I’ve said often that I’m not a fan of reality television. I hate American Idol like cancer. I flip past the train wreck that is Jersey Shore before I get caught up in the orange-skinned gorilla antics.* Anything involving Housewives, housecats, or house hussies will also get ignored.** I can honestly say that I will take peak at The Real World, Swamp Loggers, and from time to time I’ll look at Brandy and her no-talent brother. Ice Road Truckers, Deep Sea Crab Fishermen, and Parking Wars just don’t make sense to me.
I have noticed that of late reality television has begun to put mental illness on display. A & E’s Hoarders and The Science Channel’s An Idiot Abroad both garner sizable ratings while showing off unchecked mental illness and possible undiagnosed learning disabilities. In the case of either show you don’t need a copy DSM-IV to figure out that something is amiss about the subject’s of both shows.
Hoarders is a much different type of train wreck than Pauly D and company. Hoarders deals with people who suffer from compulsive hoarding and the treatment of the condition. So much that if you start watching an episode you almost cringe to the point where you can’t flip to another channel. Episodes usually involve an intervention on behalf of a member of the hoarder(s) family, a professional cleaning, and plum footage of the carnage for the audience. Usually the jobs of the psychiatrists and cleaning crews involved are hard ones and get worse during each episode.
People hoard everything imaginable. Newspapers, magazines, random junk and even animals. In addition to the hoarding, many of the show’s subjects often display a high level of belligerency toward the crew and the people trying to aid in the situation. Even with the knowledge that their hoarding is a health concern many of the shows subjects put up a fight to keep and maintain their mess. The home of one woman was so filled with debris that unbeknownst to her, a large possum was cohabitating with her. ***
When it debuted Hoarders had the most watched premier in the history of A & E with a record 2.5 million people watching. According to Wikipedia 1.8 million of the viewers were between the ages of 18-49. Disaster, apparently sells.
An Idiot Abroad stars Karl Pilkington of the Ricky Gervais Show fame. (He’s the dude with the round head on the cartoon who plays the mark to Gervais and Stephen Marchant’s straight men.) For those of you who have never seen Pilkington in action is essentially portrayed as a slow-witted buffoon. (I think buffoons are inherently slow-witted. I’m going to have to Google that.) I must admit that I find his antics funny. This is mostly because of Pilkington’s love of telling stories about monkeys doing unmonkey-like things like working construction or delivering the evening news.**** I don’t know exactly what Pilkington’s mental condition is but it has been stated that his IQ is only 83. I don’t know if Karl Pilkington has actual mental issues as opposed to some undiagnosed learning disabilities. *****
An Idiot Abroad follows Karl around the world to various countries like China, Jordan, and Egypt as he immerses himself into the cultures of each nation. Karl, who admits to not wanting to travel, says that he it made to travel by Gervais and Marchant to do their documentary. Gervais and others give Karl no prior warning as to where his travels will take him which makes Karl’s dim and slow-witted outlook on life that much more of a train-wreck. Like I said, Karl’s antics are actually funny but I just have a hard time figuring out if he’s using a disability to poke fun at himself and the audience. I just don’t know but it’s worth at least 15 minutes of your time. Hopefully we’ll get an episode where Karl has a large, angered opossum in his home.
Both shows does show that there is a large audience for mental illness and overall dysfunction in this country. At times you just can’t turn your head when you see crazy things going on while you’re watching the boob tube. If you’re into reality TV check out these two shows because it’s a lot better than watching a house full of Italian-American stereotypes and or a group of former basketball groups act like idiots.
Vaya con Dios.
*I’ve actually seen a train wreck before and I find the term “It’s like watching train wreck to be apropos.
**If I wanted to see people treat each other like trash I’ll just go stand on a street corner and wait for the wrong people to cross paths with one another.
***Debris is one of the words that make me wish I had an English accent so I could say it for no reason what so ever. Garage and refuse are two others.
**** My amusement is due to my affinity of the antics of our monkey friends. Seriously, when God was creating the Earth, and was hooking Adam up with Cicely Tyson’s auntie, he must have paid special attention to monkeys because they are hilarious!
*****I’m no shrink. I don’t even play one on television. I do however, know when a “boy ain’t right.” Pilkington is in fact “not right.”