one of the episode’s other story lines, but apparently being a churchgoer may not necessarily preclude you from naming your daughter Tequila.
Wife Swap (ABC)
Who Is This Now? Gina.
Why Are We Watching Her? We’re finding out what happened when she was sent to live with another family’s spouse and children, while that family’s matriarch lived with Gina’s.
How Did She Get Here? Because she is a tea party activist and a conservative radio host, Gina was selected to live temporarily with a family headed by a polyamorous throuple.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Gina takes it upon herself to educate Chris and Ashley, the two-thirds of the throuple left when their wife/girlfriend Angela is living with Gina’s family. To wit: “Obama really is a Communist. Planned Parenthood was to eradicate the black race … Gay population is much sicker than the straight population.” Later, she leads Bible study with Chris and the family’s four kids while wearing a necklace decorated with a revolver the size of an adult’s thumb.
What Have We Learned? Gina believes “the Bible is better than TV,” which basically invalidates all her other views.
Tara Ariano knows that nothing’s better than TV.