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.
Best Funeral Ever (TLC)
Who Is This Now? John Beckwith Jr.
Why Are We Watching Him? He operates a well-known funeral home in Dallas.
How Did He Get Here? Beckwith’s funeral parlor, Golden Gate, has become well-known for the flamboyant, rigorously themed funerals it produces. For instance, this sneak peek features a Christmas-themed funeral, and a smokehouse funeral (with barbecue-sauce fountain) for one of the singers of the Chili’s baby-back ribs jingle.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Because some bereaved funeral attendees are not demonstrative, Golden Gate provides professional mourners. Seriously: We actually see Beckwith conducting a training session for paid mourners, during which he instructs them on how to make a huge show of grieving for decedents they don’t know.
What Have We Learned? If grace and good taste are important to you, do not die in Dallas.
Infested! (Animal Planet)
Who Is This Now? Virgil and Cynthia Beaver.
Why Are We Watching Them? They’ve noticed some strange noises and smells in their home.
How Did They Get Here? They thought they’d bought their dream house — an old country home in Colorado that had been renovated by its previous owners — only to discover that it’s been known in the area as “the snake house” for at least 50 years.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? When garter snake colonies hibernate, they return to the same nest every winter. So even though Virgil — in deference to Cynthia, who’s deathly afraid of snakes (even the harmless garter snakes) — tries to head off the invasion by laying glue traps around the perimeter of the house, there’s really nothing he can do to stop them. Fifteen to twenty thousand of them will be trying to return to the nest. The snake-glutted glue traps are pretty gross, but here’s what’s even worse: Because the Beavers can’t afford to sue the previous owners for non-disclosure of the snake infestation, nor to raze the house and build a new one, and since they can’t sell the house in its current snake-ridden state, they’re forced to let the bank foreclose on the house, and declare bankruptcy.
What Have We Learned? Renting may not be so bad after all.
Teen Trouble (Lifetime)
Who Is This Now? Asmara.
Why Are We Watching Her? Her parents can’t deal with her terrible behavior (though Asmara’s only 16, she regularly drinks to excess) and have called in an expert, Josh Shipp, to set her straight.
How Did She Get Here? When Asmara was 13 and fell in with what her father, Michael, thought was a bad crowd, he forbade her to see them; when she defied him, he physically assaulted her. Since then, Asmara says, she has started drinking heavily and using drugs to self-medicate from the trauma of the incident.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? At the end of the episode, Josh encourages Asmara to be honest, at last, with her parents about how much and how often she gets intoxicated, and to tell them about an instance when she blacked out at a party and was date-raped while unconscious. Josh then encourages Michael to share his feelings with Asmara, and to apologize for his own past wrongs. But even though his attack on Asmara was so severe that he was arrested, charged with assault, and required to live away from Asmara and her mother for the next three years, Michael tells Asmara, “I did not do really horrible, horrible things to your life.”
What Have We Learned? Though Michael has learned nothing, we’ve learned that some family conflicts can’t be healed. Josh arranges for Asmara to attend boarding school in another city, and she’s thriving away from her family.
Tara Ariano doesn’t like snakes either, but she might learn to live with the odd garter snake on the bedroom floor if the alternative were declaring bankruptcy.